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Is Narcissistic Parenting Abuse? How to Help Your Children

by | Aug 29, 2023 | 0 comments

Is Narcissistic Parenting Abuse. Young boy sits with head in arms against a wall.

The term “narcissism” on this blog is used to describe a specific set of personality traits. It is not intended to be used as a professional diagnosis.

TINY - Pins - Short (1)As the author of a book on parallel parenting, I have delved into the complexities of co-parenting under challenging circumstances.

Parallel parenting aims to minimize conflict between separated or divorced parents by allowing them to disengage from each other while still remaining actively involved in their children’s lives.

However, when one parent exhibits narcissistic tendencies, the situation can become significantly more intricate.

Not only are you dealing with an entitled and jaded individual who aims to get “revenge” on you, but they are also someone who can be a bad influence on your child – and potentially abusive.

If this sounds like your situation, you’re not alone.

Let’s take a look at whether narcissistic parenting constitutes a form of abuse and explore its potential effects on children.

Is Narcissistic Parenting Abuse From Parents?

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Narcissistic parenting is a behavior pattern where a parent prioritizes their own needs, desires, and self-image over their child’s well-being.

This can look like different things, including emotional manipulation, gaslighting, belittling, and a lack of empathy toward the child’s emotions.

But the question is: Does narcissistic parenting qualify as a form of abuse?

While it might not always involve physical harm, there can be emotional and psychological damage inflicted – and it can be profound.

Children naturally rely on their parents for emotional support, guidance, and a nurturing environment.

When a narcissistic parent consistently fails to provide these essentials due to their self-centeredness, it can indeed be considered a form of emotional and psychological abuse.

What is An Example of Narcissistic Parent Abuse?

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To truly grasp the detrimental effects of narcissistic parenting, let’s take a look at some examples of how narcissistic parents can abuse their child.

These are some ways that manipulation and harm can happen:

Emotional Manipulation and Guilt

Narcissistic parents often manipulate their children’s emotions to serve their own purposes.

They may guilt-trip their children into doing things that align with their desires, creating a sense of obligation that distorts the child’s understanding of healthy boundaries.

Undermining Independence

Narcissistic parents might undermine their child’s attempts to establish independence.

This can manifest as overcontrolling, discouragement of personal interests, and a consistent need to be the center of the child’s attention.

Projection of Unfulfilled Dreams

Some narcissistic parents project their unfulfilled ambitions onto their children, pressuring them to achieve what they themselves couldn’t.

This places an undue burden on the child and can lead to feelings of inadequacy and resentment.


Narcissistic parents may engage in gaslighting, manipulating their child’s perception of reality to maintain control. They might deny past events or twist the child’s memories, causing confusion and self-doubt.

Conditional Love

Narcissistic parents often offer love and approval only when their child conforms to their expectations. This teaches the child that their worth is tied to meeting the parent’s demands, leading to a skewed sense of self-worth.

Comparison and Criticism

Narcissistic parents frequently compare their child unfavorably to others and provide relentless criticism. This constant negativity erodes the child’s self-confidence and fosters a sense of never being good enough.

Withholding Affection

Some narcissistic parents withhold affection and emotional support as a means of punishment. This emotional neglect can leave lasting scars on a child’s emotional well-being.

Invasion of Privacy

Narcissistic parents may intrude on their child’s personal boundaries, invading their privacy and diminishing their sense of autonomy.

Manipulative Disciplinary Tactics

Narcissistic parents might use manipulative disciplinary tactics, employing guilt, fear, or blame to control their child’s behavior rather than teaching and nurturing them.

What Happens to a Child Raised By a Narcissist?

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So, what is the impact of narcissistic parenting on a child?

Children raised by narcissistic parents often experience a range of emotional and psychological challenges that can extend into adulthood.

