If you are trying to parent with a narcissistic ex, you’re probably wondering: “Can a narcissist be a good parent?”
The answer to that question depends on how you define a “good parent”.
Is a good parent someone who provides for their child? Gives them emotional support? Cares deeply about their well-being?
By the very nature of their disorder, narcissists are incapable of empathizing and providing emotional support to others.
Narcissists construct a false reality that feeds into the delusion that they are important, powerful, and without flaws. They strive so hard to keep up this fantasy that they are willing to use and manipulate people.
The moment a narcissist genuinely cares for another human being, they open themselves up to the vulnerability they fight so hard to avoid.
For this reason, it’s unlikely that a narcissist could ever truly love their child.
Does that make them horrible monsters when it comes to parenting? Not always. Their need to project a perfect life means that they may treat their children well on a superficial level in order to make the claim that they are a good parent.
Keeping reading to find out how to tell if your ex is a narcissist and to answer the question, “Do narcissists care about their family?”
Signs of a Narcissist
Sometimes when you break up with a partner, there are residual feelings of spite and anger. While this does cause a high-conflict parenting situation, those feelings eventually dissipate as new routines are adjusted to and tempers calmed.
Narcissists, on the other hand, are highly unlikely to change. The nature of their condition makes it near impossible for them to even accept that they have a problem.
Before you begin to worry about whether or not your children are loved by their other parent, it’s best to get a better idea if you are truly dealing with a narcissist.
Here are some common signs you may notice if your ex is a narcissist:
- They play the victim card – their negative past experiences are always someone else’s fault.
- They are arrogant and can be rude and/or abusive if they don’t get what they want.
- They control and manipulate you by making you feel guilty about things you didn’t do or by limiting your support system.
- They exaggerate their good qualities and deny their flaws.
- They are always right and take your opposing views as a personal insult.
- They have no sense of boundaries.
Another common symptom of narcissism is gaslighting, in which they manipulate people into doubting their own sanity.
The above signs are generally directed at adults, typically those the narcissist is in a relationship with.
How they parent their children presents a whole new set of symptoms:
How Narcissists Parent Their Children
Narcissists are not wired to parent in healthy ways. While not all narcissists are physically abusive and complete garbage parents to their children, the way in which they treat them is not from a place of love and care.
Well, only love and care for themselves.
Narcissists function to gain power and control. They will use specific tactics with their children to attain these things.
How they treat their children may look a little different than how they treat adults and partners but the underlying reasoning is the same: They use their children to maintain control and feel better about themselves.
Here are some ways in which a narcissist will parent their children:
- They will use their children to seek ego-boosting attention. They see their children as “trophies” and internalize their child’s accomplishments.
- They treat their child’s feelings as irrelevant. They can’t register their child’s feelings as more important as their own.
- They put their children down in order to feel better about themselves.
- They rely on their children to take care of them and will guilt their children into prioritizing their needs.
Everyone in the narcissist’s world is a “thing” to achieve their sense of superiority – and their children are no different.
Now you’re probably wondering what kind of effect this type of parenting will have on your children.
If left unchecked, narcissistic parenting can be quite harmful to children. A child in this situation is likely to develop a poor self-image and crippling self-doubt – among other issues.
The good news is that, as long as you take control of the situation from your end, you can alleviate the effects the narcissistic parent will have on your child.
How to Support Your Child
The most important thing is to provide your child with safety, love, and care.
You can do this by decreasing the conflict your narcissistic ex will attempt to create in your life. Adopt a parallel-parenting style that minimizes communication with your ex in order to keep chaos and stress out of your child’s life (and yours as well).
Help your child understand the situation by discussing it in a straightforward and age-appropriate manner. Your little one doesn’t need to know all the gory details about your ex’s behaviors, but you can be honest about the situation.
Listen to and validate their feelings toward their other parent – which you can do without agreeing with them. At the very least, you can explain to your child that their other parent is different and loves them differently than you do.
Speaking of love, it’s important to show your child what love truly is by showing them respect, care, and compassion – all things they will never really get from their narcissistic parent.
No matter how things turn out, make sure that you are a safe place for your child to feel heard, respected, and loved.
Can a Narcissist Be a Good Parent?
So can narcissists love their child?
Overall, they will view their children as a means to an end. If they do have any feelings of love for their child, it will never exceed or match the level of love they have for themselves.
However, this doesn’t mean that narcissists are automatically horrible parents. Most will parent to the best of their abilities – it’s just that their parenting abilities are not that great.
Because Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) exists on a spectrum, so too do their range of behaviors. While one narcissist may be a total trash person and the worst parent ever, another could be considered passable when it comes to parenting and might even be easy to get along with from time to time.
However, the severity of their behaviors can change without a moment’s notice.
So when it comes to wondering if a narcissist can be a good parent, it’s best that you focus on your own parenting style in order to fill in the gaps left by the narcissistic parent.
Don’t look at parenting as a competition – that’s exactly what the narcissist wants. Instead, just do your own thing and prioritize your child’s well-being over everything else.
Do you have a narcissistic ex? Have they ever portrayed a behavior you would consider as “good parenting”? Let us know in the comments!