How to Set Boundaries When Parenting With a Narcissist

April 21, 2022
by Chelsy

How to Set Boundaries When Parenting With a Narcissist

By Chelsy
April 21, 2022

When it comes to parenting with a narcissist, it’s unlikely that you will find yourself in a co-parenting situation.

Co-parenting involves respect and communication, which are two things narcissists usually lack.

Because they lack respect, they will not have any respect for boundaries. When this is the case, how can you establish boundaries while parenting with a narcissist?

The answer is parallel parenting! This parenting method will allow you to minimize conflict and create firm boundaries so that you can reduce the negative impact they have on your life and the life of your child.

Maintaining boundaries was one of the biggest struggles I had when trying to co-parent with my ex. He would constantly ignore my wishes when it came to parenting and continually try to invade my privacy.

When I started to learn about parallel parenting, I was able to establish boundaries and take back control of my life. The best part is that I didn’t need his compliance to have these boundaries.

Our parenting situation is not perfect, but there is far less conflict now than before.

Keep reading to learn more about parallel parenting and how you can establish boundaries using this method of parenting:

What is Parallel Parenting?

Parallel parenting is a way to parent with a narcissistic or toxic ex that limits conflict. It’s not a perfect parenting situation, but it will create a more harmonious environment for your child.

This technique mainly involves limiting interactions with your ex while allowing your child to interact with both parents without being involved in their other parent’s life.

Usually, parallel parenting develops cooperation and communication as both parents transition into a co-parenting situation. However, when it comes to narcissists, this will likely never happen, so parallel parenting may have to remain the norm for parenting your child.

Co-Parenting Versus Parallel Parenting

While eventually co-parenting with your ex is ideal, don’t get your heart set on it happening if your ex is a narcissist.

Co-parenting involves problem-solving together in the child’s best interest by being civil and respectful and using healthy conflict resolution strategies during disagreements.

Unfortunately, a narcissist will not consider their child’s best interest and will instead use your child to get back at you and boost their own sense of self-esteem.

That’s not to say that all narcissists are incapable of co-parenting. If you can work toward a co-parenting situation, that’s great! But you will likely have to start with parallel parenting to establish boundaries.

Parallel Parenting Boundaries

Custody Schedule

One of the first things that need to be figured out when parallel parenting with a narcissist is when your child will see their other parent. Because narcissists can be manipulative and contrary, it’s best to develop a solid plan on paper.

This way, you can establish a boundary by only allowing your child to visit their other parent according to the schedule.

Coming up with a custody schedule is the first step in creating a parallel parenting plan (which we’ll talk about in a bit). Each parent should know exactly when it’s their time to be with the child with an expectation of punctuality and reliability.

It can be hard to sit down with a narcissist and agree on anything, but you need to try. If you can’t, you may have to seek the aid of a mediator or lawyer.

Create a Parenting Plan

Once a custody schedule is established, you can create a parallel parenting plan. Click here to check out my free downloadable parenting plan that you can use.

A parenting plan is not a legal document, but it can help create boundaries and hold your ex accountable. A solid plan includes contingencies such as cancellations and holidays and who will pick up and drop off the child.

You must accept a certain degree of flexibility regarding the parallel parenting plan. Life happens, so you have to expect that your ex may cancel or show up late on occasion.

However, frequent departures from the plan will lead to confusion and conflict, so if your ex continually deviates from the plan, it may be time to get a lawyer or mediator involved.

Get a Court Order

In the end, if you can’t establish a parallel parenting plan that your ex is willing to follow, it may be time to get a lawyer and let the court decide how things are going to go.

While this is an ideal move, it may not always work in your favor. The court may decide to give your ex more time with the child than you are comfortable with – and don’t expect them to punish your ex for being a narcissist.

However, rest assured that the court does have your child’s best interest in mind, even if it doesn’t coincide with your wishes.

The good thing about a court order is that it has to be followed, and refusing to do so will result in consequences. While this applies to you and your ex, it’s more likely that the narcissist will try to find ways to circumvent what is written in the order.

Don’t expect them to end up behind bars, but the court looks at these behaviors unfavorably, and it could affect your ex’s ability to increase access to their child.

Limit Communication

As part of a successful parallel parenting plan, you need to limit your communication with your ex.

But you’re probably wondering how to have no contact and co-parent with a narcissist.

The best way to deal with a narcissist is to cut them out of your life, but you can’t do this when you have a child together. What you can do is limit how you communicate to text or email.

Written forms of communication are helpful, especially if you are going for a court order. It’s hard proof of what your ex has said and how they treat you.

Plus, it helps to hold the narcissist accountable for what they say, whether they like it or not. For example, if you both agree on a visitation schedule and they try to mess it up by claiming certain things were not said, you will have written proof of that agreement.

They can try to argue it, but ultimately, they can’t.

Keep Your Personal Lives Separate

One tactic for establishing parallel parenting boundaries is called “Gray Rock.” This means making yourself as interesting to your ex as a gray rock by not sharing any information about your personal life.

What you do in your free time, how you make money, and even who you are dating is no concern to the narcissist. Unless there are aspects of your personal life that put your child in danger, no court will stipulate that you share this information.

Along with not talking about your life, make sure you block them and their flying monkeys on all of your social media accounts.

Being a gray rock is a two-way street, however. Just as you don’t share personal details about your life, you can’t expect your ex to share any about theirs.

Unless, again, there are aspects of their life that are dangerous to your child. I’ve known parents who had court-ordered stipulations that their children were not to be around their ex’s new partner because that partner was an abusive addict.

Worry About Your Own Parenting

Unfortunately, you cannot control how your ex decides to parent your child. Again, there really isn’t anything you can do unless your child is in danger – no matter how frustrating it is.

What you can do is worry about the way you parent your child. Make sure they receive the love, support, and consistency they will likely not receive from their other parent.

Don’t question your parenting skills, and don’t take your ex’s “advice” to indicate that you are doing a bad job. They will try to undermine your parenting skills however they can, but what they say doesn’t matter again.

As long as you make decisions in your child’s best interest, you are a good parent!


Ignore Toxic Behavior

As hard as it may be, ignoring toxic behavior is one way to establish parallel parenting boundaries.

Narcissists will do whatever they can to seek attention, both negative and positive. They will say things and do things to try and upset you, prompting you to argue and defend yourself.

Remember that nothing your ex says matters! You can’t change the way they perceive you, so there’s no point in wasting your mental energy and getting upset just to try and prove them wrong.

This takes a lot of practice, but whenever your ex says something scathing or means, just ignore it. Don’t respond and find ways to calm yourself.

Eventually, what they say won’t even bother you!

Establish Boundaries Through Parallel Parenting

There you have it! By creating a parallel parenting situation, you can easily establish boundaries with your narcissistic ex to prevent their whackadoo from impacting your life.

It takes some practice, and it’ll never be perfect, but you’ll definitely appreciate dealing with less conflict!

Have you tried parallel parenting? What are some boundaries you find difficult to establish? Share your thoughts in the comments below!



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