Today I hosted a Facebook Live addressing questions and answers regarding parenting with a narcissistic ex.
Here’s the video you can watch in all of its unedited, unprofessional, and technically-challenged glory:
(Scroll down for a write-out of the information presented in the video!)
What is Narcissism?
Narcissism is a personality disorder (known as Narcissistic Personality Disorder or NPD) that is often not diagnosed. This is because narcissists, by nature, never view themselves as being wrong or having any deficiencies.
People can have narcissistic personality traits without having NPD. They may portray symptoms of narcissism when they need a boost to their self-esteem or are seeking to get ahead in life, especially at work. Typically, in these situations, their behaviors don’t have a widespread negative effect on the lives of others.
The main symptoms of narcissism include:
- A sense of entitlement: They feel they deserve everything they want in life whether they earned it or not – and they expect it to be delivered to them on a silver platter.
- A need for constant admiration: They will lie about accomplishments or prestige in order to get compliments from other people.
- They expect to be treated as superior to others: They have this ideal image of themselves where they are better than everyone else and expect to be treated as such.
- Unable or unwilling to recognize the needs and feelings of others: They are not capable of empathy and have no regard for how their actions affect other people.
- They use, manipulate, control, and blame people to serve their purpose: People are just objects to them to either get ahead or make themselves feel better.
How Do Narcissists Treat Their Children?
Narcissists will portray an ideal and perfect family life to the world, often displaying themselves as “parent of the year”. However, behind closed doors, they set high expectations on their children and take credit for their success.
Yet, their child is never good enough and they diminish their child’s ego in order to feel better about themselves.
They will also manipulate their children to be dependent on them in order to maintain a sense of control.
How Do Narcissists Parent With You?
Narcissists don’t parent with you, they parent against you. This is known as “counter-parenting”.
They will use the child to control you and make you look “bad”. They do this by emotionally manipulating the child and undermining your parenting choices.
You may not be able to create a “perfect” situation with your narcissistic ex but you can definitely make the situation less difficult.
Since narcissists can’t co-parent (situations where both parents make amicable and respectful decisions in the best interest of the child), you may need to implement parallel parenting.
Parallel parenting, just like parallel lines, means that you parent side-by-side with your ex with as few interactions as possible. This means:
- Completely disengaging from your ex.
- Avoiding conflict through controlled communication.
- Sharing only need-to-know information (preferably in writing).
- Ignoring their ploys to start arguments and fights.
- Being a “gray rock” – making yourself as interesting to your ex as a gray rock.
Narcissists have what is known as a “narcissistic supply”, which is like a bucket they need to fill with attention in order to feel good about themselves. They aren’t picky about the type of attention, either. They’ll take good or bad.
This is why they will constantly try to get reactions from you and push you to argue and make defending statements. The less you give them, the more this supply depletes and they will start seeking it elsewhere.
That doesn’t mean that they will leave you alone forever, but you’ll notice that they are less argumentative and acerbic. This makes parallel parenting much easier and eases the conflict in your and your child’s life.
Parenting With a Narcissist: Questions and Answers
Here are some questions that were asked both in the Facebook Live and throughout other posts about narcissism on the blog:
“How do you prove someone is a narcissist?”
You really don’t. A narcissist would have to seek a diagnosis which they are unlikely to do based on the nature of the disorder.
However, you don’t have to prove someone is a narcissist – you simply have to learn how to deal with them.
“My daughter often says, ‘I don’t love Daddy, he is so mean.’ Any advice on how I should respond to that?”
First of all, don’t agree with her (even if it’s true!). At the same time, you don’t want to convince her otherwise.
It’s important to validate your child’s feelings so they understand that it’s okay to feel the way they feel. Children are not equipped to handle big emotions beyond happy, sad, and mad so these emotions can be confusing and frustrating for them. They are biologically wired to love their parents so when the situation is not congruent with the way they think they should feel, it can be confusing.
You can simply reply, “That’s the way Daddy is” and emphasize how people are different and treat people in different ways. Make sure your child understands that they do not have to accept behavior they don’t like – even from their other parent.
Work on teaching your child about boundaries, how to ignore unwanted comments, and how to vent in healthy and appropriate ways.
“How would parallel parenting work in regards to potty training?”
You can’t enforce your own parenting choices onto a narcissist. Again, they will parent against you for the sake of creating chaos and proving themselves “right”.
Instead, be consistent in your own home and follow the potty training routine that works for you and your child. Children are smart and, while it may take them longer to potty train when both parents are not on the same page, they will figure out what is expected of them at home and what is expected of them with their other parent.
You can send diapers and underwear with your child – just don’t expect your ex to follow through with potty training.
Overall, focus on your own parenting skills and don’t worry about what the other parent is doing (unless they are harming your child).
“When he doesn’t adhere to court orders and the court chooses to let him off every time, how do you navigate that?”
Take up drinking? Seriously, though, don’t – although at times it may seem like you have no other recourse.
The courts are not there to side with either parent – they are there to ensure that the child has equal access to each parent because they believe that’s what is in the best interest of the child.
This may seem unfair at times but the courts recognize that you and your ex are people who make mistakes, so it depends on what exactly he is doing that doesn’t adhere to the court order.
If it’s a matter of being a few minutes late, canceling visitations, and other occurrences that can be considered innocent then the judge isn’t going to do much about it. All in all, the courts want to be involved as minimally as possible to encourage parents to sort their crap out.
However, judges are people too and they can get impatient with certain behaviors. If your ex is blatantly defying the court order, keep taking him to court. Just don’t be nitpicky over every little detail.
“How would you handle a narcissistic ex who is also verbally abusive toward your child? How can I talk to someone who can’t see that his way of parenting is harmful to our son?”
You don’t because talking to your ex about his way of parenting won’t make a difference.
However, if you suspect your child is being abused in any way, you should seek outside help. Get in touch with your family doctor, a therapist, child protective services, and the authorities.
Just remember that, when it comes to emotional and verbal abuse, it’s hard to prove. Even without proof, you should make the calls anyway. Even if CPS or the police can’t do anything outright, they can advise you on how to proceed with the situation.
Do You Have Any Questions?
If you have any questions regarding how to parent with a narcissistic ex, don’t hesitate to reach out!
You can leave a comment here or reach me by these other means:
- Email (email@example.com)
- Facebook (click here)
I’ll get in touch with you and the questions and answers will be posted in this article!