The narcissistic parent

narcissistic parents

Narcissistic Parents

In my study of mental child abuse as well as my own observations regarding my ex, 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, ungrateful, a pathological liar (twists the truth with incredible ease), envious and competitive, deaf to other’s opinions, doesn’t listen (zero empathy), brags and exaggerates, plays favorites (and it’s a rotating favorite list at that), has no boundaries, 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 (read this post on Unhappy Parents) who sucks the energy and life out of those around them.

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. It’s inappropriate, it’s evil, and it’s abusive.

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 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 (scroll down) from a reader, Eve:

“The narcissist has no conscience and have 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.”


About John

John T. 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!
  • Seth

    It is truly heartbreaking. Let me tell you this though: I take my anger at my parents – and mother, especially who can’t honor the simplest boundaries – and I vow to make sure my own kids – now 5 and 7 – always feel like I care about THEIR feelings. If they come to me and say you do this or that which hurts me, I will put my behavior on notice, go to therapy if that’s what it takes, and tell my god, I am so sorry and I will try hard to not make you feel like that again. Sure, people end up hurting each other in relationships to some degree – it’s probably a part of love. But narcissists and borderlines? They fight dirty and will break your heart in two. The more I read all these comments, the more I know what I need to do – have extremely measured contact with my mother. I am too tired to estrange myself AGAIN. These people are so wounded – they couldn’t change unless they spent every day for a year in therapy – and even then, eventually they would go back to their old ways. I am so done. I have young kids of my own and a full time job, partner, etc. I don’t have time for this bullshit. These people need to find someone else to terrorize at their whim.

  • Delores Powell

    It seems very timely that I came across this tonight. becauseI’m a mother-in-law to what it seems here to be a very narcissistic person, she has been diagnosed with personality disorder, and she has 99% of these issues excepts for the rages, she’s the passive aggressive type, and also she blames the children’s behavior issues on mental defect I guess you could say, so she did not have to deal with it or discipline them, (but it’s amazing they haven’t been on medication since they were removed from her care). And the only behavior issues they have are normal tween things, (AHH), and behaviors that they picked up from her. Being the best, never their fault, things like that, but I’m working on these,

    My issue is that almost 3 years ago my 3 grandchildren were removed from my son and her after she almost killed my granddaughter, by giving her medication. Medication for older grandson,(she convinced doctors that they both had issues with adhd, and that my grandson was also bi-polar), because she was getting on her nerves and wanted her to be quiet, The problem is that CPS is working on reunification,9 within weeks we will start what is called intensive family therapy, where mom will come to the home for supervised visits) because my son blames himself because he was working out of town, (to make more money so she could spend)also she manipulates him, and he doesn’t want to acknowledge and/or recognize this behavior, maybe partially because my ex was like this. This may be a way to try to get him to recognize what’s really going on, and that she is not capable of non-toxic parenting. He only separated from her because, after 2 years,(in which the children were in foster care) if he didn’t they would have terminated his parental, as well as hers, so she ended up moving out of state for 6 months CPS thought that that was going to basically be the end, and returned the children to him, and I’m helping to raise them. (I’m now what I call a grandma MOM). the big issue that CPS has is that they no longer believe she will OD one of them again, but that basically although the kids are now thriving in their environment,(it’s not perfect but CPS is thrilled with their progress), that their progress is and will start to deteriorate, and these types of issues are much harder to prove so that parental rights can be terminated. It is just so hard to watch after beginning out of that kind of relationship myself for years, and the effects that it had on the children and myself, and even though most of it was directed at me I tried to buffer the children from him as much as possible, I can still see the affects it had on my children, especially in some of their partners. As it was for me both of my parents were this way but not to quite the extreme toxicity of my daughter-in-law. I just so worry about all my grand children for this reason but especially these 3, the bible is right about one thing, it is that the sins of the father are past on to his children, I never understood that for the longest time till the last several years as I evaluate my life, and I so want to stop this with these kiddos so they can have happy, healthy relationships as an adult, I guess the best I can do is to keep doing what I’m doing, like calling them on their behaviors, explaining to my son where they have learned them, hoping he will see the things he says he does,(I believe part of him has but he wants to give her one more chance to see if she has changed like she says has, although all of the rest of us who have contact with her knows she hasn’t just by little things she says or does that he doesn’t usually catch, cause he’s a single father pulled in so many directions right now.) and, loving them unconditionally no strings attached, and providing them stability through a consistency, and awareness, and sometimes with love talking about mom’s issues without anger or blaming just this is how she is, and will she get better well I try to put on a false front there I guess knowing she probably never will, but telling them she’s working on it that she knows what to do and say she just has to put things into action just like they do when they have things to work on weather it be positive and negative. Just my 2-cents on this topic, there are so many people out there like this though and you never know it, maybe we should start to question all those supposed to be perfect. good, happy normal homes, those seem to be the ones where this is the most prevalent, cause lets face it all families that are real have their ups and downs and all arounds, those are the good normal, truly happy homes that have some little quirks but everyone is basically honest on what goes on behind closed doors if asked. These and other issues are so hard and sad, people can see physical things like physical abuse and neglect, and these are hard enough for them to prosecute, much less emotional abuse that many times even longer lasting scars, because many times they are not acknowledged for a long time if ever, and even then the damage to the psyche is horrible and takes years or a lifetime to heal.

