70+ Signs of a Narcissistic Parent (According to Experts)

Living with a narcissistic parent can be incredibly challenging. They may be a bit too demanding and perfectionists and are all about themselves and their own needs, often at the expense of their kids.

However, keep in mind that not all parents who exhibit such behaviors are narcissists.

Identifying the characteristics of a narcissistic parent can be difficult, but don’t worry — we’ve got you covered. According to experts, these are the signs to look out for, along with things you can do to cope:

Mary Joye, LMHC


Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Winter Haven Counseling

What a great question, as I had two narcissistic parents.

They treat you like an extension of themselves

Some of us, offspring of narcissistic parents, would love to send photos of our parents. You can just see it in their eyes and demeanor. But since you need words, here goes the first sign of a narcissistic parent, one who treats you like an extension of themselves.

They will not allow you to act for yourself

They will not allow you to think or act for yourself. Narcissists are all about their own image, and they treat their children as an extension of that image. If you do not comply, there are consequences.

Narcissistic parents also triangulate siblings

Very often, a narcissistic parent will find a child who is most compliant and pit that child against the one who is the most rebellious or outspoken. Any expression of autonomy in one child will usually cause the parent to be harsher, less generous or nurturing.

The other child who is compliant and acts more like a narcissist may be rewarded lavishly for bad behavior, while the hood scapegoat child gets punished.

The parent is looking for allies, and they love to create chaos, and using their children to do it gives them great pleasure. They sacrifice one child or more to accommodate the one who accommodates them.

Narcissistic parents insist on high achievement

Again, you are an extension of their image if you have a narcissistic parent. This often causes children to have a drive that is so intense it can create anxiety.

That said, sometimes this backfires on the narcissistic parent because that child can become so independent, successful, and wealthy that they can easily divest themselves of the narcissistic parent later in life.

The narcissistic parent wants you to keep horrific family secrets

When children are molested or in an abusive narcissistic home, they are seldom taught they can report it. They are taught to keep family secrets. Again, all about the image.

The child grows up believing they have to cover up, which can cause codependent behavior of losing themselves taking care of others.

Sexual abuse and abuse of any kind will go on unreported, and the victim takes on the shame of the perpetrator because they sacrifice their life for the family unit instead of being honored and upheld as human beings with rights.

The perpetrator usually gets away with the crime or abuse while the child believes it is their duty to cover up for someone who has harmed them. It is a form of self-harm if you do this later in life and continues this dynamic.

They uplift the one who is an extension of their image

The narcissistic parent is driven by a fear of abandonment and needs to browbeat a scapegoat child while they uplift the one who is an extension of their image. This lack of empathetic nurturing creates anxiety in all the offspring.

Even a child who grows up to imitate and become like a narcissist is driven by a fear of abandonment and grandiosity based on a false pretense.

The scapegoat child usually becomes a people pleaser and a perfectionist and can never quite seem to make an offer feel good enough. They are the most anxious children that narcissistic parents create.

They get their children to uphold their image

I often get asked in my practice if the parents know what they are doing, and the answer is unequivocal. They may not know why they are doing it, but they know what to do to get their children to uphold their image. This can create post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms in children.

Related: How to Help Someone With PTSD

The child who is most adaptable and resilient or who seeks treatment for being raised by a narcissistic parent can actually do very well in life. They can navigate all the narcissistic people they may meet in work and social situations.

Once they have learned to navigate narcissistic behavior, they can become very successful and step out of that dynamic and break the cycle of narcissistic abuse by parents that was probably set in place by a generational dynamic.

The cycle can be broken with self-awareness and education, and most importantly, treatment if needed.

Related: How to Deal With a Narcissistic Parent

Laura Bonk, MA, PLPC 

Laura Bonk

Therapist, Heartland Therapy Connection

The DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) captures the core of narcissism (entitlement, grandiosity, lack of empathy, excessive need for validation, overall deep insecurity, etc.).

However, it does not offer much guidance in easily identifying signs of narcissism in daily life, especially in parenting. Due to the complicated nature of NPD, signs can often vary between the different subsets of narcissism.

I’ve detailed the possible signs and expressions of narcissism according to these subsets below:

The grandiose narcissist: The “Disneyland parent”

The grandiose narcissist is characterized by overt grandiosity most commonly associated with narcissism.

These narcissistic people present as the “Disneyland parent.” They are there for the big days; they like to “put on shows” of their children as if to say, “Look at us. I have these great kids and do all of these great things for/with them.”

They care a lot more about how things look in public than how things actually are. They might push their children to excel at something that will make the parent look good. They view their children as an extension of themselves rather than humans with independent identities.

If their children do not excel publicly, the narcissistic parent will likely disconnect from them. The grandiose narcissist needs to be liked and admired, so if a child is not delivering this to them, they distance themselves from that child.

They are not interested in the private day-to-day work of parenting, and they very likely have short fuses with their children at home.

To the grandiose narcissist, everything is about them all the time, so the needs of children and the demands of parenting are seen as an inconvenience.

Adult children of grandiose narcissists often become vulnerable to pushing their own needs away to focus on attending to the needs of people around them. These children are taught that their needs are an inconvenience and only get in the way of others.

The malignant narcissist: The exploitative parent

The malignant narcissist is the more menacing, manipulative, and exploitative subtype. They are more prone to lying, sadistic, and paranoid behavior, presenting themselves as cold and scary, especially to their children.

These narcissistic people are completely concerned with power, control, and dominance.

Their children likely grow up with chronic anxiety and, as adults are more likely to experience PTSD-like symptoms, be easily activated and triggered, and have extreme difficulty feeling safe in relationships.

The covert narcissist: The guilt-tripping parent

The covert narcissist is characterized by a more vulnerable and victimized style.

They present themselves as victims and tend to express beliefs that life never goes their way, people are out to get them, they deserve so much more from life, and people don’t see their potential.

They become like sullen victims with their children, which then causes their children to feel responsible for rescuing them.

This type of narcissistic parent might say things to their children such as:

  • “I’m doing the best that I can, and no one is supporting me.”
  • “Parenting takes such a toll on me.”
  • “I would never have treated my parents like this.”
  • “Nobody in this house ever appreciates me enough.”
  • “Everyone out there has it so much easier than me as a parent.”

Chronically hearing statements such as this from a parent will likely instill an immense amount of guilt in children, making them constantly feel as if they need to save their parent but are never able to, regardless of how hard they try.

Adult children of this type of narcissist will likely vacillate between guilt and anger. Guilt because they could not help their parent, and anger for a childhood that was always all about the parent.

The communal narcissist: The “humanitarian” parent

The communal narcissist derives validation from engaging in charitable or good deeds. They want to be viewed as humanitarians or “saviors.”

