10 Signs That Your Ex is a Narcissistic Parent

October 11, 2021
by Chelsy

10 Signs That Your Ex is a Narcissistic Parent

By Chelsy
October 11, 2021

You’ve broken up with your partner and there is a child involved.

In a lot of (happy) situations, the initial feelings of bitterness and anger tend to dissipate as both parents, and their child, settle into the new family situations.

However, there is a special breed of ex that will fight to ensure this happy ending will never happen.

They will hold you in contempt of ruining their life by leaving the relationship and do everything they can to make each step of the separation difficult and painful.

I’m talking, of course, about the narcissist.

While it may not be quite apparent that you’re dealing with a narcissist baby daddy or narcissist baby mama, you know you are being treated in an unfair and abusive manner.

Even if you know your ex is a narcissist, you may be inclined to believe that they are only treating you this horribly.

I mean, how could they possibly mistreat their child?

They can and they will. I’m not saying that all narcissists are physically abusive and complete garbage parents to their children – but they are not wired to parent in healthy ways.

In order to become more aware of whether or not your ex’s narcissism is affecting your child, here are some signs your ex is a narcissist – as well as a bit of insight as to why narcissists are the way they are:

Why Do Narcissists Do What They Do?

Narcissists function to gain two things: control and attention.

Many of their behaviors focus on having control. When it comes to parenting, they do this by keeping their child dependent and minimalized.

They see their child more as objects than actual human beings and don’t consider their needs or wants.

Narcissists also seek what is referred to as “Narcissistic Supply”. This is an excessive need for attention or admiration that does not take the feelings or opinions of other people into account.

They want recognition for everything they do and will use their child to garner attention and praise.

Basically, everything a narcissist does is to serve their own self-interest at the expense of other people.

Signs of a Narcissistic Parent

1. They Use Their Child to Seek Ego-Boosting Attention

Narcissists live by portraying a superficial image. They publicly display materials possessions, their physical appearance, their job, and even their child in order to advertise how “awesome” they are.

Their child is seen as a trophy child and they use them in public, and through social media, to gain attention. When someone compliments the child, the narcissist internalizes this as praise toward them.

2. It Is Always About Them

Narcissists are self-absorbed and are only interested in their own thoughts and feelings. Everyone around them is irrelevant.

They don’t listen to their child’s feelings or necessarily care about them. How they make others feel does not register as important to them.

Narcissists may lie about illnesses or over-dramatize their experiences in order to gain attention and pity.

A good example of this happened during my custody trial. When my ex was testifying, he randomly brought up his sick mother and the fact that she was dying.

This is a woman that he vehemently forbids me to allow our daughter to see. (Not that I listen to him.)

Come to find out about a week later that his mother was perfectly fine – she was cancer-free and quite healthy.

It was a ploy to gain pity and it’s a tactic he uses quite frequently.

3. They Put Their Children Down

Narcissists will put their children down in order to raise themselves up. They lower their child’s confidence through insults in order to boost their own self-worth and maintain feelings of superiority.

Oftentimes, they will feel threatened by their child’s success and marginalize those successes through criticism and nitpicking. They will reject their child’s accomplishments.

They will also invalidate their child’s positive attitudes and emotions in order to make themselves feel better.

4. They Try to Live Through Their Child

Narcissists will try to live vicariously through their children and set expectations of their child in order to fulfill their own needs and dreams.

They raise their child to become an extension of their own personal wishes.

They will push their child, through high demands and pressure, in a direction that the child may not want to go in such as specific activities they enjoy or once enjoyed.

Last summer my daughter decided she wanted to try karate. Once her father found out, he was adamant that she attend Taekwondo as he had as a teenager. She had to go to the same Taekwondo school he had gone to. There were no exceptions.

It ended up that he never ponied the money he promised for the classes and my daughter was more than happy to rejoin her Sparks troupe.

When a narcissist pushes their child into their own interests, they are not encouraging them to develop their own personality, dreams, and wishes.

And if they don’t abide by the narcissist’s wishes, or they do not perform to the narcissist’s standards, they are often punished or degraded.


5. They Lack Empathy

If ever there was one defining feature shared by all narcissists, it would be their complete and total lack of empathy.

Because they only care about their own thoughts and feelings, they are unable to understand why other people feel or think the way they do.

In fact, they don’t even try to understand how their child is feeling and will invalidate their child’s feelings.

Instead of comforting an upset child, for example, they will question the emotion:

“Why are you crying?”

They can’t wrap their heads around why their child would be upset – unless something blatantly injurious happened like a cut or a scrape. Otherwise, they can’t put themselves in their child’s situation to understand where the feelings are coming from.

6. They Have Dependency and Co-Dependency Issues

A narcissist has dependency issues when they expect their child to take care of them, even if the child is young and the narcissist is in perfect health. They manipulate and guilt their child into prioritizing their needs, such as expecting their child to forego a social life in order to take care of them.

Co-dependency issues occur when the narcissist tried to make their child remain dependent on them. They may do this by enabling the child’s under-achievements, irresponsibility, or addiction.

They discourage independence in order to maintain control over their child.

7. They Are Inflexible and Unstable

Narcissists can easily switch from giving positive attention to being angry and abusive.

Most of the time, these behaviors are unpredictable. However, they are unlikely to change their behaviors because of their desire to control others.

They are rigid when it comes to how they expect their child to act and can be easily triggered. Yet, their reasons for being irritated are varied and unpredictable as well.

8. They Use Guilt to Manipulate Their Child

Nobody likes to feel guilty, but narcissists are adept at using guilt to manipulate their children while at the same time deflecting their own guilty feelings.

A narcissist will emphasize every single thing they do for their child and accuse the child of being ungrateful. They do this in order to validate their own self-worth.

