10 Signs of a Narcissistic Parent #3 will shock you
4. Superficial Image
Closely related to grandiosity, many narcissistic parents love to show others how “special” they are. They enjoy publically parading what they consider their superior dispositions, be it material possessions, physical appearance, projects and accomplishments, background and membership, contacts in high places, and/or trophy spouse and offspring. They go out of their way to seek ego-boosting attention and flattery.
For some narcissistic parents, social networking is a wonderland where they regularly advertise how wonderful and envy-worthy their lives are. The underlying messages may be: “I am/my life is so special and interesting,” and “Look at ME – I have what you don’t have!”
“What my mother displays in public and how she really is are very different.”
Common examples of narcissistic parenting manipulation include:
Guilt trip: “I’ve done everything for you and you’re so ungrateful.”
Blaming: “It’s your fault that I’m not happy.”
Shaming: “Your poor performance is an embarrassment to the family.”
Negative comparison: “Why can’t you be as good as your brother?”
Unreasonable pressure: “You WILL perform at your best to make me proud.”
Manipulative reward and punishment: “If you don’t pursue the college major I chose for you, I will cut off my support.”
Emotional coercion: “You’re not a good daughter/son unless you measure up to my expectations.”
A common theme running through these forms of manipulation is that love is given as a conditional reward, rather than the natural expression of healthy parenting. On the other hand, the withholding of love is used as threat and punishment.
6. Inflexible and Touchy
Certain narcissistic parents are highly rigid when it comes to the expected behaviors of their children. They regulate their offspring on minor details, and can become upset when there’s deviation. Some narcissistic parents are also touchy and easily triggered. Reasons for irritation towards an offspring can vary greatly, from the child’s lack of attention and obedience, to perceived faults and shortcomings, to being in the presence of the parent at the wrong time, et cetera.
One reason for the parent’s inflexibility and touchiness is the desire to control the child. The narcissist responds negatively and disproportionally when she or he sees that the offspring will not always be pulled by the strings.
“I hate it when you put groceries on the checkout counter that way. I told you before I HATE it!”
― Mother to daughter at supermarket
7. Lack of Empathy
One of the most common manifestations of a narcissistic father or mother is the inability to be mindful of the child’s own thoughts and feelings, and validate them as real and important. Only what the parent thinks and feels matters.
Children under this type of parental influence over time may respond with one of three survival instincts: They may Fight back and stand-up for themselves. They may Flight and distance from their parent(s). Some may begin to Freeze and substitute their invalidated real self with a false persona (playing a role), thus adopting traits of narcissism themselves.
Some narcissistic parents expect their children to take care of them for the rest of their lives. This type of dependency can be emotional, physical, and/or financial. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with taking care of older parents – it’s an admirable trait – the narcissistic parent typically manipulates an offspring into making unreasonable sacrifices, with little regard for the offspring’s own priorities and needs.
“My mom (a single parent in her late 30’s) expects me to support her financially on an on-going basis. She says that she can’t live without me.”
― Anonymous college student
Some narcissistic parents may also maneuver their adult children into codependency. Psychology professor Shawn Burn defines a codependent relationship as one where “one person’s help supports (enables) the other’s underachievement, irresponsibility, immaturity, addiction, procrastination, or poor mental or physical health.”
9. Jealousy & Possessiveness
Since a narcissistic mother or father often hopes that the child will permanently dwell under the parent’s influence, she or he may become extremely jealous at any signs of the child’s growing maturity and independence. Any perceived act of individuation and separation, from choosing one’s own academic and career path, to making friends not approved by the parent, to spending time on one’s own priorities, are interpreted negatively and personally (“Why are you doing this to ME?”).
In particular, the appearance of a romantic partner in the adult offspring’s life may be viewed as a major threat, and frequently responded to with rejection, criticism, and/or competition. In the eyes of some narcissistic parents, no romantic partner is ever good enough for their offspring, and no interloper can ever challenge them for dominance of their child.
“How dare that woman take my son away from me. Who does she think she is?”
In some situations, a narcissistic parent may choose to focus primarily on her or his self-absorbing interests, which to the narcissist are more exciting than child-raising. These activities may provide the narcissist the stimulation, validation, and self-importance she or he craves, be it career obsession, social flamboyance, or personal adventures and hobbies. The child is left either to the other parent, or on his or her own.
“My husband’s an absent father. He’s always off doing something fun for himself, which he prefers to spending time with our child. He’s an extremely selfish person.”
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