They are likely on the center stage of whatever charitable event they’re at or derive validation via social media for all the “good things” they do for others. They want to be seen as a rescuer.

However, all of that charitable kindness fades while behind closed doors with their children.

They may be consumed with helping starving children in a different country but be disengaged from their children at home. They will likely display their parenthood in public but then not actually want to do the work of parenting.

They want validation of being seen as an amazing parent and will want their children around when it suits these validation needs.

Their children may wonder why their parents give so much to children on the other side of the planet but then do not give any of that same effort to them. They will likely become very tired of hearing, “how lucky you are to have such a great parent who does so much good.”

Adult children of this narcissistic type may often feel as if they grew up in an “alternate universe” after constantly hearing about how wonderful their parent is. Yet, behind closed doors, they must endure the lack of empathy and disconnection.

Adult children will likely feel as if they’re not enough and live with a certain amount of confusion and disorientation.

The neglectful narcissist: Their parenting style is very disengaged

The neglectful narcissist does not engage with people much unless they need something from them.

They view people as inconveniences, as a means to an end, and only access others when it works for them. They likely view their children as major inconveniences.

Their parenting style is very disengaged, disinterested, and remote. This type of parenting treatment significantly impacts a child’s sense of worth. They believe they’re not worthy of their parent’s attention.

Adult children of this type of narcissistic parent have lived a very destabilized life, likely have a deep sense of feeling as if they’re not enough, and believe they have to jump through hoops to get attention, approval, or love.

They may even take on the interests of others to find acceptance from them.

The self-righteous narcissist: Their parenting style is very strict and limiting

The self-righteous narcissist derives validation from holding themselves up as a morally superior person.

They focus on doing things with absolute rigidity and correctness rather than from a more flexible place. They may look like loyal pillars of a community (common in religious communities) and have a very high standard of what’s right and wrong.

They view the world in black and white, with no grey areas. They present themselves as very judgmental, critical, and authoritarian.

Their parenting style is very strict and limiting. Their children will likely be raised with a strong sense of conditionality (follow the rules or you won’t be loved).

These children, as adults, believe that their parents valued the “rule of order” more than they valued their children. This results in self-devaluation, self-judgment, chronic feelings of shame, and a belief that “There’s something wrong with me.”

Samantha Saunders, LPC

Samantha Saunders

Licensed Professional Counselor | Certified Trauma Therapist | Owner, Moving Beyond You

Do you have a parent who is always putting themselves first? Do they lack empathy for others and seem to only be concerned with their own needs?

If so, you may be dealing with a narcissistic parent. Narcissistic parents can be very damaging to their children, as they often make the child feel like they are not good enough.

In this post, we will discuss the signs of a narcissistic parent and how to deal with them. If you are struggling with a narcissistic parent, it is crucial to get help!

Related: 60+ Signs You’re Dealing With a Narcissist (According to Experts)

They are overly critical

Narcissistic parents often have high expectations for their children. They may push their children to be perfect and may be very critical of them.

The key sign is when nothing ever feels like enough, no matter what you do.

When it comes to narcissism in general, one of the key factors is how they view what they look like, so their image. This is why with others, they can seem charming; however, with you, it’s a whole other story, whether they’re critical or verbally abusive at times.

Related: How to Deal With Critical Parents in Adulthood

They withdraw their love if the child doesn’t meet their expectations

Narcissistic parents may also withdraw their love and approval if the child does not meet their expectations. This can lead to the child feeling like they are never good enough and cause low self-esteem.

Narcissistic parenting is very conditional love: “As long as you do what I want, then I will show you love.” However, if you don’t, they will withdraw their love and, at times, act as if you do not exist.

Narcissism, in general, is all about them—they do not think about anyone else.

They manipulate their child to get what they want

Narcissistic parents also are very manipulative and think about themselves first. They may use their children to get what they want and take advantage of them.

Many narcissistic parents will do whatever it takes to get what they want.

They will use aggression if you don’t want to talk about something with them

This can look like if you tell your parent you don’t want to talk about something with them, they will use guilt trip, or aggression, or blame you in some capacity, such as you’re the reason for you two not being close.

Narcissistic parents may also lie to their children or withhold information from them in order to control them. This can damage the child, making them feel like they cannot trust their parent.

They lack empathy or compassion

Narcissistic parents are mostly emotionally unavailable, so you’ll notice this when you’re expressing an emotion they don’t know how to respond to. What tends to happen is that you will be criticized and blamed, or they will make it about them.

If you have a parent who displays any of these qualities, it can be very difficult to have a healthy and positive relationship with them.

It’s important to remember that you are not responsible for your parent’s behavior and that you do not deserve to be treated poorly.

There is hope for change, but it will likely require some distance and time away from your parent in order to begin to see things more clearly. Seek out support from loved ones or professionals as needed.

 Dr. Harold Hong

Harold Hong

Board-Certified Psychiatrist, New Waters Recovery

Aside from the more apparent signs of narcissism, like grandiose thinking and an obsession with appearance, there are other, more subtle signs that your parent may be a narcissist.

Here are some of the most common:

They’re always right

Narcissists always have to be right because they’re rooting their entire identity and sense of self-worth in their perceptions.

If they’re wrong, it feels like a total loss of control and an attack on their ego. And admitting that they’re wrong would be to admit defeat and acknowledge that they’re not perfect. As such, they will go to great lengths to prove that they’re right, even if it means twisting the facts.

For instance, if you get a good grade on a test, they might say it’s because it was easy, not because you studied hard.

They’re always the victim

Narcissists see themselves as victims of an unjust world. They believe they deserve special treatment and that the world owes them. And, because they see themselves as victims, they’re quick to point the finger and assign blame when things don’t go their way.

If their child gets a bad grade, it’s the teacher’s fault. If they get fired from a job, it’s because the boss was out to get them. Nothing is ever their fault.

They have a sense of entitlement

Naturally, because narcissists believe they’re better than everyone else, they also think they’re entitled to the best of everything.

They’re often very demanding and expect others to cater to their every whim. And, if they don’t get what they want, they may become angry and even abusive.

For parents, this sense of entitlement can manifest in many ways, such as expecting their children to perform best in school and extracurricular activities. This is so their children can reflect well on them and make them look good to others.

They’re always trying to one-up you

Narcissists are always trying to one-up people.

If you tell them about a promotion you got at work, they’ll let you know about the bigger promotion they got. If you tell them about the new car you just bought, they’ll tell you about the even nicer car they just bought.

They can’t stand for someone else to have something they don’t have, and they’re always trying to one-up others to feel better about themselves.

They’re insensitive to others

Narcissists are notoriously cruel to the needs and feelings of others; they cannot empathize with people. And, because they’re so wrapped up in their own lives and concerns, they often have difficulty understanding or caring about what’s going on with other people.

