narcissistic parents

Narcissistic Parents Are Damaging (and Dangerous)

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Today I’m doing something a little different…a coaching article, and it’s based on an email I received.  I will explain why we need to stop expecting narcissistic parents to be anything other than what they are (and why it’s sometimes dangerous to do so).

 Here is the email that I received:

The narcissist in my life is my husband. He moved to a smaller town two years ago where his mother and father live.  He refuses to take my calls or my son’s calls, who’s 22. This is a man who offers no support for upkeep or utilities over the years.   He argues that I’m more financially empowered.

Recently, he sent something small for Christmas. When I asked about it, he said it was a Christmas gift. The same day he sent it, he also came back to our house. This was after a one-year break. My son is so depressed about his father, and recently pulled down a family portrait from the wall. When I asked him why, he said he doesn’t like his smile in the photo, but I read more than that. I have noted that my son is getting emotionally very unstable because of this unpredictability and his father.  He does not call to find out how we’re doing.

For those of you who may not be aware, I share custody of my youngest son with my narcissistic ex.  I have been through this experience and I know what it’s like. So, I’m coming from a place of tough love, my own personal experiences, and the experiences of the coaching clients I’ve worked with over the past ten years.

narcissistic parents

Stop Expecting the Narcissist to Be a Good Parent

The first thing that stands out to me is the woman saying that her husband moved out two years ago and is refusing to take their calls. My first question is, if he’s not taking calls and he’s been moved out for two years, what is she really expecting to happen at this point?  If he hasn’t been offering support or helping with the household expenses, what is it that makes her believe her husband is going to suddenly change and become a standup parent?

When I think about my own expectations back when I first left my narcissistic ex, I kept expecting him to be like me. I kept expecting him to care for our son the same way I did, but along the way I had to face reality.  I had to get out of my head, let go of those expectations, and really focus on the reality of the situation. 

We must stop expecting that suddenly, the narcissist is going to change and be a good parent. Think about it, most narcissists have a narcissistic parent themselves.  All they know is utter dysfunction and lack of accountability. If we are aware that we’re dealing with a narcissistic individual, we’ve got to stop expecting them to behave any other way than a narcissistic individual.

The Danger of Narcissism for Children

My reaction is to feel really sorry for her 22-year-old son, because she’s saying that this man came back after a whole year. I would advise not letting him into the house. If he’s been gone an entire year, what reason is there for letting him back into the home?

This doesn’t create space for the son to heal or move forward.  Quite the opposite. Letting the narcissistic parent come back after an entire year just reopens the flood gates for the son. The unpredictability isn’t only coming from the narcissist here. I really hate to say it, but we do have to start examining how our own behaviors could be harming our children. Please understand I’m not victim blaming, but we know narcissists are going to be unpredictable. There is no question about that. So, we must be the ones to create the stability and in this case it means not letting the narcissist back into the home.

After a whole year, I would not encourage my son to continue trying to contact his dad. And in fact, I wouldn’t still be calling, either. When we know we’re dealing with a narcissistic person, we have to let go of any expectations that they’re finally going to be accountable, caring, compassionate, or do the right thing. The only way you might have a chance of getting a narcissist to be accountable is taking them to court.  This is the only way you might be able to get the narcissist to be accountable. And even then, it may not work.

When you have an older child, you may have to just cut the anchor and sail away as if you were on your own – and quit expecting the narcissist to do anything. And even if they sporadically send a little something here and there, like she says, he sent them a small gift. She doesn’t really say if it was money or what, but he shouldn’t get extra credit because he may send fifty bucks (for example) out of an entire year.

Basically, what we’re doing when we accept fifty bucks and give the narcissist extra credit for something like this, we’re selling our soul to them. Does fifty dollars really make that big of a difference in your life?  These are the things you want to think about and reflect on.

Get Rid of Reminders

I completely understand why her son took the family photo off the wall.  We have to think about our children’s mental health.

If my ex had moved out for a period of two years, I would not have family photos on the wall. That’s just a constant reminder of the pain and trauma. In this case, I would advise creating new family photos that give a real accurate snapshot of who the family truly consists of. 

