The narcissistic parent

narcissistic parents

Narcissistic Parents

In my study of mental child abuse I’ve noticed how prevalent it is that the child abuser is highly narcissistic.

What’s a narcissistic parent? It’s someone who is self-absorbed, authoritarian (watch out for their outbursts), negative, a know-it-all, never culpable or blameworthy for anything, highly critical of others, secretive, cunning and conniving, manipulative, exploitive, stingy with others (but not themselves), ungrateful, a pathological liar (twists the truth with incredible ease), envious and competitive, deaf to other’s opinions, has zero empathy, doesn’t listen, doesn’t seek agreement (not a single ounce of agreeableness), brags and exaggerates, plays favorites (and it’s a rotating favorite list at that), has no boundaries, never asks you any questions, inept at basic manners, lacks a sense of humor (especially at themselves), and excels at making others feel guilty… He or she is one unhappy person who can successfully convince their targets that they are needed, and that without them their targets would be nothing.

Looking at these traits, how many of them apply to your parent or ex? A narcissist will have most of the traits listed.

There’s a simple reason why the more a parent brainwashes his or her own children (or dishes out any other form of abuse), the more narcissistic tendencies they have:

It takes an extremely selfish and sick parent to inflict such harm onto their own child.

Any mature parent can set aside anger or hurt from a divorce and keep their child on neutral ground by refusing to enroll them in the middle of the conflict. But a narcissistic parent will be hell-bent on minimizing or even outright destroying the child’s relationship with the ex and unable to place their child out of the emotional turmoil. They can’t do it. In fact, they will actively bring pain to their own kids. That’s how mentally ill they are.

So how do you counter these parents, and is there hope for changing them? A sobering quote:

“Trying to reform narcissists by reasoning with them or by appealing to their better nature is about as effective as spitting in the ocean.”

That has been one of my biggest frustrations with my ex, thinking that reasoning with her and letting her eventually calm down and see for herself that I’m a good Dad would temper her behavior towards our son. But it never happened, and her actions even got worse over time. The sad reality is that you can’t change the narcissist. They don’t have the self-awareness or humility to see that they’re out of control and need help. They’re incapable of introspection. It’s deeply unfortunate, especially if your ex is the custodial parent and has ample amounts of time to transfer these narcissistic  traits onto your child.

The only recourse for you is to be a normal parent, providing needed contrast for your child. It’s very important to insist that any behaviors in him or her that mimic your narcissistic ex are stomped out immediately. So if your child is flippant, rude, and lacking manners– and they will on many levels when they’ve been living with a narcissist– don’t tolerate it.

“The narcissist is governed by his or her feelings, the decent person is governed by his or her obligations” – Dennis Prager

Since a narcissistic parent is governed by his or her feelings, they don’t have the ability to own up to their obligations to shield their child from emotional heartache, adult issues, stories of how bad Mommy or Daddy is, etc. They will actively get the children involved in the conflict.

These parents are a vortex of negative energy, and will suck the life out of those around them. Children of narcissists suffer, and they come in two camps: those that are aware of this parent’s bizarre, completely irrational behavior “Yeah, there my Mom/Dad goes again…”, or they’re not and are mentally and physically smothered by the parent. Sadly, lots of these children end up inheriting the narcissist’s traits, supporting the findings that many children of narcissistic parents become narcissists themselves.

The reality is this. Once the children become adults, the only way for them to not further suffer under the tyranny of a severely narcissistic parent is to move away from them. Creating physical separation, and thus limiting contact, from a parent might seem like a bad solution. But the alternative is living a life of suffering. Remember, the narcissist will never change. After all, he or she isn’t the wrongdoer or person with flaws. Everyone else is.

Finally, here is a quote I would like to share that was left in the comment section, below, from a reader:

“The narcissist has no conscience and no feelings for others, especially their own children. The only thing that matters is their own selfish ego– coercing, manipulating, causing chaos, and damaging lives everywhere they go.”