This lack of empathy can manifest in many ways, such as not being there for a child when they need support or consistently putting their own needs above their partner’s.

Laurie Hollman, PhD

Laurie Hollman

Psychoanalyst, Choosing Therapy | Author, Are You Living with a Narcissist?

They put their own need for admiration ahead of their child’s

A narcissistic parent puts their own need for admiration ahead of their child’s, resulting in a parent/child reversal that can eventually undermine the child’s sense of their own identity.

The child feels they’re an appendage to their parent’s well-being

If this is a regular part of the child’s daily life, they will feel, “Who am I?” because they experience their life and even dreams as an appendage to the parent’s well-being.

Five signs of this happening can include:

  • The child avoids activities outside the home too often, feeling they must be where the parent wants them to be.
  • The child dismisses his or her own developing interests making the parent’s preferences for them a priority.
  • The child constantly struggles with a need for approval from the parent because they don’t naturally develop their own internal sense of approval
  • The child may become isolated from friends or not have any because the parent’s desires always take precedence.
  • This is a child who eventually feels lost and alone because their aims, goals, desires, and needs are so suppressed because they view their existence as belonging to the parent.

They may be punitive in certain ways when their needs are pushed away by the child

This parent may be punitive in various overt and subtle ways toward the child when their (the parent’s) needs are pushed away by a child trying to find oneself in this confusing mix.

The parent may scold if they are not immediately obeyed or recognized in the way they imagine they should be or use extended silent treatment toward the child trying to find themselves.

Remember, this can begin as early as infancy and early childhood when the child’s normal narcissistic needs for attention, admiration, and recognition are slighted.

This may become a very angry child who fails to understand what it is that they are missing—which is recognition of the child as a separate, valued, and loving individual.

The child feels and even acts on the anger they fail to comprehend. Then the child can be typecast as “bad,” “terrible two,” “defiant,” “rebellious,” and on and on, which the child may believe is true.

It is confounding the emotional reality of this dire situation that’s become horribly distorted now by the child herself as well as the narcissistic parent’s perpetual distorted and disturbed harangues.

As the child becomes increasingly invisible to the parent and, even worse, to oneself, a serious emotional disorder around self-identity has taken over. This was never a “bad” child; this was and is a severely neglected child in a mostly invisible way.

Related: How a Narcissistic Parent Affects a Child

Colleen Wenner-Foy​, MA. LCMHC-S, LPC, MCAP​

Colleen Wenner

Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor | Founder and Clinical Director, New Heights Counseling and Consulting LLC

Narcissistic parents put their own needs before their children’s needs

At first glance, it may seem like they are just being nice by giving their child what they need and gifts, but these are not about the child’s needs and wants.

The narcissistic parent meets the condition of the child to gain attention from them. It’s important to remember that the parent doesn’t care if the child likes what they give them. What matters most is that the child loves them.

They tend to be highly intrusive

Narcissistic parents are often very controlling and demanding, getting into the personal business of their children. They want to know where their children go, who they talk to, how much time they spend with friends, etc.

Information is gathered and often used against the child later if the parent feels threatened by the child. This behavior leads to an unhealthy amount of parental involvement in their children’s lives.

Intense feelings of guilt and resentment towards the parent create feelings they’ve done something wrong and resentment because the child feels the parent is trying to control them.

Related: How to Overcome Bitterness and Resentment, According to 8 Experts

They don’t allow their children to think for themselves

Narcissistic parents’ behavior is unhealthy and disruptive to the development growth of a child. Parents don’t take the time to teach their children to make decisions for themselves. Instead, they try to force their values onto their child.

Children who make mistakes are often punished instead of taught. The result is that the child learns to avoid making mistakes in the future which leads to poor decision-making skills.

Narcissistic parents play favorites

Narcissistic parents are masters of triangulation—maintaining control over their kids by playing one against the others. They may constantly praise their favorite child while speaking poorly about another child in the household.

Children feel like they must choose sides; when they do, they’re likely to pick the side that gets more attention.

Narcissistic parents are emotionally unavailable

Narcissistic parents are unable to show empathy toward their children. They don’t understand why they should care about the feelings of others and believe that they are better than everyone else. This emotional detachment from the children causes them to become distant and cold.

Children learn to view the world through the lens of their narcissistic parents and expect rejection from other people.

Related: 40+ Signs of Emotionally Unavailable Parents (+ Ways to Cope)

Jocelyn Hamsher LPC, CST

Jocelyn Hamsher

Professor and Course Creator | Licensed Professional Counselor, Courageous Living AZ

While we would all love to have healthy, balanced, caring parents, for some of us, that isn’t always the case.

They may not wake up every day and say, “How can I screw up my kid today?” but they may not always have the child’s best interest at heart.

This is often the case with a narcissistic parent. They often don’t wish ill on the child (probably because that would make them look bad), but the child’s health is not the most important.

So, what are some signs of a narcissistic parent? Let’s talk about a few.

Please remember that just because you believe your parents may fit one or more characteristics does not necessarily mean they are a narcissist. But they may have narcissistic traits that are negatively impacting you.

They make your issues about them

I have worked with numerous children of narcissists before, and a common theme I see with all of them is that the parent makes the child’s issues about them.

This could look a few different ways.

I had one client who had many medical issues, and anytime the client would share a new diagnosis, the mother would make up that she also had the illness, so the client must have gotten it from her and how awful the ailment is when most of the time, the mother had no idea what the illness actually was.

I had another client who struggled with addiction, and the client had to spend more time comforting their mom for feeling guilty for her behavior that contributed to the dysfunction than actually being able to deal with it.

They focus your behavior on how it impacts them

Along those lines, narcissistic parents may focus on how the child’s behavior reflects on the parent. This could look like the child being pressured to get good grades or look good so that the parent feels good about themselves.

When there is a misstep, the focus is more on how the behavior may be perceived by others and what others will think about the parent versus the actual misstep and why it occurred.

I was recently speaking with one client about colleges, and she was pressured by her parents to attend a school that her parents wanted to buy a vacation home close to versus a school that had the best program for her area of study.

They were more focused on what they wanted instead of what was best for their child.

I worked with another client who was only allowed to play indoor sports because her parents didn’t want to sit outside for practices or games, even though their child was really skilled and passionate about an outdoor sport.

Everything is about them

By now, you can see the theme. With a narcissistic parent, everything goes back to being about them.

The motivation is what is best/most convenient/easiest for the parent. If it is good, they skew it to look like they played a role in it. If it is bad, they skew it to be out of their control.

Cutting them out of your life is not the only way to heal

Take a deep breath if you think your parents may have narcissistic traits. It is a lot to process.