  • Hayden

    I simply can’t believe I’ve come across this page, this describes my mother down to every last detail on every post. I’ve always felt I couldn’t talk to people about it because every time I’ve try’ed they’ve gone to get her point of view as well and you already know how that went… its just me trying to “get peoples attention” or I’m “on drugs”, both direct quotes. I don’t feel so alone all of a sudden reading these posts and comments its just blown me away seeing that I’m really not the only one. I want to share all my experiences with people but there’s simply too much to put on here but I’ll list a few.

    My brother who is just 2 years younger then me was dragged into this with me
    even at the age of 2-3 as listed below

    THE SHAKEDOWN: This was so severe in my case that while I was with my father for the very rare 2 week visit I was so scared that I didn’t really even get to enjoy my visit because I was anticipating it the whole time, no to mention all the bad things she would tell me about him just prior to the visit pumping more fear into my heart about it. While I was with him he was ok with letting her call and talk to me he never made an effort to complicate it but in the phone calls she would always tell me about all the things I was missing back at her place and how much she loved and missed me and would constantly ask when I was coming back, then shed get all teary because she ‘missed’ me so much. But never cry’ed. One visit I recall lasted about a month and in that time I had a chance to bond with his new family (Wife and children, the children are not his biologically speaking but he has always treated them as his own) who he has been with for as long as I can recall, I had a great time and made lots of friends in that month alone, and my brother and I got along with our step-siblings like a house on fire. Then came time to drop me back to my mothers and the closer he got to her house the more I cringed (note I was 5 at the time) at the thought of going back, when we arrived I started screaming and cry’ing I didn’t want to leave the car, gripping the seat while they were trying to pull me out. finally when it was just us in the house she locked the door behind us and sat in the corner crying saying “you dont love me” “you make me feel like a horrible mother” “I even made chicken nuggets for us and put ‘our’ shows on and you dont even care”. My brother just being 2-3 at the time was hugging her balling his eyes out, but she was ignoring him completely and focusing the guilt on me, so naturally I caved and ate the nuggets to stop her crying and she did but only to ignore me for the next day or 2.

    I remember in year 2 I pissed my pants in class, the school gave me a new pair of pants and put the other pair in a plastic bag for me to take home, when mum picked me up from the bus stop she thought the bag had a gift in it, I could tell by her smile when she saw it but as soon as she realised what had happend all hell broke loose and she kept blaming me for it, then she punished me by making me go to bed really early for a week or so and continually verbally abusing me, along with threats of having no dinner during this punishment.

    Before my teen years she had got what she wanted when it came to custody by making me resent time with my father then she went further by completely destroying mine and my brothers social lives by continually intervening, abusing and guilting us.

    Just before my year 5-6 formal she said “you better not kiss any fucking girls do you hear me?!?! because if you ill fuckin’ find out RIGHT!” when i came back from the formal she ‘jokingly’ asked me about kissing girls, then I lied and said I did to test the waters, she immediately stormed into mine and my brothers room and started to break things (his things too) I ran in and told her i was joking then she turned and gave me this look of pure hate then started guilting me and verbally abusing me.
    Around this time my brother tested the waters aswell by responding to all her threats saying “id like to see that” shed make all these threats and he just kept saying “id like to see that” so she shoved him againsed the wall and choked him with both hands untill he stared turning blue then she stopped, then proceeded to sell all of our toys untill she felt we were sorry, even tho we never really had many toys to sell, she always managed to sell it all off and make us feel like the bad guys for “making her do it”