The focus should be on how you can provide for your child as a single parent because, basically, that’s what’s going on. We must be the ones to provide a sense of stability. I’ll offer an example of what that might look like.  Years ago, when I left my son’s father, I moved out, got my own place, and filed for divorce. I didn’t leave any windows open for a possible reconciliation. From the day I moved into my own place, my ex never stepped foot in my new apartment, not once. And he hasn’t stepped foot in any of the homes I’ve been in over the years.

How We Were Led to This Epidemic of Narcissism 

I want to back up just a bit and say when she had her son, who’s now 22, we weren’t getting messages about narcissistic spouses or narcissistic parents. In all fairness to her, we were told to stick with it for the sake of the kids and everyone was advising to keep the family unit together.

But we’re now seeing the very unfortunate outcome of that harmful advice.  This is why we are now seeing such dysfunction.  We don’t need to keep abusive, controlling, manipulative, unaccountable people in our lives, whether they’re a spouse or the parent of our child (or children).  We have to be the responsible ones because narcissists aren’t going to do it. We must be the ones to let go of the abuse cycle and step out of it and move on with the knowing that we’re going to be a single parent.

If you are in a place where you need the financial support, you probably need to either get an attorney, file for child support, or apply for assistance.  But don’t keep expecting the narcissist to finally come through. Even if they do come through once or twice during the year, it’s probably still not worth it. It’s not going to change your life. Maybe it’ll get you a bag of groceries…is it really worth having them in your life for that?

I hope you understand where I’m coming from with this advice and input today.  I’m not being judgmental. I just want you to think about your own situation. If you do share a child with a narcissist, ask yourself, what are you expecting? And why would you expect the narcissist to be any different than they are?

Maintaining a Healthy Distance from the Narcissist

Detaching and maintaining a distance from the narcissist involves a certain level of radical acceptance. It involves letting go of the old beliefs of an intact family unit, because if there’s abuse and abandonment involved, you don’t have an intact family unit.   Trying to force the narcissist to be a good parent is not doing anyone any favors, especially our children. We really need to think about how what we’re doing might be affecting them (God knows I made my own mistakes back in the day!)

We need to bust up those old paradigms of sticking with it for the sake of the family or the sake of the kids, when really, it’s doing them harm.  When we are involved with narcissists and we’re trying to force them to be good parents or force them to stay in our lives in some way, we have to look at the damage it’s causing. When we have young children and teenagers taking their own lives because of their narcissistic parent due to feelings of helplessness, we’ve got to do something different because our children are taking the hit.

The best gift you can give your children is your own healing

Join The Break Free Bootcamp:

You will learn how to…

  • Begin living congruently with your desire to live a healed life without feeling guilty
  • How to implement ‘Extreme Modified Contact’ if you share custody with a narcissist
  • How to find your lost self, even years after narcissistic abuse
  • How to smash and sever emotional hooks that keep you prisoner
  • + so much more!

You will get multi-media training (printables and videos) to help you set limits and create stronger boundaries against emotional manipulation that has caused you to act out of character.  Take the course on your own time, at your own pace. Your subscription never expires, and you can come back and review a lesson anytime you need.

Learn more here.

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karen says September 10, 2021

Reading all of these sad situations brings me back to my childhood from a daughters point of view. I was dressed in charity clothing he spend all the income on his hobbies hundreds of pounds in debt had addictions to things. Addiction to woman always leaving the home I was once left in the house alone at the age of five mum was in hospital. I remember my father dressed up in perfect suit out to a club he was a charmer a very good looking man certain woman gravitated to him. I saw all of this through to my mid twenties when my father had an affair with a friend of my mum. When his love affair was rejected he sort to commit suicide. I was five months pregnant. My mother knew he was at the same thing again and wanted him to stop but no all about him. It hit all the local papers because of the manner and involved police. He tried to say sorry not face to face but involved a local priest he sent to me yet never went to church ever desperation. I was strong enough to see through this. He cared so much about my mum two months later met someone else married her after one year!.. He never contacted me again until he saw a house he wanted close to me but we moved. Some may say I was cruel but believe me I saw so many things as a child and at one point lived a short while in a shelter with homeless at aged ten with my mum. Sadly my mum never changed met someone else who didn’t fully know how to manage money like my mum. It sadly took a while for me to trust my husband it has a knock on effect so much so years of stress I now have a medical condition. I love my husband never strayed had a lot of stress but we are coming up to forty years of marriage and love each other sadly never easy we both agree we give back good and bad both equal and my husband has been understanding and I understand him back. Love to you all. x

Joy says May 31, 2021

This is only another excellent article! I hope the son realizes, at age 22, he is responsible for his life and will decide to no longer allow his father to get under his skin and turn him into a mentally unhealthy young man. I also hope that he will choose not to be bitter (this requires constant practice) but accept that his father has chosen to be toxic and there is nothing anyone can do about that so the son has to learn about narcissism and learn to be indifferent (not take this man personally because he happens to be his “father”). The son has the power of choice and may he exercise it well.