Moving forward, that information can help you with boundaries. Boundaries, so you know how not to personalize their behaviors and attitudes, as well as boundaries so you can protect yourself from their dysfunction.

It is possible to have a relationship with a narcissistic parent if you choose to. Don’t think the only way to heal is to completely cut them out because it doesn’t have to be that way, though it can be.

Dr. Jeff Ditzell, D.O.

Jeff Ditzell

CEO and Lead Psychiatrist, Jeff Ditzell Psychiatry

As a parent, empathy is important. But it’s not always easy for a narcissistic parent to feel it, especially when their offspring are still young and need constant attention and direction.

In fact, make no mistake about it; for many parents in this era of modern technology, narcissism is a whole lot easier than actually being there for your kids when they need you most.

Narcissistic parents are often hard to spot because they aren’t always openly aggressive, and rather than showing their true selves, they present themselves as perfect or even saintly.

Narcissistic parents, also referred to as “emotional abusers,” are people who lack a sense of responsibility, respect, or accountability. But if you follow the signs of a narcissistic parent, it will become easier to detect when one is in your life.

Related: 30+ Signs of Emotionally Abusive Parents (According to 10 Experts)

Here are several signs that can help you determine if you’re dealing with a narcissistic parent or not:

Narcissistic parents are self-absorbed

They display their children to validate themselves as parents and sometimes use their children as a source of narcissistic supply. These parents are seeking reassurance that they are good parents and they cannot be bothered with the day-to-day worries of raising a child.

They see their child as a source of validation for themselves

Parents who have narcissistic tendencies may be less emotionally connected to their child than someone without this trait. They don’t see their child as a resource or anything else but rather as a source of validation for themselves.

They are poor listeners of their child’s emotions

Children of narcissists can feel like they have to hide their emotions. Why? Because the attitude of narcissists can make them poor listeners, and their child’s emotions sometimes make them uncomfortable or anger them.

In extreme cases where the parent is a narcissist or has other behavioral disorders, it is often life-threatening for the child.

They may express very little interest in their child’s life

You get the impression that these parents care, but when it comes down to it, they don’t. Narcissistic parents may be intrusive, critical of their child’s appearance and body, withhold affection, and express very little interest in their child’s life.

In fact, when showing love, narcissistic parents can even be cruel in their so-called loving comments.

They never make time to be there for their children

Narcissistic parents often go after their own needs first and never make time to be there for their children. They live through others and rarely notice how they impact others’ lives.

In many cases, children of narcissistic parents are left feeling abandoned or unsupported. Children pick up on things they can’t see, such as the parent’s moods, irritability, and behaviors.

You may not recognize the signs of narcissistic behavior. But it’s only a matter of time before they affect their own children.

Susan Gentile, RN

Susan Gentile

Nurse Practitioner, ChoicePoint 

Though we all claim to notice narcissistic traits, I really think that most of the time, we elude subtle characteristics.

Here are some of the traits that a narcissistic parent exhibits and that usually go unnoticed:

Guilt-tripping: They manipulate their child through guilt

From early childhood, a narcissistic parent will manipulate their child through fear, obligation, and guilt (FOG). Because it is a repetitive pattern since early childhood, it becomes difficult to identify it.

If your parents persuade you that you are the troublemaker because you want to do something on your own, chances are they are narcissists. One of the common signs is that they imply that you have kept them unhappy, even when you are totally unobligated.

This is a very deadly weapon. A child of a narcissistic parent will often find themselves feeling guilty for letting their parent down when there is no reason to.

Related: Guilt Trip: What Is It, Examples + How to Spot and Respond

They tend to make comparisons between their child and others

A narcissistic parent constantly tends to make comparisons between their child and others. They absolutely love to berate the victim and want to make them feel inadequate. It is crucial to keep in mind that a narcissistic parent is full of themselves and may have a “God complex.”

Mostly, they have a compulsive need to have their approval and opinion valued highly. Even if their child acts slightly independent and decisive, their first instinct would be to pull them down by comparing them with others.

For instance, a narcissistic parent may constantly remind you that you are lagging behind in life by giving you examples of your friends. They could be doing this if they feel like you are not under their control.

They give conditional support

Because a child is merely a pawn in the hands of a narcissistic parent, they will likely support their child one day and completely criticize them the next.

This way, a child is usually left feeling confused. The reason is that the support of a narcissistic parent is conditional. They will support you when you have complied with their desires.

If you try to stand up for yourself or go against their will, they may blow up in anger or give you the silent treatment, depending on the punishment they see fit. The silent treatment is a lethal weapon, as this can evoke guilt in you, and you might end up submitting to their will.

Iqbal Ahmad

Iqbal Ahmad

Founder and CEO, Britannia School of Academics

Parents are the most profound blessing in your life. It is hard to believe that this closest bloodline could also be a fountainhead of toxicity. This could be true when one parent or, in rare cases, both parents are indulged in narcissistic behavior.

Related: 20+ Signs of Toxic Family Relationships and What You Could Do About Them

Unfortunately, it doesn’t always seem evident as, since childhood, we are led to believe that we are indebted to our parents and they are always right no matter what.

Let’s unfold some evident signs of a narcissistic parent to draw a line between virulent and normal behavior:

It is always your fault

Admitting a mistake is the essence of any healthy relationship dynamic. However, it is often assumed that parents are right when it comes to the child-parent relationship.

But the dysfunctionality starts when you feel the burden of every mistake your parent makes, and you feel accountable for every poor decision they make.

If your parents blame you for their mistakes every time and put you through the guilt, then be aware—this is a red flag of narcissism as it is not something you should naturally feel.

Example: The statement can go like that: “If you have not done this, then I would not have taken that decision.”

You are the parent of your parent

It may sound weird; however, it is true when dealing with a narcissistic parent. One significant sign of such a parent is that they always expect you to be a primary caregiver for them.

This starts from a relatively young age and stretches into adulthood. Your narcissistic parent always treats you as if you are indebted to them, and you have to pay them back along with a considerable percentage of interest.

Example: A common line can be: “I have spent my entire youth for your well-being. It is your responsibility now to take care of my needs.”

My life is mine; your life is also mine

Most parents want their children to succeed in their life. However, this matter becomes a crucial issue for a narcissistic mother or father. They set standards not for the child’s sake but for realizing their own unaccomplished dreams and goals.

Though the child does not feel himself as a separate individual having his dreams and thoughts, he becomes an offshoot of the parent’s wishes and desires.

Example: They might often phrase it like this: “I have decided that you will apply for medical college because it has always been my dream to become a neurosurgeon.”

They don’t feel the need to be in anyone’s shoes

Narcissism is all about being self-centered. But unfortunately, narcissists tend to lack basic empathy and compassion during this self-absorption. Thus, if you are dealing with a narcissistic mother or father, you experience their unwillingness to understand your feelings.

