Written by: Ashlee Cantrell
The relationship between a parent and their children is crucial in the development of the child’s brain, physical and mental health, relationships with others, and how they view the world around them. No parent is perfect; however, some parenting may have a lasting impact that continues through into the child’s adult life. At times, children with narcissistic parents are at risk of harm. This may seem a bit scary, especially if you’re not sure what a narcissist is or if you’ve experienced it firsthand. However, it is important that you understand that you are not alone and that you can reach out for help. It is helpful for individuals to recognize the signs of narcissistic parenting to understand the impact their growing up may have on them. Let’s talk about it.
What is a Narcissistic Parent?
To understand the trauma is to understand the narcissistic parent. Narcissism is described as an intense sense of selfishness that is portrayed as charming and highly functional. Narcissists often carry a sense of entitlement with them wherever they go, stealing the attention of the room. They often manipulate others to have their needs met and require admiration from others. Narcissists often experience a lack of empathy and may have difficulty understanding how others feel. They are often unaware of their behaviors or unaware that their behaviors are wrong and/or inappropriate and therefore struggle to apologize to others. With this, they may often blame others rather than take accountability for their actions. How might these traits show up in parenting? A narcissistic parent might see themselves as more important than their child, meaning that they may struggle to value their child. As children age, it is common for narcissistic parents to view their children as competition and begin to feel threatened by them. With this, narcissistic parents may begin to tear down their children’s self-esteem or challenge them in these ways:
- Teasing, mocking, or bullying
- Becoming intolerant of disobedience
- Acting as though their reputation is their children’s responsibility
- Using fear tactics to dominate or manipulate the child into submission
- Blaming family members when things go wrong (Refusing to take accountability)
- Only showing love when expectations are met OR withdrawing love when expectations are not met
- Lacking empathy or overall feelings toward family members
- Making everything about them, no matter what
Growing up with a narcissistic parent is always challenging and often traumatizing. The parent may be experiencing admiration in public settings, but in private, the home setting is much different, especially for the children involved. Let’s work through the impact that having a narcissistic parent can have on a child.
The Impact on a Child
Being raised by a narcissistic parent can make a child feel confused, nervous, scared, and sad for most of their childhood. There comes a certain age where the child understands that their needs are less important than their parents. Their parents have made it clear that the child’s thoughts, feelings, and longings are not welcome without proper stability in the home. Therefore, the child learns that they are responsible for maintaining stability by keeping up with their parent’s moods and expectations as they come and change. While attempting to process their way of living, children raised by narcissistic parents also must do their best to stay safe and get their needs met. However, if the child at any point fails to meet the expectations, responsibilities, or any other rules set by the parent, the child’s physical and emotional needs may not be met. This is the unfortunate and traumatic cycle that may occur between a narcissistic parent and their children. Oftentimes, these children develop anxiety, depression, and/or PTSD. What are some other effects of narcissistic parenting?
- Low self-esteem
- Preferring to care for others before yourself (co-dependency)
- Trust issues in relationships
- Perfectionist tendencies
- Reliant on substances
- Difficulty standing up for self/setting boundaries with others
- Refrain from expressing needs
- Difficulty being independent of the narcissistic parent
The Impact on an Adult
It is difficult to realize that there is anything wrong with a situation as a child but as an adult, it may be easier to understand that things could have been different. Oftentimes, an adult child of a narcissistic parent begins to realize that other children may not experience the same experiences that they do or feel the same as they do. Children of narcissistic parents may experience effects of upbringing that may cause long-term trauma or damaging effects. While every person’s childhood upbringing is different, we must discuss these effects to avoid any future harm. Growing up with a narcissistic parent almost always hurts their children’s mental health. How can being raised by a narcissistic parent impact a person as an adult? Let’s find out. Adult children of narcissistic parents may exhibit some of these traits:
- Chronic self-blame
- People-pleasing tendencies
- Feeling needy or guilty when considering their own needs
- Insecure attachment-style relationships
- Chronic independence
- Low self-esteem or self-worth
- Difficulty with trust or intimacy
- Codependent and/or abusive relationships
- At risk of becoming narcissistic
- At risk for mental health concerns (depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc.)
Experiencing a narcissistic parent from a child’s point of view may produce an intense amount of trauma for the child, especially if they are not aware of what is happening to them. Where the child may be searching for a person to love, care for them, and provide for their needs, they receive a person who is concerned about loving and caring for themselves while bartering others to meet their needs instead. It is a scary experience for a child and an angry experience for an adult child of a narcissistic parent. Children of narcissism may need to develop a sense of themselves in a healthy manner separate from their parents. Seeking out a counselor during this process might be helpful. If you or anyone you know is or has experienced anything discussed above, it is never too late to seek assistance to discuss your experiences and reach out for help at URC!