Lynnie says April 26, 2021

Narcissistic parents create narcissistic children – usually the golden child grows up to be a narcissist themselves. The saddest thing I experienced is my narcissistic mother turning my sister into a covert narcissist. She made her the golden child by doting on her and pretending she had special talents she didn’t actually have. She made her an ally in narcissistic abuse and whoever my mother attacked, my sister attacked too. I tried to pull my sister away from her but in the end my sister was more than happy to follow my mother as she dangled the golden carrot of inheritance in front of her nose and praised her for the most ridiculous things. My sister chose to become a sell-out which sadly made her ill because I think in her heart she knew she was doing the wrong thing. My mother and sister ganged up on me, her own children, in-laws, and many other people. As a very critical duo they labeled family members as stupid, illiterate, idiots, ugly, disgusting, lazy…you name it and they said it. My sister’s lovely mother-in-law was nothing but kind and was labeled by both my mother and sister as the “stupidest woman ever” because she was a woman born in the 1950’s who didn’t go to college and instead stayed home and raised her children, knitted, baked, and babysat the neighborhood kids. I always wondered why she wasn’t labeled the kindest woman ever, a great grandmother, a terrific baker, and a person who had a knack caring for children. Instead she was thrown into the garbage heap of undesirables by them and they tried to persuade other family members of her so-called terrible qualities. They stole her good reputation behind her back and to her face they treated her no better than a lowly peasant. She was just as intelligent as them but I cannot emphasize enough how her name became synonymous with stupidity within the family because of them, which makes one realize how many flying monkeys there are in the world that will buy into whatever the narcissist has to say.

    Joy says May 31, 2021

    I understand this dynamic. We have to make up our minds to accept the reality of these people and choose not to live in a fool’s paradise ever expecting relationships with them will heal. Let us purpose to stop flogging dead horses.

    karen says September 12, 2021

    I think that when you have been rejected as a child you seek attention and love and are wounded easily. I went out of my way to be kind to my sons partner not for attention but wanted to be the mum she said she never had only to have it thrown back at me until I snapped back had a breakdown couldn’t understand at the time why she didn’t want me all this behavior and yet said we treated her with kindness but we never received back she was always looking for the bad in people yet after my childhood I have a blog I still wanted a better life for others. I am devastated that my son is with a woman who is self centered and have lost another person in my life. Some days I am ok and some days frankly I could cry and never stop.

    M says June 10, 2022

    Lynnie, I couldn’t agree more! That sounds like my family. The golden child can become a narcissist…absolutely.
    I have a relative to whom this applies. She was made to believe she is better than she actually is, and still feels that she is better than others.
    With her, it’s not just special talents but looks. They told her she is the prettiest one, more deserving of good things than other people, so she still has this attitude at 40 years old.

    My family is made up of flying monkeys so I don’t tell them anything personal anymore.

Bruce says April 11, 2021

23 years of marriage and now add 4 and a half years being separated. I stumbled upon your website and everything clicked into place. For the first year of separation I thought it would all come back together. I kept searching for what I had done wrong. I was given multiple reasons for why she left but each one different and nonsensical. Once I did the boot camp, by the 3rd day, it felt like the load was off my shoulders. I had clarity and could see what was happening to myself and my children. Long story short, if I had not found this information I would not have been able to help my children or myself and I would probably be dead by now as my health was very poor due to the stress and mental anguish.
When she left she took our 3 youngest children and out other 2 are adults. Now 2 of my youngest boys have moved back with me and are on a long road to heal. I am fighting in court now to get my daughter who is 6 for shared custody which was stated in our separation agreement but has been denied by my ex. As advise to anyone going to court, it is the best way to make a narcissistic parent be accountable. Keep records of everything as it will serve you well. My ex is looking for her 3rd lawyer now since I had text and emails that proved she had been lying to her lawyers and they dropped her.
To summarize, Kim your site and information has helped me and my children so much. The cycle of narcissism will be broken with my children, except for one, because of the boot camp and the articles that you post.