Ultimately, your desires become insignificant to them as they think only their interests are crucial and should be discussed.

Hence, if you try to pour your heart out, you will be mocked, and your opinions will be dismissed like trash.

Example: The statement may go like this: “You are only a child. You do not know what is right or wrong for you. I know you better, so just keep your mouth shut and let me do what I do.”

They are better than you

The most toxic sign of narcissism is the perpetual comparison on unequal grounds. These negative comparisons damage child’s self-esteem and worth in every possible way.

But a narcissistic parent tends to be oblivious to this fact and compares the child against highly uneven standards because their ultimate motive is to push the child over the edge to perform his best.

Consequently, they will have more chances to brag about their kid’s achievements, and good parenting awards will go to them.

Example: A common phrase might be: “Have you seen Aunt Betty’s son? He is performing remarkably in basketball matches, and here you are not able to pass this semester with distinction.”

How to deal with a narcissistic parent

Dealing with a narcissistic parent is the trickiest thing. However, confrontation with them may not work well as this will lead to a battle and cost you the peace of your home. Yet, a few tips can save your sanity and help you immensely.

  • Do not argue

You can never win over a narcissist. So, it is better to avoid arguments and do what you think is the best. Try to meet some of their expectations now and then but not always.

  • Work on your self-esteem

The main target of a narcissistic parent is to damage your self-esteem. Be confident in your abilities, and do not let unreasonable comparisons overwhelm you.

Related: Why is Self Esteem Important?

Angela Karanja

Angela Karanja

Adolescent Psychologist | Founder, Raising Remarkable Teenagers Movement

Ask yourself:

  • Do you live “through” your child?
  • Are you possessive?
  • Do you compete with your child?
  • Do you coerce your child?
  • Is it your way or the highway?
  • Are you threatened by the individuality and independence of your child?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then this could mean you’re veering more toward the side of being a narcissistic parent.

Of course, the more yeses answered and the intensity with which a parent holds these beliefs becomes more of a confirmation that these narcissistic tendencies have a hold on the parent, which is harmful to the child or children.

Many parents knowingly and unknowingly possess these traits, and it’s important that we as parents understand how these traits can hamper a healthy parent-child relationship.

Failure to understand and transform can result in us exhausting our children with our unreasonable and unfounded expectations, stunting their growth and skewing their thinking, thus hurting and harming them both in the short term and long term.

Most great parents have high expectations of their children, are concerned and push and propel their kids to achieve highly, and have firm boundaries and structures. This should not be confused with narcissism.

It becomes narcissism when the parent’s underlying motive is that the child is an extension of themselves, exists to serve the plans and plots of the parent, and the child’s self-expression, independence, and carving their own individuality, is a threat to the parent.

Five clear signs that a parent is narcissistic:

Living “through” the kid

Setting and projecting personal expectations on the child. So, children achieving these expectations become the fountain from which parents draw and boost their self-image and worth.

For example: If, as a parent, you’ve asked yourself or expressed to your kid, “What will people think about me if you behave like that or don’t achieve this?” then it’s time for a self-evaluation.

Competing with the kid and constant criticism

Invalidating the kid’s feelings and thoughts, constantly criticizing and comparing, and minimizing their success and accomplishments. Constant competition injures the kid’s self-esteem, so they keep themselves in a more elevated position.

For example: If, as a parent, you’ve said to your kid, “At your age, I could have done way better, then it’s time for a self-evaluation.

A display of self-importance and grandiosity

Teaching and training kids to behave and think they are better than others. Their default language is, “Look at us, envy us—I’ll tell you something to make you feel less than. This robs your kids of the opportunity to make genuine friendships with others.

For example: If, as a parent, you’ve said to your kid, “We don’t hang out with people who don’t go to certain places or drive certain cars or live in certain places, then it’s time for a self-evaluation.

They give conditional love

Narcissistic parents’ expression of love towards their kids is based on the kid’s behavior and performance. It is often accompanied by shame, guilt, and blame intended to coerce and manipulate the child to meet the parent’s expectations.

When kids don’t do what their parents expect, love is withdrawn. When they achieve their parents’ expectations, they are showered with “love” before it is quickly withdrawn, so kids have to go back to square one and do something else that will please them.

So these kids are constantly walking on eggshells, unsure of what will gain approval and what will not. They are constantly striving for approval.

For example: If, as a parent, you’ve said to your kid, “My child would never behave like that, so they don’t get a hug or a kiss,” then it’s time for a self-evaluation.

They are codependent

Because parents have the notion that they own their kids, they expect something in return whenever they do anything for them. Kids owe them, creating a feeling they can never detach for the rest of their lives.

Also, there’s a skewed notion: “When things don’t work as I want, it is your fault—if they work as I want, it’s because I taught you or because of my contribution.”

For example, sentences like this, “If it were not for me, you would not be where you are,then later followed by, “I can’t live without you. I’d be lost without you,” then it’s time for a self-evaluation.

Related: How to Break Codependency Habits

Dr. Bruce L. Thiessen

Bruce Thiessen

Licensed Clinical Psychologist

They are oblivious to the needs of their child

A narcissistic parent is one that is self-absorbed and oblivious to the needs of their child or children.


The first thing to note about narcissistic parents is that most are likely to have been narcissistically wounded as children. Narcissistic wounding generally occurs through a process known as mirroring.

Mirroring has to do with how a mother responds when an infant or child expresses or communicates a need.

Upon further observation of a narcissistic parent, one will note that their mirroring responses with their own children are marked by the same sort of inappropriate mirroring they faced when interacting with their own parents.

When the child reaches out, the child is ignored, invalidated, or attacked as a result of unresolved anger stored up by parents over many years and then projected onto the child.

Related: How to Deal With a Narcissistic Mother

They see their child as an appendage of themselves

The narcissistic parent cannot see their child as a separate, autonomously-functioning being. The narcissistic parent sees the child only as an appendage or extension of themselves. Therefore, unmet needs and unfulfilled dreams are often projected onto the child.

So, for example, if a parent’s dream of being a pro basketball player is never realized, that parent may try to live that dream through the child by pressuring the child to follow that same path but in a manner leading to success.

If her child is trying to communicate with the parent or to reach out to the parent, expressing a need to that parent, the narcissistic parent’s goal may be to strike out at the child for not fulfilling their often unrealistic, perfectionist expectations.

Profuse words of praise will be heaped upon the child to reward their service

Other manipulative tactics may also be employed. Occasionally, profuse words of praise will be heaped upon the child, but generally, only to reward the child for acting in service of parental needs.

A child who has grown up with a narcissistic parent will likely have problematic relationships or will have difficulty forming meaningful attachments as an adult.