Have a question for me about narcissistic parents? I’ll answer on future podcasts and posts. Thanks! – John


About John

John Thomas Steinbeck is a parental alienation consultant. He and his son's relationship was under attack in a deplorable campaign of parental alienation. In this blog, John shares his insights, techniques, and tools in combating emotional child abuse. He did it-- today his son's love has been restored-- and you can too!
  • toker

    I thought all boys growing up in the 40′ and 50’s were severely disciplined. My father kicked my 16 year old brother from the house, and later that year, I was caught for cutting kindergarten. That night he whipped me …my dog Spook came to my rescue and my father beat his and threw him to the back yard…. then I got the rest of the leather razor strap across my covered ass….. I always thought it was perhaps simple meanness, but at 72, I’m seeing a pattern here!!

  • Denise

    I too was a brainwashed child into adulthood. Not through divorce. The awful part is now they have my 22 yr old daughter. Shes adhd about 13 yrs old mindset. They have her so screwed up that shes terrified of me. I know im far from perfect but I also have a 8,7 & 6 yr old. Who are happy healthy & missing theyre sister. I just wish I could rescue her & get her away before it’s too late. I got away I moved outta state the BEST thing I ever did

  • Jeannie

    I am so grateful that i found this page. My son is suffering at the hands of his narcissistic father. In the infinite wisdom of the Court, we share custody. I have been unsuccessful in trying to reverse that decision. He has had Child protective Services called on him (not by me) multiple times. Nothing happens. I was flat out told by the case worker the last time that unfortunately something very bad has to happen to my son before they will step in. Because he has no visible marks on his body they cannot prove abuse. My son lives in constant fear of his father. My hands are tied. I cannot help my son. He tells him things about me that are horrible and not true. He speaks to him like he is a grown man (he is 9 years old). He screams and curses at him. Belittles him. Puts him in harms way by ignoring him and leaving him by himself. You name it, I could go on for hours. But there is nothing I can do. I feel so helpless. How can I make my young son understand that this is not about him. That the things that his father says about me are not true. That the way he is being treated is not his fault. That the way this man acts is not to be repeated. I can not get him counseling. Everyone I have consulted with says that if his father is not involved it would be more harmful to him by giving him conflicting messages. He refuses to participate in any kind of counseling even though my son has exhibited frightening behaviors. How do I get through the next several years? I am afraid he will either turn out to be just like his father or be so damaged by this that he will turn to drugs or suicide as a way to cope.

  • Note

    this is so crazy! I never viewed my dad and step mom in that way but they list everything above! they make me think i am crazy and tell so many lies.put a lock on the kitchen and living room wen i was around 15 because me and my brother “ate too much” and more crazy stuff telling all the people i know stories that arent true it feels so lonly sometimes

  • Paul Massey

    Hi John. Many thanks for this blog. It was like reading a checklist of my ex’s damaging behaviours. My son is currently being alienated against me. I am going through the courts to try to resolve this. Good luck to both (all!) of us. I just hope that I can find a judge that ‘gets it’.

  • Sew Buzzed

    Did you report this to the police or to your pastor? Has a Child Protective Services Social Worker interviewed the little girl in your regional child-friendly Child Advocacy Center? If this hasn’t happened yet, then please call your local Child Protective Services and have this arranged. And sign yourself up as a Foster Parent so you can have custody of the little girl if they find anything in the investigation.

