Education Blog

How to Tell if Your Partner is a Narcissistic Parent and Protect Your Child

September 17, 2021

You never know who your partner or parent will be until you have children. Raising children tends to reveal a person’s personality, allowing both their strengths and weaknesses to shine through. Parents have the option of reacting to their children’s triumph or throwing tantrums. Parents who are narcissistic will always react in a selfish way. Every action their child takes is an expression of who they are as individuals, and these results don’t always prove to be healthy. How can you recognize a narcissistic parent or identify those traits within yourself?

Just Narcissism or a Disorder?

It is important to recognize that parents can have sub-clinical, narcissistic tendencies or NPD. Although the disorder is more common in women than men, it is extremely rare and only affects about 1% of the U.S. populace. While the odds of having NPD in your family are slim, they can still be a part of your family.

William Schroeder is a licensed professional counselor and coowner of Just Mind Counseling. He says that parents with NPD can have trouble adjusting to their children’s needs. He was raised by an NPD parent, and he notes that NPD sufferers often resort to narcissism to cope with their chaotic upbringing. “The end result is an overinflated ego and inability to accept their emotions.” They expect others to take care of them, and they expect to receive what they want.”

Other Narcissistic Parent Traits

Parents who are subclinically narcissistic will moreover have some of the same characteristics as NPD parents. According to Dr. Laurie Hollman (psychoanalyst, author of Are You Living with a Narcissist), one common trait is the inability to distinguish their self-worth and their child’s accomplishments.

Also, Hollman states that such a parent is obsessed with admiration and a large audience who is constantly full of praise to make up for an unconscious and deep sense of inferiority. Even if they have done nothing wrong, that need for praise is still there. “They might vent their anger at family members if they feel any criticism, even minor slights.”

The parent will take over their children’s lives if they are narcissistic. They are a perfectionist, but they often don’t give credit to their children for their accomplishments. This results in a parent who is overbearing and controlling but is also emotionally distant and stingy with positive regards.

How Do Narcissistic Parents Affect Children

It can be difficult to identify a child being raised by a narcissist. According to Aimee Daramus, a clinical psychologist, the inherent behavior of narcissistic parents may mask serious issues their children face.

Daramus states that it can be difficult for outsiders to see the child’s good looks, great grades and well-dressed. The child is then taught that they are not grateful for what they have. However, the truth is that their parents manipulate, spank and abuse them emotionally to make them feel better.

An anxiety-provoking feeling can arise from the dissonance between what children experience and what people perceive. Depression and low self-esteem can be accompanied by anxiety. Sometimes children will follow their parents’ lead and seek validation from others, becoming narcissistic.

William Schroder, however, is aware that bad outcomes can be a result of being raised by a narcissistic parent. There are many paths to this. He says that although there is hope, therapy is required to achieve it. You must develop self-awareness and healthy boundaries. Be mindful of your needs and reflect on how you got there.

Therapy is the best option for parents with narcissistic tendencies. It can be difficult to convince a parent with these tendencies that they need help. The main concern should be the mental health of the child. Parents who feel they are raising their child with a narcissistic spouse should seek professional help. There is hope.

Schroder states, “You cannot fix them, but you can learn how to live a better life.” “And you can make changes in how you interact with them.”