Some common outcomes include:

  • Low Self-Esteem: Constant criticism and unrealistic expectations can lead to feelings of unworthiness and low self-esteem.
  • Insecure Attachment: The lack of consistent emotional support can result in insecure attachment styles, affecting relationships throughout their lives.
  • Identity Confusion: Children may struggle to develop a clear sense of self as they are constantly adapting to the demands of the narcissistic parent.
  • Anxiety and Depression: The emotional manipulation and instability within the household can contribute to the development of anxiety and depression.
  • Perfectionism: Children raised by narcissistic parents might internalize the need to be flawless to gain approval, which can lead to extreme perfectionism and fear of failure.
  • Fear of Rejection: The unpredictable nature of a narcissistic parent’s reactions can instill a deep-seated fear of rejection, making it difficult for them to express themselves authentically.
  • Difficulty Expressing Emotions: Growing up in an environment where their emotions were dismissed or exploited, children may struggle to identify and express their feelings.
  • Impaired Social Skills: The lack of nurturing and empathetic interactions can hinder the development of healthy social skills, making it challenging to form genuine relationships.
  • Need for Validation: Children may develop an incessant need for external validation due to the absence of validation and support from their narcissistic parent.
  • Boundary Issues: The concept of personal boundaries may be skewed, as children of narcissistic parents often have their boundaries violated or ignored by the parent.
  • Rebellion or Compliance: Children may either rebel against the narcissistic parent’s demands or comply out of fear, leading to patterns of either opposition or submission.
  • Difficulty Trusting: The inconsistency and manipulation they experience can make it difficult for them to trust others and their own judgment.
  • Guilt and Self-Blame: Narcissistic parents may project blame onto their children, causing them to internalize feelings of guilt and responsibility for the parent’s behavior.
  • Emotional Detachment: To protect themselves from the emotional turmoil at home, some children develop emotional detachment as a coping mechanism.
  • Struggle with Authenticity: Growing up in an environment that prioritizes appearances, children may struggle to be authentic and true to themselves.

These outcomes highlight the profound and lasting impact that narcissistic parenting can have on a child’s development, emphasizing the importance of recognizing and addressing these issues for a healthier future.

What Can You Do?

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It’s one thing to know how to recognize narcissism and the impact it can have on your children, but I know you want to know how you can help your children and guard them from abuse.

It’s all in being proactive and supportive. Here are some things you can do to help your little ones:

Be a Consistent Source of Support

One of the most important roles you can play is that of a reliable and caring figure in the child’s life.

Establish yourself as a trustworthy source of emotional support, offering them a safe space to express their feelings and concerns without fear of judgment.

By providing consistency, you can help counterbalance the volatility they might experience at home.

Validate Their Feelings

Growing up in an environment with a narcissistic parent can be bewildering and emotionally distressing.

Often, children’s emotions are dismissed or belittled.

Your role involves validating their feelings, assuring them that what they’re experiencing is real and understandable.

This validation can contribute significantly to their sense of self-worth.

Encourage Healthy Self-Esteem

Narcissistic parenting can chip away at a child’s self-esteem through constant criticism and unrealistic expectations.

Counteract this by celebrating their achievements, no matter how small, and encouraging them to explore their interests.

Help them develop a strong sense of self that isn’t dependent on external validation.

Teach Emotional Regulation

Children of narcissistic parents may struggle with managing their emotions due to the emotional volatility they witness at home.

Offer guidance on identifying and expressing their feelings in a healthy manner.

Teach them healthy coping strategies that can help them navigate difficult emotions without resorting to unhealthy behaviors.

Foster Independence

Narcissistic parents often hinder the development of a child’s independence.

Encourage the child’s autonomy and decision-making abilities by providing opportunities for them to make choices and experience the consequences.

This can help them build confidence and a sense of control over their own lives.

Educate About Healthy Relationships

As the child grows, imparting knowledge about healthy relationships becomes crucial.

Discuss the differences between healthy and unhealthy dynamics, focusing on the importance of setting boundaries and recognizing red flags.

Arm them with the tools they need to establish respectful and nurturing relationships in the future.

Provide Access to Professional Help

In some cases, the emotional scars left by narcissistic parenting may require professional intervention.

If you observe signs of severe emotional distress or behavioral issues, consider connecting the child with a therapist or counselor who specializes in working with children from challenging family environments.

Unveiling the Complex Layers of Narcissistic Parenting

Narcissistic parenting is complicated, and it sucks – and sometimes it’s hard to recognize what you’re dealing with unless you learn about it.

I hope you can take what you learn here and integrate this information into your parallel parenting situation.

Now that you can recognize the potential for harm in narcissistic parenting, you can start advocating for the well-being of your kids and give them an environment where they can be safe and thrive!

Have you encountered narcissistic parenting, or do you have any advice for handling this situation? Leave a comment below!

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