You know how poorly the narcissist treated you, so you’re probably wondering:
How do narcissists treat their children?
It can be hard to know when your ex keeps everything behind closed doors. Unless you are there during their visitation and access, it’s impossible to know what is really going on.
Especially when your kids are small. As they grow up, and as long as you foster an environment of trust and open communication, they will tell you what’s going on.
But until then, it’s important to understand narcissistic behavior and how your ex could potentially be treating your child. Not all narcissists tick all of these boxes but having an idea of what’s going on can help you better support your child.
Children of narcissistic parents are not doomed to a life of trauma and damage. With your support and guidance, they can come out the other side of this with a strong sense of resiliency as well as boundaries.
Let’s take a look at how narcissists treat their children:
How Do Narcissists Treat Their Children?
1. They Set High Expectations
Narcissists tend to live through their children. They want to live their “glory days” through their kid’s achievements and hobbies.
For instance, if your ex was a star baseball player in high school, they may push your child to play baseball and take credit for their success in the sport. They may say things like, “He gets it from me!” or “I taught her everything she knows!”
Instead of giving the child credit for their own skills and efforts, the narcissist will internalize the success and expect praise for it.
While this isn’t necessarily a horrible way to treat their kids (keep reading and you’ll see why), it does negatively impact their self-esteem since they never receive praise from the narcissist based on their own merits.
2. They Criticize, Nit-Pick, and Judge
So while the narcissist is taking credit for their child’s successes (as long as they can contribute them to their own skills), they will marginalize their kid’s success if they can’t attribute them to their own achievements.
When their child excels at something that they cannot take credit for, the narcissist will criticize, nit-pick, and judge. This is because the narcissist does not want their child to succeed where they have failed – it’s a blow to their perceived image of perfection.
This narcissistic behavior is not just limited to hobbies and activities. Narcissistic parents may try to prevent their children from succeeding financially, academically, and in life in general.
I’ve seen narc parents set their children up for failure in life because they can’t control their own life. For instance, a narcissist may discourage their older child from holding a job because they can’t manage their own work-life and finances.
It’s the age-old adage that people who feel crappy about themselves will put others down to feel better. This is exactly what the narcissistic parent does.
3. They Show Off Their Children
Here’s where narcissism gets complicated – and it’s a complicated disorder. Narcissists will internalize their child’s successes if they can, put them down if they can’t, but turn around and portray an image of being a perfect parent with a perfect child.
This is because narcissists rely on external praise to feel good about themselves. Instead of doing things that actually warrant genuine praise, they will lie about how good of a parent they are and show off their children to others.
Basically, their children are trophies. They aren’t proud of their children’s accomplishments but simply use them as a vehicle to get attention from others.
4. They Manipulate Their Children
Just as the narcissist manipulated you during your relationship, they will manipulate their children as well. Check out this comment I received on the post How to Talk To Your Child About Their Narcissistic Parent:
Not only does this reader’s ex manipulate their child by buying him gifts to keep secrets but also puts him down and criticizes him too. 🙁
When it comes to how narcissists treat their children, as with most narcissistic behaviors, it’s all about control and deflecting guilt. The manipulation helps to control the child while chastising him for crying helps the narcissist not feel bad about their behaviors.
A little side note before we move on: Narcissists are unempathetic but they still understand cause and effect when it comes to emotions. A crying child is a challenge to their behaviors so they will dismiss their kid’s upset to avoid feeling bad about anything.
5. Their Parenting Style is Unpredictable
Do you remember walking on eggshells when you were with the narcissist? Your child is likely going to feel the same since the narcissist’s way of parenting can change at the drop of a hat.
What pisses them off one day may be perfectly okay the next. One moment they are uber-involved in their child’s life and the next they couldn’t care less.
I know that as parents, our parenting styles fluctuate and change depending on things such as our moods and the situation. But, overall, our kiddos know what to expect from us.
But when it comes to their narcissistic parent, it’s a guessing game. This lack of consistency can leave children feeling confused.
How Can You Help Your Children?
As I mentioned above, narcissists aren’t consistent parents – so your child is not going to have any sort of consistency when they are in the narcissist’s care.
However, you can bridge that gap by providing consistency in your own home. Mainly, this has to do with expectations of behavior but can also include routines such as bedtimes, homework, mealtimes, etc.
Kids are smart and will figure out what they can get away with in each household. But over time they will start to implement the consistency you have provided them to other aspects of their lives.
2. Proper Discipline
Again, narcissists don’t parent consistently so what constitutes discipline or inappropriate behavior for them can change from day to day.
In your own home, you have control over determining which behaviors are expected, which are not, and how your child is disciplined when necessary.
Proper discipline, unlike punishment, is more about learning a lesson than inflicting pain or fear. You want to teach your child that their behavior was not acceptable instead of simply telling them or showing them that it wasn’t.
A keystone to proper discipline is expectation and proportion. Make sure your child understands what the consequences of their actions are and that those consequences are in proportion to the offending act.
3. Love and Understanding
Basically, supporting your child means giving them what the narcissist cannot, which is love and understanding.
Yes, being with their other parent is going to suck at times, but you want to make sure you are their safe place to unload their stresses and seek guidance through tough situations.
Maintain an environment of open communication and understanding in your home. Don’t criticize or judge your child’s feelings – instead, validate them and allow them the opportunity to talk about them.
How Do Narcissists Treat Their Children – Not Good
I’m not here to say that all narcissists are absolute evil and monster parents. However, depending on the severity of their narcissistic behaviors, your children can definitely be negatively impacted.
If you’re concerned about how dire the situation is, look at how the narcissist treated you. You can expect them to treat your children to the same degree.
And there’s really nothing you can do to change the narcissist’s behaviors. The more you push them to change, the more conflicting the situation will get.
Instead, control what you can. Provide your child with the support and consistency they won’t get from their narcissistic parent. Yes, they will struggle, but they will always have a safe place and positive role model as they get older.
How do you support your kids while dealing with a narcissistic ex? Leave your advice in the comments below!
And don’t forget to pin!