  • marianne

    I am starting my recovery of finding the real me and learning to love me as I have never felt worthy of anything or anyone, I deseved not to be loved. I am the daughter of a Narcissistic mother and an enabler father who had a gambling problem resulting in being starved as we had no food in the house to eat. Myself and my brothers and sister would embarrassingly find ourselves begging for extra food from the canteen in school. The abuse at the hands of my mother has left me so emotionally unawear of my feelings I find myself associating pain with love this is the only way I can explain how confused I am about how I should feel. I am also very apologetic to people as I feel I am annoying them taking up there time why do I feel like this, well this would stem from the fact my Narcissistic mother never would give you any of their precious time if she did there was a reason behind it plain and simple. I was the scapegoat so I know all to well the hurt and pain my life consisted of I have a few siblings with Narcissism and as you can imagine my life consisted of watching arguments and vicisious bouts of fighting no child should witness. Yes it is a releaf to know I wasn’t,t going crazy and my abuse did happen I am not worthless, ugly, stupid and noone would love me like she did and I use the term did as she passed away a year ago. The thing I am finding difficult is now knowing my mum did not love as these Narcissistic people are not capable of love you see to me I now know my life in such a disfunctional family was centered around one big lie which is one of the most distinctive trait of a Narcissist. How has anyone delt with the aftermath of such a traumatic upbringing and the knowing that they were not loved by their mum or dad even both parents.?

  • twincaster

    Im dealing with my narc husband – he lives in another state with his girlfriend. The onething that I have noticed with him, aside from him having a secret life for years, apparently, we did ok till the birth of my twin boys, then I became a stay at home Mom. This is when I noticed a big shift – in his attitude. NO matter what I did all day long, he would make snide comments about what I did that day? did I do anything? or how much easier I had it staying home all day and he had to work. Even if I slept in or took a nap, I was being lazy…Now its been 2 years and I and the kids live in a different state – when we found out about his affair, he couldnt get us out and away from him fast enough. Didnt matter where we moved just as long as we did. It was all his idea, the amount of child support where I would move (closer to my family) etc etc. Now iits YOU took my kids away from me- your bleeding me dry with the child support.Its your fault I cheated, you were nothing but fat and lazy – he then started telling the kids that it was me that wanted to move them away from him. NO matter what they say now, later its a new tale. He will do anything ANYTHING to hurt me in some way. Even if it means him getting into trouble, or the kids suffering. He has called Child services one me. HE has called Food stamp office and told themI had a secret income (i do not) now Im getting a notice about their health insurance through the state – wanting to audit me. IM like really? I dont even say anything to him, because I KNOW he waiting for it, so he can laugh and laugh.

  • You’re quite welcome, Paul. Good luck to you, and please report back with the results. Yes, most judges are incompetent and few do “get it.” Here’s to your situation being different-

  • Katie Dan

    I am “Michelle”, a college grad with a highly professional job. I was looking for answers & I got them. I was heartbroken that my boyfriend decided to leave the relationship, a friend introduced me to a spell caster called “Priest Andrew”, so I had him cast A Lover Retrieval spell. Within a week of the spell casting, he called “just to talk”. After some pleasant talks and catching up, he asked to see me again. He is absolutely crazy about me now and DOES see the good in me that I had hoped he would. We are back together now happily & even planning on getting married. All thanks to Priest Andrew, (

  • ZEN IV

    I have a girlfriend that I had had two lovely kind girls with. but my girlfriend drinks out a lot without me as I am sober and in recovery. she has no accountability because she wrecked a truck without getting in legal trouble. her cousin helped cover up this wreck for 3 months. now the truth is out and she won’t account for her wrongs at ALL. Sleepless in Seattle . . . . .

  • Eli

    I am divorce of a narcissist. My children are adults an everything was fine until 7 years after the divorce when my ex realize that I live a happy life. Then he started to manipulated them, blaming me of his problems, shortcomings, that he had to marry again and have more children, all of that was my fault. Since 2014 my adult children don’t talk to me. My ex confiscated my daughter phone and I left messages but not response. I send letters, gifts, etc but was never delivered to her, my daughter lives with the father. Him and the new wife are in charge of keeping me away from them. He is a very important person and my children are part of a cult. They are adults and they should know better but no. I cried everyday for the last 2 years and I am lost, I don’t know what to do anymore. My daughter and I were very closed until she stop talking to me, no explanation, no conflict, just silent treatment. My heart is in million pieces.

