What is a Narcissistic Parent?

Before we can begin to discuss how to identify the child who is being raised by a narcissistic parent, we need to understand exactly what is a narcissistic parent.

A narcissistic parent is that parent who in any number of ways is attempting to control his child’s life. The parenting dynamic gets flipped on its head as the parent uses the child for his own needs instead of taking care of the child’s needs. Most of the time, the narcissistic parent sees his child’s independence as threatening.

When the parent feels threatened he will coerce the child to live within the parent’s shadow often demanding that unreasonable expectations be met for the child to “earn” the parent’s love. The truth is that often such a parent convinces himself that he loves his child when in reality he loves himself.

This is not to say that every parent who has high expectations for his child, may display firmness when appropriate, or desire for the child to make him proud is a narcissist. The hallmark of the narcissistic parent is that the child’s ultimate value is in serving the parent in some way.

5 Tell-Tale Signs Your Client Has a Narcissistic Parent

1. Attachment Issues

A child who is suffering the emotional absence, abuse or neglect from a parent subconsciously questions how safe any relationship can be. The reaction of the child can present either as an avoidant attachment or anxious attachment. Avoidant attachment is when the child shuts others- avoidance. Alternatively, an anxious attachment is when the child chases after others to love him.  

2. Needs Explosion

Since the narcissistic parent has manipulated his child into sacrificing the child’s basic emotional needs to his needs, the child learns to ignore and bury his own needs continuously. The child becomes the spectacular caretaker at his own expense. Then one day something triggers the child, and the result is an instant explosion of needing someone to meet those sublimated needs. The child seemingly lacking needs becomes the neediest!

3. Chronic Self-Blame or Shame

Not every narcissistic parent openly emotionally abuses his child. Nonetheless, he doesn’t seem to hear their child’s pain either. And how could he? After all, such a parent is very busy, with himself!  Because these children are trapped in their own home, their only choice is to offer up their self-esteem as barter for their own care. The child tells himself that he is the problem in the hope that if he “behaves better” he can get his parent’s attention.

4. Becoming Fiercely Independent

A child who is more adventurous and extroverted may swing the other way entirely. The constant frustration borne of the narcissistic parent may convince the child that emotional intimacy is a complete farce. No one is reliable or trustworthy, so the only way to proceed is by becoming completely detached and independent.  Since this is impossible to sustain it may set the child up for a needs explosion.

5.  Codependency

On the other hand, those children possessing a more sensitive temperament may become the compulsive caretaker. The only way they can be emotionally nurtured is to take care of others. Their narcissistic parents never cultivated their child’s sense of self so now the only way for the child to remove his pervasive emptiness and loneliness is to derive it from others by taking care of them.