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.”


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 . . . . .