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6 Ways That Narcissists Parent

1. The narcissistic parent decides how the child dresses or wears his hair.

For narcissists, image is everything. While children are babies and toddlers, of course, the parent—narcissistic or otherwise—chooses their clothing. But as children reach school age, most will have their own ideas about what they like to wear. Narcissistic parents, however, aren’t interested in hearing what shirts or shorts their children like, and they certainly don’t ask their opinion. Clothing is selected to fit the image the parent desires. Such parents are deeply invested in a child’s clothing or hair because they are focused exclusively on the message their child’s style sends to the world. As a therapist, it’s my belief that parents should let children dress and wear their hair in the style of their choice. It’s understandable to have rules about not letting a child use hair dye or other products until a certain age, but otherwise, let your kid decide whether to wear his or her hair short or long, and so forth.

2. The narcissistic parent treats report cards like statements of a child’s personal worth.

I’ve worked with many clients who sprang from narcissistic parents. They come for help because they’ve already spent years trying to undo some of the toxic mental programming they received as kids. One male client in his 30s shared how his mother used to calculate his grade point average from the time he was in second grade. You’d think, based on this example, that the narcissistic parent truly cares about her son getting good grades—and you’d be right. However, she didn’t care enough to spend any time with him doing homework or reading, which would certainly have resulted in better grades. This narcissistic parent’s logic and expectation: I want you to perform at a very high level, but I am not sacrificing any of my time or energy to help you do that. The child of the narcissist always ends up feeling the same thing: I’m on my own.

3. The narcissistic parent wants to select their child’s friends.

Narcissists make many decisions based on surface images. A narcissistic parent would rather their child be friends with the daughter of a CEO than the daughter of a mechanic, even if the CEO’s child isn’t very nice and the mechanic’s child is extremely kind. Narcissistic parents are often social climbers, telling themselves that the success of those around them reflects highly on themselves. The narcissistic parent thinks—or says out loud—“Why couldn’t you be friends with [a successful, socially high-ranking child]?” I would maintain that emotional success—being happy and having a sense of purpose—is more important than professional success.

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