  • Dhanya Pradeesh

    u could realize it .. so u escaped

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  • NeverStopBelievingYouAreStrong

    My elderly mother and stepfather (her cohort) have played a part in alienating me from my children for 25 years as well as played a pivotal part in alienating them from their father (through me when I was completely co-dependent young mother) prior to and after. She also did her successful part in alienating me from my father. He died unexpectedly at a relatively young age and when I finally found actual written proof – it broke my heart to pieces that I would never have a relationship with him (and worked through a few decades to finally be able to maintain a healthy relationship with my husband (3rd) with whom I am blessed to share two beautiful mentally healthy young children. It is amazing when one comes to terms of truth and even painfully chooses to severe contact with their parent. I also had to face myself with great guilt and other issues that I had self coped with for my entire lifetime – as far as almost becoming my own mother (her fondest and repeated wish as I grew up!). Last year an incident that actually endangered the health and well being of my youngest children as well as direct attempt at alienating another child from me. I bit my lip and tried to do the “right” thing in maintaining the peace with the matriarch. But that straw broke this camel’s back and I very firmly but respectfully called her on it. Oh my goodness what drama came forth. In writing she told me to never be in contact with her (based allegedly from her subjective psychiatrist who knows nothing about it) but yet she still demands to be allowed contact and gifting with my youngest (preschool aged) children. I don’t know what to do. I just pray. for strength and patience. I feel sorry for her but I will not allow her to continue this psychological favoritism any longer. How can I have her leave us alone?

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  • LakeMan

    I am in a wheelchair, born with Spina Bifida, and have been living with a narcissistic mother after my father left the house to sign the finishing paperwork on a house we are trying to sell. She immediately that night drinks and finishes bottles of wine by herself, 3 I counted one evening and more I have not yet counted each evening after. Then proceeds to tell me with slurred speech that I should revisit a toxic relationship with a girl who neither one of us can stand to be near each other at any time…or I am going to be put into a medical facility. Repeatedly for several weeks in my father’s absence, complete brainwashing behavior. Since my father doesn’t see this it is hard to explain it to him; let alone have alone time to talk man to man, without her constantly listening. I really don’t know what to do. I need to break ties with her but I can not take the ultimatum of living in a facility around people I do not know just to break ties with her.

  • Mabel

    Doctor Ororo is a great problem solver that solve peoples problem with his magic spell, I never believed my husband will come back to me due to the way we broke up but i thanks God for using Doctor Ororo to bring him back to me with his spell. My husband and i started having issues when i noticed he was cheating on me, We always fight and quarrel each time i told him to stop cheating. I tried to stop him from cheating but instead he took his clothes and went to stay with his girlfriend and told me our marriage was over, i was confuse until my friend told me how Doctor Ororo helped her brought her man back with his spell so i immediately contacted Doctor Ororo for help and he promise me that he will help me with his spell and i will see result within 12 to 16 hours. I am so glad to announce to the world that Doctor Ororo is like a God on Earth and also a man of his word because my husband came back to me on his knees begging me to accept him back. Do you need help of any kind then contact Doctor Ororo for help now via email: ( or website: ( or cell:(+15086454666)

  • CF

    In case anyone has just stumbled upon this post that is two years old, DONT do it!!!! Why in the heck would anyone want a lying, cheating spouse back? He beat his girlfriend up and came back to you and your children. Wow!! what a prize. Worse yet, you are teaching your children you are not worth being in a loving committed relationship, which you are. Also, you are teaching your children what their future will be. Do you really want that for your daughter or son? I would love an update to see if the spell still worked. Hopefully, you are no longer under HIS spell and are safe far, far away from Narcissistic abuse. Yes my dear, YOU are an abused woman as well.

  • Angela Coffin

    I spent 15 years of and on with an extreme narcissist. Unfortunately, I didn’t see what he was doing to me. He destroyed my daughter. He turned her against me to keep control of me. Now, she hates me and has run away. She is a compulsive liar and continues making false accusations to justify her wrong doings. I love my daughter and wish I could help her. I’m at a loss. It’s breaking my heart. She is mad at me because I had him locked up for punching me in my face. I don’t know what to do but walk away.