Jocelyn says March 29, 2021

After being in a five year relationship with my narc, I finally had enough & went no contact right before New Years this year. We had been officially broken up since May 2019, but were still secretly seeing each other & talking because my family & my kids could not stand him. He moved in with his second supply that I was aware of, he would be with her every time we broke up or had a fight, but I didn’t realize the extent of it. He moved in with her during quarantine & lied to me for months about it, said he was staying at his dads who had just had heart surgery. We were still talking, seeing each other when we could, saying I love you, everything & I felt like someone had pulled a rug out from under me!! I finally let him have it after a couple more months & blocked him & made him promise to leave me alone forever or I would tell her everything. Then I just happened upon an article on Facebook about NPD & everything just clicked into place!! Why I couldn’t let go, why I was obsessed & couldn’t ever just walk away, why I had let him treat me like that & I had never let any man treat me that way. So, I told her anyway, for my own healing, I felt bad cause I knew what I was doing to her & realized he had probably pumped her so full of lies she probably knew nothing about me. She kicked him out. He said I was crazy, made all kinds of empty threats, I made true threats & haven’t heard a word from him since!!! I told my 21 year old son I had finally let go & gotten him out of my life & he hugged me & cried & we just cried & he said he was so happy to see me finally out of his grips!! I never even knew that any of my children even noticed! It’s amazing what they pick up on that we aren’t aware of!! I am ashamed I exposed them to all of his terrible behavior & saw me be so weak when it came to him. Got a lot of healing to do now. Working on my inner self & childhood wounds at the moment. I won’t let the POS ruin who I once was. Think he brought me to this place of healing & growth, it’s past time & is helping me with other relationships in my life, just a true spiritual awakening. So maybe I’ll thank his sorry pitiful self one day for helping me live my best life & get to a place of true happiness!!!

Crystal Brown says March 13, 2021

I could not stop reading I couldn’t believe I stood almost two decades with a narcasist and just realized what I was dealing with all this time I absolutely knew there was something but I couldn’t put my finger on it it was almost surreal it was like you were writing about my life personally. I am so thankful for this information. I am getting ready to break up with my husband this morning when he comes in from work. Thank you so much.

Rachel Delongville says February 10, 2021

If someone has multiple personality disorder is it possible for one of them characters to be a narcissist and not the others or the real person whoever that maybe

    Kim Saeed says February 22, 2021

    Multiple Personality Disorder is extremely rare. Has the person been clinically diagnosed with this or is it something they’ve told you?

LM says January 17, 2021

Hi Kim. I am a 40 year old adult child (daughter) of a Narcissistic dad, and unfortunately live at home with him again due to financial hardship. I have a hard time understanding the absurd and inappropriate things he often says (probably trying to bait a reaction from me). Today, when I mentioned I’m going to take a bath, the confounding comment of the day was, “Do you need any help? Do you want me to scrub you down? Want me to scrub you with the toilet brush?” Seriously?!?! How do these crazy Narcs even come up with this crazy $h!t? (He was drunk at the time as well… he’s a life-long alcoholic in denial, of course.) How do you respond appropriately to something like that? (I kept walking and ignored him.) Are they human at all? I’m baffled, but not surprised. LM

    Anonymous says May 23, 2021

    Grey rock, don’t give him any reaction — it’s what they live for.

    S says May 23, 2021

    Grey rock, don’t give him any reaction — it’s what they live for.

    M says June 10, 2022

    Sorry to hear that, LM…my stepfather often made disgusting comments like that too. Just know that it comes from their sick minds.
    Normal people don’t talk that way to others.

Wendy says January 15, 2021

I look forward to your postings Kim Sawed and my eyes are wide open with wisdom. I can relate to your postings after 42 years of dealings with a narsistic person. I didn’t know the signs until the past 18 months of separation of 42 years of marriage. I didn’t understand why I stayed in a toxic marriage with secrets, brainwashing, deniel etc…right now I am struggling being by myself. The separation pushed away my children and grandchildren and the pain they are also going through. But I am determined to fine myself again at the age of in progress. Thank you

Jules says January 15, 2021

This is an excellent article.

    Kim Saeed says January 17, 2021

    Thank you, Jules 🙂

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