The child may become codependent upon another adult that lacks the ability or the willingness to be emotionally available.

The child, as an adult, may experience overwhelming levels of depression and anxiety, often requiring psychological intervention. The child, as an adult, may feel extremely alienated and lonely and may turn to alcohol and/or drugs to fill in the void.

Offer therapy resulting in a corrective emotional experience for the wounded adult

The best actionable, evidence-based strategy for dealing with a narcissistic parent(s) is to offer therapy grounded in the type of therapeutic relationship that will result in a corrective emotional experience for the wounded adult that has grown up with such a narcissistic parent or set of parents.

This involves establishing a therapeutic alliance marked by mutual trust and based on unconditional positive regard, active listening, and reassuring, validating statements that allow the patient to feel that they are significant and that their needs matter.

In terms of how to engage, as an adult with the very parent that has been narcissistic (given that the relationship is salvageable), the wounded adult would need to learn communication skills and receive assertiveness training to re-establish the relationship based on reciprocity and equality.

This process would likely be much easier if the narcissistic parent has sought out therapy for themselves or has found the resources to become a transformed parent.

Since the wounds left by a narcissistic parent run deep, therapy is often needed, and, as mentioned above, with the right therapeutic environment, a corrective emotional experience is possible.

Under therapeutic conditions marked by support, validation, and unconditional positive regard, the once narcissistically-wounded child can learn to love themselves.

Healing begins and reaches its completion by improving self-esteem

With improved self-esteem and the attainment of coping and communication skills, the once narcissistically-wounded child, as an adult, can become prepared to establish and maintain meaningful friendships; intimate, romantic connections; and can even take on nurturing healthy parental roles.

Ileana Arganda-Stevens, LMFT

Ileana Arganda-Stevens

Program ManagerThrive Therapy & Counseling

They struggle to take accountability

Narcissistic traits in one’s parent can be tough and painful to deal with. As narcissism may indicate that emotional development was stunted in childhood due to some sort of wounding, adults with narcissistic traits may come across as immature at times.

Examples are:

  • Pouting or throwing a tantrum when they don’t get their way
  • Excessive need for ego-stroking or reassurance they are good, talented, loved, etc.
  • Inability to see things from your point of view or express empathy

It can be confusing growing up with a parent like this because children are repeatedly thrust into the role of being “the bigger person” or the mature adult.

A particularly difficult aspect of having a parent with narcissistic traits is they struggle to take accountability.

Many children or adult children of emotionally immature or narcissistic parents might not even be able to imagine their parents ever saying they’re sorry. This leaves the child in the tough position of deciding how much they can really engage with someone like this.

They struggle to be receptive to your feelings

While it is normal and healthy to experience anger or grief about having a parent like this, expressing these feelings to them can be difficult as they struggle considerably to be receptive.

It can be helpful to find other, more emotionally mature supportive people with whom to share your feelings.

I also want to say that if you frequently notice narcissistic traits in others, it might be useful to examine the ways in which our society fosters this. In what ways does our society overvalue superficiality, emotional disconnection, and an unhealthy level of entitlement?

Perhaps we can push back against this apparent rise in narcissism by cultivating self-compassion, taking personal responsibility, and showing respect for others and ourselves.

Sally Fletcher

Sally Fletcher

Certified Narcissistic Trauma Informed Codependency Coach and Narcissistic Abuse Specialist | Founder, Bloom & Become

They lack empathy

They are self-centered and cannot see other people’s perspectives, emotions, or points of view. They see the world in black and white and have very strong opinions that they see no problem inflicting upon others.

They do not honor your boundaries

They feel they have access to you and can do as they please concerning you—they do not see you as an individual in your own right, only as an extension of them. This often results in an over-involvement in your life and how you do things as they assume they know best.

They are overbearing

Their mood dictates the household or the time they spend together; those close to them end up becoming hypervigilant, feeling like they ‘walk on eggshells’ and feel on edge around them as you never know how they are going to react next.

They will have a golden child and a scapegoat

The golden child is singled out as the favorite and has special privileges—more attention, more praise, exempt from discipline. This favoritism is usually at the direct expense of the scapegoated child.

A scapegoat child, on the other hand, is blamed for everything that goes wrong and subjected to unwarranted negative treatment—narcissists cannot take any responsibility for their own behavior and need to have someone to blame.

Elise Leon 

Elise Leon

Mental health and Wellness Coach, Live Fully Mental Health and Wellness

They will invalidate your feelings

Narcissism is a personality disorder that displays a lack of empathy for others. These types of people have extremely inflated egos. They will constantly seek out ways of validation to make them feel superior.

When a parent is a narcissist, they can harm their children emotionally, which can leave a lifetime of emotional and psychological scars and wounds to repair.

Five signs that your parent could be a narcissist:

  • They perceive your success or getting older as a threat for fear of having a lack of control. “You’re going to move away from me, and I’ll never see you again.”
  • They will invalidate your feelings. “Stop that crying. You just want people to feel sorry for you”.
  • The parent may try to live vicariously through the child. “You’re going to go to the military just as I always wanted to.”
  • The parent will be manipulative and make the child feel that they are hurting the parent’s feelings if the child doesn’t do what the parent wants. “I guess you don’t care about your mother when you don’t answer my phone call. I could be dying.
  • They will be possessive or jealous of the child. “Why do you have so many friends? You’re not that fun to be around.

Being a child of a narcissistic parent does not mean that you have to appease them. You have gut feelings or intuition that their behavior isn’t healthy and can be confusing.

Here are a few things that you can do for yourself to heal from the narcissistic abuse:

  • Educate yourself about narcissism

Having a clear understanding of the disorder can help you distinguish between unhealthy behavior patterns and parental love.

  • Do not blame yourself

Their behaviors are made consciously by their own choices and not by anything you have said or done to warrant their toxic behavior towards you.

  • Accept that they will never change

Narcissists constantly protect their insecurities, and they are not self-aware. They treat people like objects and lack the feelings of the other party. This won’t change; they probably won’t go to therapy to fix these issues.

  • Learn how to set boundaries and stick to them

Boundaries are necessary to protect your peace but also to teach other people how to treat you. Get clear on what your boundaries are and defend them.

  • Take care of yourself emotionally

If you are beating yourself up internally and you have a negative perception of yourself, this gives the narcissist more power over you.

You need to talk to yourself like your best friend and constantly remind yourself of how powerful, amazing, and loveable you are. You deserve happy and healthy things in your life.

Related: How To Stop Beating Yourself Up

Sara Sloan, LMFT

Sara Sloan

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Austin Concierge Therapy

They expect the child to perform in a certain way and praise them for their accomplishments

Narcissistic parents view their children often as an extension of themselves. They expect them to behave and perform in a certain way and will praise them for their accomplishments.