  • annie

    I am currently going through this for the second time with my daughters father. He kidnapped her 3 times last year, I brought him to court he was ordered to give her back immediately. Instead, three hours after i got her ( four days later, he should have been charged with kidnapping) he called he police stating i was making threats through an ex, when he was the perp and i didnt even find out until about 30 min before 8 squads pulled up and pulled me out of my vehicle by my hair and giving my 13 year old to him.. . after they left is when the police questioned me, he filed an ofp and was granted one although i have the texts and police report stating it was untrue. She is now doing self harm and he was ordered to get her into counseling ( i had her in counseling as she did it in march. the first time he took her) she hadnt done it in april may and june with me, he took her again in july. We went to court yesterday and i found out although the gal knew for 4 days she is doing it again and she is identifying as transgender.I am besides myself

  • Sandra

    Ronny and Amanda, this is also exactly my life. I’m completely alone because of it, because I never learned to form normal friendships and relationships, because every friend or boyfriend was “one of those kind of people” and there was something “sick and wrong” with me for being around them until I finally just stopped ever being around anyone and became a recluse. I can’t even explain to people the kind of things my mother has done and said to me, how she would go into rages screaming and blaming me for doing something I didn’t do, saying something I didn’t say, thinking something I didn’t think, constantly putting words and actions into play that never happened and then brainwashing my siblings that I did it and how could I treat my poor mother that way after all she does for me. Years and years and years of it and it’s still happening today. I’m also 34 and I feel like I constantly have to walk on eggshells. She tells my siblings every time they leave that she loves them and have a safe drive, she can barely muster a smirk when I leave. I can not think of one single time ever she has said I love you when I left. Narc parents can also single out one child to take all of their self loathing and frustration out on and that was me. Since I was a small child I remember when I did something wrong, it was what felt like hours long yelling and lecturing about the kind of person I was going to be, how I wanted to be and acted like certain people, how sick and mental I was. I listened for years to hearing about how”sick and mental”, telling my siblings how mentally ill I was, blaming me for everything, making up all kinds of stuff that I supposedly did or “had an attitude” and I would have NO idea what she was taking about, but I could never defend myself, if I did I had no one to turn to because my siblings had already been made well aware of what I supposedly had been doing and rather then figuring this out for themselves or asking me, they gave me the cold shoulder, ignoring me because of “how I was treating our poor hard-working mother.” She raised them to be just as bad. My sister is an extreme narcissist. She learned early to manipulate and get away with it because no matter what she did, she would run and tell my mom something different and my mom would always believe her. She could walk in and slam a dish and walk out and tell my mom “I was slamming things around angry” when it wasn’t true whatsoever yet my mom would fly into a rage because “she was sick of my attitude”. No one would listen to me that it wasn’t true!! I remember doing things like breaking something, deliberately tearing the ears off of her stuffed dog and telling my mom I did it off which I never heard the end of what a “psychotic freak” I wad because “who would do that to a child” but my god it wasn’t even true, humming and bumping the couch with her foot to irritate me until I quietly left the room and then my mom would start “yep there she goes with her sick attitude.” My sister and mom are best friends to this day and both the same, lieing bullying abusive extremely controlling people. I came believe I let so many years of my life be destroyed and lost rather then being able to find happiness. I spent years drinking out of pain and suicidal, and yet I was actually stupid enough to try to get help from my family for my drinking, because all I got was told how “yeah that’s exactly the kind of person they knew I was” and “I’m just desperate for attention” and “I have to make everything all about me.” There is no point EVER of trying to think these people will ever see anything good in anyone. They’ve never gotten to know me, they don’t know me as a person, they don’t know who I am or what I think or like our my interests and feelings, all they know is what they want to make up about me so they can scrape me off the bottom of their shoes to make themselves feel better.

