How can we identify a narcissistic parent?
Chances are, we’ve all seen a narcissistic parent before: at social gatherings, at your child’s sports event, at your school’s board meetings. Yet, we almost never realize we are observing a narcissistic parent first hand.
Narcissistic personality disorder, to sum it up, is a lack of empathy, and a need to feel appreciated and admired. When an individual with this disorder becomes a parent, the parent can cause much damage to his or hher children. Life changing damage.
To the untrained eye, Narcissistic Personality Disorder may be very difficult to spot in public. After all, parents all around the world have different child-rearing strategies.
Some parents will be hard on their children, always pushing them to do their best. Other parents will show off their children’s achievements whenever possible, and still others will give their children a longer leash to make their own mistakes.
None of those, alone, are signs of a narcissistic parent. This is what makes Narcissistic Personality Disorder so hard to spot. But there are ways to tell!
Here are 20 warning signs of a narcissistic parent.
1. The parent is controlling
Parents with Narcissistic Personality Disorder will be extremely controlling.
Now, supervising your child’s behavior is something that many parents would deem acceptable parenting.
Parents will create rules for their children in hopes they will become the best person they can be: wake up at 9:00 a.m., no TV after a certain hour, treat others with respect, etc. These rules are all to help their children.
However, narcissistic parents will control their children for their own benefit.
They want their children to rely on them
In a typical household, parents will raise their children in hopes that they will one day be able to live on their own. The parents teach them the difference between right and wrong, they help them deal with the struggles of growing up, and eventually, the parents will help their kids pack up their belongings, and sadly watch as their grown-up child begins a new chapter in life.
This is not the case in a household run by a narcissistic parent.
A narcissistic parent needs that control over their children. Without it, they don’t feel that admiration they crave. To make matters worse, they want their children to depend on them always.
So, the process of helping a kid grow up, and eventually helping them move out, is not an option with a narcissistic parent. Instead, a parent who suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder will make the child feel that they must stay home!
Saying things like, ” I need you here!” Or, “if you leave, who will help me?”
These sayings can put the child in a very tough place: on one hand, they can leave but have guilt for leaving; on the other hand, they can give up their goals and dreams to help their parent. That’s a decision that should never be made by a young adult.
2. Narcissistic parents will play favorites
All parents have heard this question, and all siblings have asked this question: “who’s your favorite child?” And what is the answer that most parents will give? Yes, you got it!
“You’re all my favorites; don’t be silly!”
However, if the child of a narcissistic parent asks that same question, the answer may be different — extremely different.
“Mom, um…who’s your favorite child?”
“Well, certainly not you! Do you see what you did to my furniture! And the pain that caused me? Terrible, just terrible!”
Do you see the difference? A narcissistic parent will play favorites. We can only imagine the damage that can cause to a child of any age. It’s tough to heal from that.
Sibling rivalry to a new level
Keeping our focus on the second warning sign, we can observe one possible effect that is very common in siblings with a narcissistic parent: sibling rivalry.
This isn’t the sibling rivalry that most individuals would experience; this is sibling rivalry to a level that is very unhealthy! Most of us who have siblings have dealt with sibling rivalry before: who can run the fastest, who can get the best grades, who can eat the most ice cream in one minute.
You know — regular, wholesome sibling rivalry!
This is not the case in a home run by a parent with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. The siblings under this parent will be fighting for any attention they can get.
Everything’s a competition, and whoever wins gets the most affection — however slim it may be — from the parent.
Again, this can be tough to heal from.
3. The parent will make their children express guilt
Guilt is an emotion that many of us feel, or have felt in the past. Accidentally causing harm to someone, lying to a loved one, spilling chocolate milk on the rug — these are all instances that may create guilt.
However, making your children express guilt on purpose can also be a warning sign that you’re a narcissistic parent.
No child should be forced to feel guilty when they’ve done nothing wrong. Yet this is the case for a child with a narcissistic parent. The parent will create an expression of guilt within their child, and for wrong reasons: not noticing their parent’s new shoes, not taking care of the mom or dad when they are sick. These are simple things no kid should feel guilty about.
4. A narcissistic parent will have ultimate control
Another sign of a narcissistic parent, is that they will show complete control of…well…everything!