They favor one child and demonize the other

A narcissistic parent’s love and support, however, is conditional due to their splitting; “splitting” means a parent with NPD can only see their children as either all good or all bad.

This can be really confusing for children of a parent with NPD and can create deep insecurities in the children over time.

A narcissistic parent teaches their children that their love is conditional, usually based on the child’s appearance, performance, and adherence to the narcissistic parent’s bidding.

The dynamics in a family with a parent with NPD often favor one child and demonize the other. The narcissistic parent’s preferred child is often referred to as the “golden child,” while the other child often takes all the narcissistic parent’s abuse and is referred to as the “scapegoat.”

The narcissistic parent is unable to see either child clearly, often overlooking the faults and shortcomings of the golden child while placing all the family’s problems and issues onto the scapegoat.

Over time, the scapegoat often fares better in life long-term than the golden child, especially with therapy, because they will eventually leave their family of origin and differentiate from their family of origin.

Because the golden child is never allowed to differentiate from the narcissistic parent, they often end up becoming a narcissist themselves by adulthood.

Related: How to Raise Kids so They Do Not Become Narcissistic Adults

Unfortunately, children of narcissists will never be seen clearly or loved for who they are by a narcissistic parent. Narcissistic parents confuse power and control over their children with real love; they will often use money in exchange for having control over their adult children’s lives.

Dr. David A. Jones, Ph.D, C.Psych

David Jones

Author and Retired Psychologist

They are always keeping score and will remember that their children owe them

The primary sign of a narcissistic parent tends to put their needs ahead of those of their children on a consistent basis, thus failing to give children the parental affection and approval that they need during their development.

This can also present as a parent who becomes angry when the needs of children interfere with their needs or when the opinions of the children are different than those of the parent, in which case the insecure ego of the parent feels the difference of opinion as rejection.

The narcissistic parent wants their children to reflect their grandiose image of themselves, and they see undesirable behavior from the children as a direct reflection of themselves which might negatively affect how others perceive them.

They are often manipulative, helping or giving things to their children in a way that has strings attached—the narcissist is always keeping score and will remember that their children owe them (either materially or emotionally).

Hephzibah Kaplan, RATh, B.Ed

Hephzibah Kaplan

Director, London Art Therapy Centre | Author, “Almost Happy: Pushing Your Buttons with Reverse Psychology

They want everyone to think they are the nicest people

There is a continuum of narcissistic features, from selfishness to self-centeredness to unaware narcissists to those in denial of their narcissism to pathological narcissism.

Nowadays, it seems to fashionably slip off the tongue as a diagnosis du jour. Many people are self-diagnosing in a confused and even self-deprecating way.

Self-centeredness may be further down the continuum than narcissism. To be proportionately selfish is essential at times, as the fear of being narcissistic may also lead people to deny their own needs, and this can cause havoc in relationships.

There are a few factors that contribute to an increased awareness of narcissism.

Firstly, we are quicker to identify the signs and features as we learn more about narcissists. Secondly, from the rise of the ‘selfie’ photos on social media to the consequences of social isolation during the lockdown to the brutal survival needed if you’re at the top of your game, the self-focus has escalated.

We can also look at the social philosophy of individualism of the West vis a vis the group collective of the East as being part of this increasing trend.

There are five types of narcissism—overt, covert, malignant, antagonistic, and community—but they all have these features:

  • They need to be right.
  • They love power and control. Creating drama and watching everyone react around them makes them feel powerful.
  • If they can’t get positive attention, they will get negative attention by creating conflict, chaos, and starting arguments.
  • They want everyone to think they are the nicest people.
  • Underneath, they are vulnerable and hypersensitive to the slightest perceived criticism.
  • They have a short supply of empathy, so they will not validate your feelings, and any attempt to educate them in this regard is confusing to them.
  • They are masters of blame-shifting. Any challenge is countered with, “Well, three years ago when you did XYZ…”
  • They will blame you for not forgiving them and point you out to be the problem. This is known as shame-shifting.

What happens to you:

  • You are left feeling confused. This can last a lifetime even.
  • You may have been manipulated into thinking you are an emotionally unstable person (My mother used to say, “Oh, you are so harsh!” whenever I tried to establish a boundary.)
  • As they are incapable of love and deep connections, you are exhausted when you walk away from them. This is because they need your energy, but they resent needing you, so they punish you.

A classic case story from my therapy work: A mother with four adult children, three of whom had various serious health issues. When my client, an eldest child, eventually confided to her mother—letting her know that she too had a recently diagnosed health condition—her mother’s first response was, “Oh, why is it that all my children have auto-immune diseases?”

The client is still waiting for an empathic response to her predicament.

How to manage the narcissist parent

The fear of being narcissistic may also lead people to deny their own needs, which can cause havoc in relationships. Every attempt to challenge the narcissist with their traits results in blame, accusation, and punishment, so this is not a good approach.

Learn to recognize that strange feeling that you think you may be being manipulated—you probably are.

Self-survival and centeredness may be based on distancing yourself from the family. Check in with your own capacity to be empathic and learn it if need be.

Christy Piper

Christy Piper

Coach and Speaker | Author, “Girl, You Deserve More

The signs of a narcissistic parent will vary. A lot of it depends on which viewpoint we’re seeing it from and how deeply we see them interacting with their children.

They may brag about their child

Their child is always the smartest and best to those outside the family. If they are criticized, the parent takes it as a personal assault.

They will fight tooth and nail and never admit fault in their child to an outsider because that would reflect badly on them.

They have a “golden child” and a “scapegoat”

At home, things are different. If they have more than one child, they always have a favorite child. This child can do no wrong and is the “golden child.” Everything they do is right, and everything the other children do is wrong.

The narcissistic parent also has a least favorite child. This child is a “scapegoat.” They are blamed for everything that goes on in the family. The narcissistic parent gets the rest of the family to gang up on them.

The scapegoat is yelled at, passive-aggressively bullied or tormented by the other family members.

They don’t care much about making good grades

As an outsider, the child should be confident if they are so well supported by their doting parent. However, the child seems timid and may not even make eye contact with others. They almost seem afraid. Or they may cause trouble in class.

They may be acting out their anger in public because they are so frustrated with their home life. If chaos is being put into them at home, it must come out somehow.

The children may or may not do well in school. If they do well in school, it’s probably because their narcissistic parent values this. They threaten the kids to do well—otherwise, they get punished.

If they don’t do well in school, it’s probably because their parents don’t care much about making good grades.

These kids have other things to focus on, like walking on eggshells at home. So they’re not going to focus on studying unless they’re forced to.

They triangulate their kids against each other

If the narcissistic parent has adult children, maybe the adult children don’t get along with each other or won’t talk to the parent. If the parent is in contact with all their kids, they will triangulate the kids against each other.