  • Dwayne A. Guillemette


    I believe my father was narcissist. My mother and father divorced when I was 2 yrs old. My father got custody of myself and my 3 brothers however my father drank all the time and played poker and gambled he would either spend all his money on drinking or gambling. I remember we would not have any food in the house. I went many days in my child hood hungry. I also remember him coming home after drinking and be angry because he lost playing poker and beating on me and my brothers. He had this big thick leather strap he called his persuader. I also remember times when he did not have money he would make me go borrow $20.00 from the owner of local grocery store and give it to him or he would have get food with it. God forbid if I forgot to get something or I got the wrong thing that constituded another beating. I lived my whole chid hood this way with other things that happened as well like having sex in front of me when I was just a young boy. My life has been screwed up ever since my sex life has never been right I been confused about my own sexuality I now been living with hiv for over 30 yrs none of my relationships have worked out both sexual and friendships except for my best friend who is no longer living. Anyway if someone could give me some insight on this it would be well recieved. I need help and I don’t know where to turn
    Thank you,

  • Livi G

    I’m 17 and I’ve always had that attitude as well. Except now I’m ready to get out and leave. I don’t know how but I must get out. Unfortunately, for me I’ve kept up that, “we ain’t taking shrimp” mindset but it’s put my life in danger many times. My mom choked me and pulled knives on me because of it. I want out but I’m afraid that because those incidents were from so long ago if I had to go to court they wouldn’t believe me. I was about 11 when they were physically abusive.

  • Sally Marie Stanford

    This is both my husband BIG_TIME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! AND MY FATHER! MY FATHER USED TO SQUEEZE MY TINY HEAD WHEN JUST A LITTLE ONE AND SAY< "I'M PUTTING PRESSURE ON YOUR BRAIN AND LAUGH."

    -SALLY STANFORD, Norwalk, CA. husband the famous KAS THOMAS of TWITTER with over 300,000 ego needed followers.

  • Leigh Fayard Chambley

    I have had no contact with my N father and codependent mother, or my Golden Child brother in over 2 years. I have been in therapy. It has been a slow process. Going No Contact is not an answer. It is a beginning. All the reactions, neurosis, abuse, C-PTSD, and poor relationship skills are still in my head. It is very hard to change a lifetime of accepting abuse and not even knowing I was abused. I was convinced by my family that I, the scapegoat, was the problem. This flawed idea drove me to think that by changing myself, I could earn the love and respect of my parents. If I could lose weight, get a degree, get a better job, marry someone that my family approved of, etc. I could finally gain the approval and love of my parents. People around my family are charmed by my father and mother, and would never believe that behind the facade was an atmosphere of severe emotional and mental abuse and neglect of myself, my brother (in a different way) and my mother (who stays no matter what he does to her). I have realized after 49 years that they can’t give what they don’t have. I have done anger and grief work, which has helped my C-PTSD flashbacks, and begun to slowly free my mind of the false ideals that I was brainwashed into believing. I have found other adult children of narcissist that have shared their experiences in recovery. Any suggestions on mental and emotional growth after initially cutting ties and recognizing the abuse is welcome.

  • Joy Matthews

    I’m unsure if you’ve seen into what you’ve told us here Jaye, sometimes it’s just too hard to take in, for the mind to fathom… I know, I’m 60yrs old now and it’s been my worst nightmare trying to not believe what I know is true but struggle to accept as true, it kills my mind.. Now, having said that, I’ll be blunt.. Your Mother is also a Narcissist, they both hate, they both have venom, they both want to win and they are both vicious losers… For your sanity’s sake, you will be saving yourself if you can asap GET as far away as you can from them both “if you can”, you are nothing more than an instrument “To Them” for them to use against you and against each other, neither of them care about anyone other than themselves, this is their vile little hate “Game” They play games with peoples minds, they don’t care who they hurt, but I can assure you, it’s the hurt they cause to their children’s minds that gives them the most pleasure and causes the most damage. Please get help the sooner the better for your future recovery, I suggest a trauma councilor for victims of abuse, someone that understands how to treat these kinds of abuses… Your not alone mate <3