They also use their child as a scapegoat and blame the child for their own shortcomings. Instead of taking responsibility for their mistakes, they push the blame on their child.

Narcissists may also use guilt and blaming to get what they want out of their child – whether that is dependency or to push their child toward their own dreams as mentioned above.

9. They Are Neglectful

While some narcissists smother their child with (negative) attention, some are so self-absorbed that they completely ignore the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual needs of their child.

To a narcissist, everyone else is unimportant and they focus primarily on themselves.

This is because their own self-interests are more exciting than dealing with their child.

This often leads narcissists to only associate with their child if it serves a purpose, such as gaining attention and praise.

10. They Construct a False Self and a False Life

I know there are those in my ex’s life that think he is an amazing and caring father. This is because that is exactly what he wants them to believe and it’s how he portrays himself as a father.

Narcissists will pretend to the world that they are the perfect parent and use image and pretense to elicit envy from others.

In this case, they present their child as an object, not a human being. It’s never “My child is awesome!” – it’s usually “Look at what I’ve created.” They show off their child as an extension of themselves and take all the credit for how their child has turned out.

Signs of a Narcissistic Parent: My Ex Ticks The Boxes So What Do I Do?

Give your child what they will never receive from their narcissistic parent.

The best you can do is model for them love, safety, and stability. By constantly filling in the holes left by the narcissist, you can show them what an appropriate parent-child relationship is supposed to be.

Depending on the age of your child, it is difficult to explain to them exactly why their other parent acts the way they do.

It’s going to be hard, I know. There are days where you’ll want to lay it out for your little one and tell them what a garbage human their other parent is.

This will do your child no favors. Instead, offer a contrasting environment to the one they are experiencing with their other parent.

If you feel that your ex’s parenting is detrimental to your child, you can always have them assessed by a mental health professional. In very extreme situations where abuse is suspected, you can involve your local child protection agency as well as the courts.

Do you deal with a narcissistic ex? How is it affecting your children? Feel free to share your stories in the comments below:


  1. Amy Gougler

    I can only imagine how hard it must be to have a partner that isn’t supportive and does things like put their kids down!

    • Chelsy

      I was fortunate enough to know what kind of, ahem, “individual” my ex was when I left him during the pregnancy. I never expected any kind of support from him.

      Unfortunately, there are some mothers that don’t realize what they’re dealing with until later on. My heart is with them. <3

  2. Kimberlie

    This is scary thought, but important information to have about traits or signs of a narcissistic parent. It could be helpful to protecting a child from damaging life experiences.

    • Chelsy

      Absolutely! Like I mentioned in another reply, some mothers don’t even know they are dealing with a narcissist – whether they are still together or not.

      Thanks for your comment! 🙂

      • Linda

        My ex husband is all the above. This past weekend he was like a caged animal at our 14 year old daughter to the point she peed on herself as he called her a little b**** and was yelling and demanding respect from her

        • Chelsy

          That is terrible 🙁 Your poor daughter…Is she at the age where she can choose whether or not she wants anything to do with her father? If she doesn’t, even if he takes it to court, incidences like that should work in her favor.

      • William Carter

        My ex is a Terrible narcissist, she gaslighted me into believing I was abusive has gaslighted my son to believe the same, it is the worst hell a parent can endure short of the death of a child.

        My advice is to NOT get a parental psyche evaluation. The narcissist will take to that challenge with the same lying and manipulative behavior they do their other adult food sources. The psyche evaluation is why my ex has any legal custody at all. She fleeced the evaluator and wove such a delicate tale of woe that it destroyed all of the other evidence I had gathered for my custody case and in NC the default is 50/50.

        • Chelsy

          I 100% agree! My lawyer did suggest it at one point but warned that if he passed it, it would be a waste of money and make him look better in court. We decided to let his actions and attitudes speak for themselves in front of a judge.

          I’m sorry to hear you are going through all of this – but thanks for the invaluable advice.

  3. Faith

    Your points are really valid. We really need
    To be mindful of how our children are being treated.

    • Chelsy

      Yes! It could make all the difference in their lives if we notice how they are being treated and act accordingly.

  4. Desiree

    This is all great information! It’s hard living with a narcissist or trying to co-parent with one. Thank you for this post. It’s such beneficial information and I hope it helps many many others.

    • Chelsy

      Thank you so much for your comment! I hope it helps many many many mothers out there!

  5. Brittany

    My husbands father was literally all of the above. But it has made my husband such a great parent to model his behavior by doing the opposite!

    • Chelsy

      I know someone who was raised by a narcissist and he is the sweetest and most sensitive guy I’ve met – he also had an amazing mom by his side. With that extra love and care, kids can definitely come out the other side as wonderful individuals and parents. <3

  6. Katherine

    My husbands Ex is showing some disturbing narcissistic tendencies in her parenting style. They share 2 teenagers and they are the typical golden child / scapegoat. Their mother is pushing and manipulating the oldest, a girl, to be a version of herself and has extremely high expectations of her and both me and my husband can sense that she is stressed and dealing with low self-worth. The boy on the other hand is belittled and shamed all the time. He is so sensitive and fragile and it hurts so bad to hear what his mother is saying to him. She even gets her own father (the granddad) to be after him also on her demand. As hard as it can sometimes be to be a stepmother, then it’s even worse in this situation. All I can do is support my husband in being the loving and caring father that he is, but I feel so bad for them and I don’t really dare to say anything because I’m afraid it will turn them against me if she gets the knowledge of my interference. But for many years I wasn’t aware of what the problem was and now that I am pretty sure she is borderline NPD it’s easier to understand some of the truly crazy stuff she has put my husband and their kids through, and why he is always taking the minimal contact and no conflict communication style with her.



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