They may even withhold contact information of their siblings from each other. Although in this day and age, this is harder to keep them separated. Modern inventions like cell phones and social media make it easier to find anyone.

They make you feel bad about yourself

Your narcissistic parent may call you talking about their dramas in a self-important way. You’re forced to listen. But they aren’t concerned about any problems going on in your life. You are just a sounding board for them, even if their life is totally boring.

They may just talk about random people you loosely know and how awesome they are compared to you. This is an effort to make you feel bad about yourself.

When you have real problems to discuss, they don’t seem to care unless they are putting you down about it. They are not someone you can count on for sound advice about difficult situations.

Image is everything—they want the appearance of a perfect family and life

As a child, you didn’t want to spend much time alone at home.

When you went to your friends’ homes, you were surprised that their parents were so nice. There weren’t mean comments or the stress of walking on eggshells. Their family seemed to love and be nice to each other. You wondered why your parents couldn’t be as peaceful and loving.

But other people didn’t understand why you didn’t want to go home. Everyone seemed to like your narcissistic parent, saying they are funny, charming, or nice.

This is because the image presented to outsiders is totally different. Image is everything to a narcissist. They want the appearance of having a perfect family and life. But they will take out their inner rage on a captive audience who can’t leave—that happens to be their family.

What to do as a narcissistic parent

Unfortunately, there isn’t too much you can do if you notice this dynamic. The court systems do not recognize this as a problem. Even if the parents divorce, the narcissistic parent will get just as many rights, if not more, to the children.

  • Be a good influence on the child

If you are a concerned adult, just be a good influence on the child. Give them confidence and believe in them.

  • Compliment them if you see them do something good

They probably rarely or never hear encouragement at home. It only takes one strong mentor to make a huge difference in a child’s life.

What to do as the child of a narcissistic parent

  • Limit your time around them

If you’re the child of a narcissistic parent, try to limit spending your time around them. If you’re a minor, this will be difficult. As a teen, getting a job outside the home will get you outside the house.

Saving your money in a fund your parents can’t touch is investing in your own freedom. You’ll want to move out to a more positive environment and become independent as soon as you can. In this case, you can make your own opportunity.

  • As an adult child, you’re free—you’re no longer bound to them

As an adult child of a narcissistic parent, you’re free. It may feel like you have to answer the phone when they call because you know they’ll be hounding you and stalking you—maybe showing up at your house or sending tons of text messages to guilt trip you.

Just remember you don’t have to respond to any of this. It will take some practice, but remember that you are no longer bound to them as an adult, no matter how guilty they make you feel. You can un-train yourself. And with the help of a specialist, it’ll be even easier.

  • Educate yourself further

Pick up some books, watch videos, or hire a coach or therapist who specializes in narcissistic relationships. This will teach you more about what’s going on here and smart strategies to handle narcissistic parents.

Related: 10 Best Books on Recovering from Narcissistic Abuse

Pamela Li

Pamela Li

Best-selling Author | Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Parenting For Brain

A narcissistic parent is self-absorbed and self-centered.

Often, they carry an inflated self-image, which leads to them believing that they are better than others. They disregard the concerns and needs of others in favor of their own, even if it comes at the expense of their own children.

In serious cases, they may suffer from Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).

There are a few core behaviors associated with narcissistic parents:

  • Arrogance
  • Attention-seeking
  • Contemptuousness
  • Entitlement
  • Grandiosity
  • Intense envy
  • Lack of empathy
  • Self-esteem dysregulation, to name the most prominent examples

They view disagreements as personal attacks

Disagreements are viewed as personal attacks by narcissistic parents. Not allowing any differences in ideas, needs, opinions, and values is a common theme of covert narcissistic parents, as they view children as an extension of themselves.

Their children may crave validation from others

Growing up with a narcissist can adversely affect children in many ways and have detrimental long-term effects. In addition to struggling with low self-esteem, these children may also crave approval and validation from others.

For a narcissistic parent, their children’s primary purpose is “to fulfill unsatisfied needs for achievement, admiration, praise, and recognition without reciprocating any,” leaving the children to seek them in their adult life.

It’s also possible to suffer from mental and physical conditions resulting from abusive behavior, including alcoholism, anxiety, depression, drug abuse, and stress.

Self-defeating thoughts can severely affect one’s ability to function as an adult.

Related: How to Control Your Thoughts

Heal from childhood trauma

Growing up with a narcissistic parent can be a very difficult journey, and taking the first step toward healing from childhood trauma is often the one that requires the most bravery.

It is imperative not to be responsible for the emotional abuse suffered as a child. No matter how much a parent tries to manipulate their children while claiming otherwise, abused children are never at fault.

To begin healing, set healthy boundaries with narcissistic parents. Exercise and meditation can also help to lift mood and strengthen the immune system.

Another step is to join a local support group to build a support network of people who have had common experiences, get professional help to build self-esteem, and establish a healthy sense of self and identity development.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can narcissistic parent affect their children?

Children of narcissistic parents may experience a range of negative effects, such as:
• Low self-esteem and self-worth
• Feelings of inadequacy or insecurity
• Difficulty expressing feelings or forming close relationships
• Anxiety or depression
• Perfectionism or fear of failure
• People-pleasing or approval-seeking behavior
• Difficulty setting boundaries or asserting themselves

Can narcissistic parent change their behavior?

While it’s possible for narcissistic parent to change their behavior, this is often difficult and requires a willingness to acknowledge and address their own issues. Therapy or counseling can be helpful in working through these issues and developing healthier patterns of behavior.

Is it possible to have a healthy relationship with a narcissistic parent?

A narcissistic parent can rarely develop a healthy relationship with their child because their behavior revolves around their own needs and desires rather than those of their children. 

However, it’s possible to build a functioning relationship with a narcissistic parent by setting clear boundaries and communicating your needs and expectations. 

This may mean limiting contact with your parent or setting guidelines for your interactions, such as avoiding certain topics or behaviors. It’s important to prioritize your own well-being and not get caught up in your parent’s unhealthy patterns of behavior.

Can a narcissistic parent ever admit fault or apologize for their behavior?

While it’s possible for a narcissistic parent to admit mistakes or apologize for their behavior, it’s often difficult and requires a great deal of self-reflection and self-awareness. 

Narcissistic people often find it difficult to admit their own mistakes and often react defensively or dismissively when confronted with criticism. However, therapy or counseling can help facilitate this process and promote healthier communication patterns.

Can children of narcissistic parents heal from the consequences of their upbringing?

Yes, children of narcissistic parents can recover from the effects of their upbringing. Although it’s a difficult and ongoing process, therapy or counseling, setting boundaries, self-care, and supportive relationships can help promote healing and personal growth.

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