Parents should be in charge. It’s their duty to set rules and boundaries, punishments and consequences, reinforcements and rewards. But it can be unhealthy if they control every aspect of their child’s life.
When a child wants to participate in something, let’s say an extracurricular activity, depending on the circumstances, a normal parent will allow it or come to a mutual agreement.
A child whose parent exhibits Narcissistic Personality Disorder will control everything their child does: sports, work, play, and more. Not a very healthy upbringing if this is present.
5. Everything is a criticism
“You’re not good enough!”
“Ugh, you spelled this word wrong! Are you serious?”
Nothing is good enough for a child with a narcissistic parent.
Criticisms are good, even healthy for individual growth. However, when everything you do is criticized, you will probably feel worthless inside. No one, not even the Grinch who stole Christmas, should feel that way.
So, constant criticism towards a child is another warning sign of a narcissistic parent.
6. They will live their life through their children
This sign is a big one, and one that is most likely visible to the public eye. Living life through your child is another warning sign of a narcissistic parent.
Let’s be honest, what parent doesn’t love to see their child succeed? Hopefully, all parents reading this are smiling and nodding their heads in agreement. Parents should love it when their kids excel at something. You feel happy for them and especially proud of them!
On the contrary, a narcissistic parent will not necessarily be happy for their child, but for themselves. They want their child to succeed to make themselves look like heroes so that they can brag about it at work the next day.
Their child’s accomplishment becomes their accomplishment, and that, again, can be tough to deal with as a kid. Some people may never heal from this sort of emotional trauma.
7. If a narcissistic parent feels threatened, they will bring you down
Here’s the ironic thing about the tendencies of a narcissistic parent: they demand excellence from their kids, but at the same time, if their kids do too well they will feel threatened.
That must be confusing for any kid to deal with, let alone heal from.
A narcissistic parent will feel threatened if their child is showing lots of success. Remember, a narcissistic parent needs to feel that they are number one. So, if a child shows signs of taking over their parent’s throne, the parent will sense this, and immediately put them in their place.
The parent will do this by creating guilt within the child, making them feel bad for their success. This may even happen if the parent feels intimidated by a new boyfriend or girlfriend their child has.
Again, this can cause a great deal of confusion and pain within the child, and that is tough to deal with.
8. Leggo my ego
A narcissistic parent will also show a tremendous ego. They must be the superior in the household, in the workplace…in any situation, really.
This inflated ego can cause them to treat their children like bumps on a log. They will use the child for their own personal gain and may even punish the child if he or she fails them.
This warning sign could cause the child to grow up feeling like they are not good at anything.
9. I’m the parent and I am important
Me, me, me! I am the king (or queen) of this castle; everyone must please me.
A narcissistic parent will feel that they are the most important person in the world, and everyone else is either just here to help, or is in the way.
This is true even at social gatherings: they may dress fancy and talk about all their accomplishments. “Look at my new dress; it cost a fortune.” “Yes, it is true that I am now on the school board.”
Everything they do is done for the purpose of praise. As we saw in the last sign, they need that ego-boost constantly.
10. Where is the empathy?
Empathy, in short, is the skill that one needs to understand how another person may be feeling — even if that feeling has never been felt within themselves.
We see children show empathy at an early age. If a friend’s pet passes away, they feel sad. It’s a very good ability to have, and some have it more than others.
But a parent with Narcissistic Personality Disorder will show no empathy towards their kids. It’s tough to imagine having to deal with that as a kid, and tougher to imagine having to heal from such damage.
11. Jealous much?
We talked a little bit about a narcissistic parent’s tendency towards jealousy, but let’s take a closer look at this warning sign.
A narcissistic parent wants their child to stay home forever. Yes, you heard that right — forever! While most parents are practically shoving their kids out the door, a narcissistic parent will be begging them to stay.
This becomes a tough situation to deal with as the child gets older. The parent will try anything to keep them from going off to college, from moving, even from getting married. This can create a multitude of problems in the child’s future relationships.
12. Neglect is a regular occurence
Since a narcissistic parent needs constant appreciation and acknowledgement, they tend to ignore and neglect their children. They do this to focus on themselves: their appearance, their achievements, and their personal well being, leaving the child in the dust.
