It seems nowadays the term “narcissist” is being thrown around a lot – and good thing, too. More and more people are emerging from the woodwork coming to the realization that, “Wow, I was dealing with a narcissist.”
There’s more to unpack when it comes to this personality disorder than simply recognizing that someone loves themselves a little too much. Because that’s exactly what it is – a personality disorder. It is characterized by an individual’s lack of empathy, their need for attention and their inflated sense of importance.
Narcissists manipulate and control in order to fulfill their selfish wants. This is bad news for those that engage in relationships with narcissists – and just as bad for the children that result from those relationships.
Narcissistic parenting can characterized as cold and selfish. They are incapable of providing a child with the empathy and warmth the rest of us are able to do naturally.
So how exactly does a narcissist parent a child?
Common Traits of Narcissistic Parenting
There’s more to narcissistic parenting than simply a lack of empathy and warmth. The narcissist’s ability to manipulate extends to their children as well.
Oftentimes, narcissists will compete with their children to establish their superiority. They will put their child down and control their child with rigid expectations – and become irritated if they deviate from them.
Even though a narcissist feels they are competing with their children in order to be superior, they also try to live through their children by setting expectations in order to fulfill their own needs. This means that a narcissist will push their child to succeed in areas they have likely failed in – all for the bragging rights to say that their child represents an extension of their talents.
Narcissists will also use their child for personal gain – whether this is to garner pity and attention from either how difficult parenting is or how amazing their children are. Narcissistic parents will also use their child against the other parent either by feeding the child negative and untrue information about their other parent or by forcing the other parent to make decisions that work to their benefit.
As a parent, narcissists are unable to validate their child’s thoughts or feelings – this goes back to the fact that they cannot empathize. They also become jealous of their child’s independence because this separation means a loss of control.
Unfortunately, narcissists sometimes completely neglect their children in order to focus on their own needs. They may leave the child in the care of a relative in order to have the freedom to engage in activities that fulfill their need for attention.
How to Help Children of Narcissists
If you are in a situation in which your little one’s other parent is a narcissist, there are things you can do to alleviate the struggle. You’ll never be able to eliminate it, but can be less stressful and nerve-wracking:
Parallel parenting is an alternative to co-parenting when it comes to dealing with a narcissist. The basic premise is that you limit communication to only “need to know” information and keep the other parent separate from your own life.
Don’t Speak Negatively About the Other Parent
As much as the other parent treats your child terribly, it’s important not to speak negatively about them. This doesn’t mean sugar-coating their actions and behaviors, but talking about them in an objective manner.
Depending on your child’s age and level of maturity, you should always be as honest as you can about the situation with their narcissistic parent. Be sure that the know their other parent’s behavior isn’t nice or acceptable.
Validate Their Feelings
Do what the other parent can’t – acknowledge how your children are feeling. Never make them feel that they are wrong in being frustrated or angry with their other parent.