    When I was 18 I got my ex pregnant, this was not planned so naturally mum had no clue and id hoped to keep it that way for a while but she always knows when somethings up and gets the information she needs. She was already interviening in our relationship but it got worse at this point because she was carrying “her” grandchild. Always telling my ex what to do in the pregnancy and criticizing all her ‘faults’, I couldn’t do much about this because she kept doing it while I wasnt around, taking her out for a ‘girls lunch dates’ which I know was just a ploy to get her and keep her away so she could fill her head with lies and confusion but it didnt last All this drama caused my ex to leave across the country to live with her family and my ex didnt want me to come with her, she didnt want to me leave my ‘life’ in my home town for her and the child but my attitude was like “F**k that im sticking by our child even if it means leaving all my friends” and I thought she just didnt want to be with me at this point but that didnt change anything I did follow. As soon as mum caught wind that we were moving so far she went ballistic “YOU’S ARE JUST TRYING TO TAKE MY FIRST GRANDCHILD AWAY FROM ME”

  • Hayden

    The thing is people believe the narcissist and not you, they have silver tongue’s never forget that

  • Good

    I used to react with defiance with my mum too, I wasn’t about to swallow all her drivel. It’s worth remembering that narcs must think themselves really unimportant and be terribly jealous in order to kick up such a stink all the time. Keep up the “we ain’t taking sh*t” talk because eventually that will really kill them and/ or they will go and pester someone else. Because why would anyone want to be bothered with them??

  • Good

    Are you human?

  • Good

    No, it is mental abuse. They do it to trick you and my mother always wanted me to be doing anything other than what I was actually doing as she was a spoilt, needy, lazy failure and wanted to bring everyone down to her level. My dad has a few elements of narcissism too and tried to control her in various ways, but somehow she managed to wreck his career and nothing ever went anywhere whilst he was with her, it was just all nonstop battles (she by the way never had a career).
    She is deeply embarrassed and ashamed about me although the irony is she has nothing to be ashamed of. At heart she is deeply jealous and actually I think these people are jealous of people who are nice and genuine and can’t stand the fact they might get more attention, so they continually seek to disrupt their lives. Which is why it IS important to a) stand your ground, b) get away ASAP.
    My mother is so pathetic and deeply upset about my career choice (creative arts) and so deliberately uninterested in what I do that you know what I do? I just laugh! Her problem. Not mine.

  • Susan

    I just last night found help thru my friend’s local county social services for adult disabled man abused! I explained the situation to my doctor after months of research & finding help for adult man was nearly impossible but using disabled as adjective (which is inevitable outcome!), I hav hopefully found somewhere to help my voiceless victim an escape!? So help is reaching the male victims rapidly newly field of professional & social concerns! Good luck

  • Susan

    I too applaud everyone who has gotten this far to seek help which means ur on the road to getting help from wat I’v researched ! My friend (once boyfriend ) for 14 months has been going thru exactly the same issues as those ppl posting but he is so brainwashed he denies most time but at times thanks me as he fears his mom’d wrath which I accidentally saw wen she was enraged seeing that the AC was on (by me!) that she rendered his body language that of a broken battered woman & then said I saw I& took it wrong… Which I respectfully used analogies relating to fairy tales & definition of love to no avail! I hav been consumed to the point where I don’t know where to turn but last nite found a social community based place to seek help for adult disabled men who are abused!

  • Susan

    Congratulations for ur quest for overcoming obstacles incidious as brainwashing to read an article & seek help! I know that ur seeking help is a huge step in ur healing process as my boyfriend (who initially hid this somehow) remains in denial at age 49 & looks like POW, depressed & totally unable to see anything except wait for her providing lowly degrading jobs which rarely come to fruition causing him to self isolate in depression for many months calling it “hibernation” & he must walk hours doing mundane tasks creating golf ball blisters on his ankles with a titanium hip replacement & wearing work boots that hav no sole or comfort wearing Cinderella clothes which she buys & he “doesn’t care” & says I get too upset caus that’s how moms are & he tells me exact words as his on told me,”he’s hotta do wat he should do & h” talk to me wen he gets there “! “Weekdays are no good” caus he’s “no good at relationships” this repo toured only seems to follow us being apart & he begins to show signs of hope which she must detect & causes his destructive behaviors loosing time & it’s getting noticeably worse I’m assim

  • Susan

    I am so sorry to hear of your heAlth & inability to escape or secure gainful employment. I can relate thru my childhood issues which I didn’t know about the full extent surprisingly until I sought help after witnessing a vulture evil (as portrayed in Wizard of Oz or many fairy tales of evil witches!) mom 4′ tall enraged upon entering his house (that she didn’t c me) & scolding him (in every way shape & form portrayed in fairy tales & movies!) like evil abuser barking question as 2 Y the AC’s on when I (upon entering moments before) turned on at the site of my friend HER SON’s 6’1″ muscular frame into that of a battered woman shrinking to match her height arms above head, etc not uttering a word & leaving the room exiting house with hair , sweat & grass stuck to his glistening skin on hottest summer day fr mowing lawn! They changed subject upon realizing my presence never saying another word in apology or kind word to my friend except handi g him

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