This constant neglect can cause their kids to look for acknowledgment from anyone and anything. This mindset can lead to dangerous habits like hanging out with people who are bad influences just to feel accepted.
So now, you have a child who only wants love and affection, left on their own because the parent is too occupied with themselves.
13. Narcissistic parents prioritize themselves
Another typical warning sign of a narcissistic parent is the act of always putting themselves first.
True love is shown when an individual puts his or her needs after the needs of a loved one. Many parents will show this love with their children. They will spend less on themselves to help give their children things they need and take time out of their busy day in order to spend time with their kids.
A narcissistic parent will not do this. Their needs come first and everything else takes a back seat.
This behavior will have a negative effect on the child, and can even cause lasting harm to the child emotionally and physically.
14. Achievements are the only thing that matters
“Did you win first place?”
“Well, no, but I tried my best.”
“That’s not good enough! Are you trying to make me look bad?”
This conversation may hit home to some individuals who have dealt with or known a narcissistic parent.
Putting achievements first is another warning sign that can cause a child to feel that achievements are the only way to be successful in this world.
Don’t get me wrong, achievements are a great thing, and we all strive for some sort of achievement. However, could you imagine if that was the most important thing in the world? Certainly, many of us would have failed by now if that was the case.
A narcissistic parent only values achievements. Nothing else is good enough for them.
15. Everything will be a competition
Heavy competition is another warning sign of a parent who displays Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Competition alone can be a very healthy thing in our lives, but when it is everything, it can have the opposite effect.
If you’ve ever been on a sports team or an activity that demands competition, you will notice that children take competition to a higher level.
Although for the most part children know that it is only a competition, a child with a narcissistic parent will only know competition, and if they lose then they don’t succeed in their parent’s eyes. And the repercussions at home can be tough to deal with.
16. You’ll never be worthy
Whenever the word ‘worthy’ comes up, it’s hard to not think of that line from the movie Wayne’s World, “We’re not worthy! We’re not worthy!” Although that is a great laugh, worthy in this case is much less funny, and much more heartbreaking.
To a narcissistic parent, you’re never worthy. Nothing you do is good enough, and it may never be.
Even if the child of a parent with this disorder receives the perfect score on a test, the parent will still find something that’s wrong, and most of the time it will just be nit-picking.
17. No rewards for anything
Rewards for your hard work? Forget about it. Never giving your wonderful kid a reward is another warning sign.
Rewards are what keep most of us motivated: they get us out of bed and create a reason to work for things. Now, not everyone needs a reward for everything, but just imagine if there were none at all! We would most likely give up some of the things that we once enjoyed. Why? Because the reward is gone.
A narcissistic parent will give no rewards for anything. Now imagine how this would make a child feel. This lack of recognition can be difficult to heal from.
18. Emotions will be contradicted
This warning sign is both confusing and damaging for a child.
“Ah, you cleaned your room. Thank you darling.” Harmless right? Then what if the next day that child cleaned their room again, in the same way, and this was the parent’s reaction:
“Seriously! Why did you clean your room this way? You should have never done this!”
The child will feel speechless and lost.
Just the day before, the child was praised for cleaning his (or her) room. Now, just a day later, they are insulted for the same act.
You can see the confusion and harm this can cause.
19. Insults will be a usual occurrence
Insults will be an everyday scenario for a child who has a narcissistic parent. It makes sense if you think about it: nothing is ever good enough, you’re always in the wrong. It’s no wonder insults are constant.
Lose a basketball game. You’re going to get a lecture at home. Miss a question on a test. You better believe there will be insults for that one.
Sadly, this is a common sign of narcissistic parents.
20. A narcissistic parent will place all the blame on the children
Finally, placing all the blame on their child is another warning sign of a narcissistic parent.
The parent in this situation can do no wrong. It will always be their kid’s fault.
Put these warning signs to good use
Understanding these warning signs is more than just gaining knowledge. It’s about having the chance to help an individual, whether it be the parent or the child.
Look for these signs, and if the chance presents itself, use this knowledge to help a person who is dealing with either narcissistic personality disorder or knows someone with this condition.
It may help them deal with this situation in a more healthy manner. It might even help them heal.
The more you understand yourself, the more silence there is, the healthier you are. —Maxime Lagacé