Surviving narcissistic parents is literally all about survival. Narcissistic parents treat their children like extensions of themselves. The child is there entirely for the needs of the parent(s). The child learns to navigate issues, they are never meant to endure.
A childhood being raised by narcissistic parents is far from normal. Narcissistic parents are toxic and selfish to the core. They have no regard for the needs of their children. They have no consideration for the harm they cause.
Everything, is ‘all about the narcissistic parent’.
This article highlights 10 ways narcissistic parents can harm their children.
- The child is never ‘good enough’.
No matter how hard a child tries, they will never be ‘good enough’. This is shown in words and actions modeled. This often leads to a child having poor self-esteem and self-loathing, which continue on into adulthood. The child learns they are only valued for what they do, and not who they are.
- The child’s needs are never a priority.
Only the narcissistic parent’s needs matter. There is always emotional neglect and the children learn their own needs, feeling and emotions, are not a consideration and are not valued. The child is not cherished, encouraged or validated, in any way outside of the parents needs being met. The child is not nurtured, or cherished. The child is often judged, criticized and shown contempt. This can lead to the child having a huge deficit of healthy self-esteem, or self worth.
- The child is expected to take care of the narcissistic parent’s emotional needs.
Narcissistic parents see their children as extensions of themselves. The child is manipulated into continually taking care of the parents’ needs, whilst no regard or consideration is shown for the child’s needs. The child is often expected to perform duties outside of what is healthy behavior.
Parentification abuse – often occurs within a relationship between a narcissistic parent and their child. The child is inappropriately made to meet the emotional and/or physical needs of the parent. Often a child will be made to responsible for caring for siblings, in ways the parent is failing to. Often the child has to listen to adult issues such as financial issues, sexual relationship issues.
The child is forced to be an adult and often not treated as the child they actually are.
- The child’s emotions will be denied, mocked and never validated.
Narcissistic parents bully their children. Sometimes the child of a narcissist will (understandably) feel upset, angry, hurt at times. These emotions may be mocked and even taunting the child can occur. Examples, if the child is sad, the narcissistic parent will mock and state “you are a such a misery to be around”. If the child shows anger or gets upset, the narcissistic parent will e.g. then use cruel labels such as “you are such a drama queen”. The child’s emotions are never valued.
If the child expresses feeling (appropriately) annoyed at the narcissistic parents demands, the parent will immediately employ further abuse and manipulation, to gain back control. This includes guilt tripping, shaming, silent treatment. The child’s appropriate feelings again denied and invalidated.
- Love or affection is always conditional.
The narcissistic parent is unwilling to show genuine love, empathy. There are always conditions the child has to meet, which are always for the benefit of the parent. If the child fails to meet the ‘conditions’ -they will be punished in emotionally abusive ways the narcissistic parent knows will hurt their children. Such as the silent treatment, or cruel words and labels. The child fails to learn any sense of self worth, outside of meeting other people’s needs and demands.
- There is often a ‘golden child’ role & often a ‘scapegoat’ role.
Narcissistic parents often have (unspoken) ‘roles’ their children are given, that are entirely for the unhealthy needs of the parent. These assigned roles, are not ever for the benefit of the children. These roles are emotionally abuse.
The ‘golden child’ is one role, and this child can do no wrong and is there to boost the unhealthy ego of the parent. The golden child is there is flatter the parent, and to feed the shallow image needs of the parents.
The ‘scapegoat’ is the child who is given the role of taking all the blame and shame for the dysfunction within the family. The narcissistic parent needs someone to blame, as this means the parent never has to be accountable for their abusive actions. They willingly project blame and shame onto the scapegoat and the child often develops toxic shame as a result.
- Healthy emotional and physical boundaries do not exist with narcissists.
A narcissistic parent does not comply with normal healthy emotional boundaries required for a child to feel safe. Inappropriate comments about appearance, inappropriate body contact, completely denying the child their needed emotions and feelings. Any beliefs the child expresses that are not compliant with the parents beliefs and needs, are denied and invalidated. The narcissistic parent may also make inappropriate comments to the child’s friends. They may snoop in their child’s diaries. Or make inappropriate and demeaning comments about their child, to other people.
This failure to teach and model healthy boundaries, means the child fails to learn them, and this can often lead to further issues well into adulthood, as the adult survivor then tries to navigate adult life, without many skills required for a healthy life.
- Various methods of emotional abuse are used to maintain control and protect image.
Such as manipulation, gas-lighting, projecting, lying, the silent treatment, comparing to other siblings, mocking, blaming, shaming, coercion and guilt trips etc.
The image of the family is paramount. Nothing negative about the parents, is allowed to be spoken outside of the family. The phrase ‘don’t air your dirty linen in public’ is one the narcissistic parents and dysfunctional family hold very strongly.
- The child grows within a dysfunctional environment of fear and anxiety.
The child is constantly aware their parent is requiring something from them. Hyper-vigilance is developed young, as the child learns to monitor and discern the narcissistic parents moods, actions and body language. The child knows at any point the parent could be annoyed, angry, or emotionally withdraw. When the child does something deemed to be wrong or even just because the narcissistic parent is in a bad mood this is projected onto the child.
The phrase ‘walking on eggshells’, or suffer the wrath of the narcissistic parents abusive reaction, becomes something the child learns to keep themselves as safe as is possible.
- Affection is never appropriate or consistent, so the child never feels consistently loved, or cared for.
Not being shown genuine love is emotional neglect and is emotionally abusive. One of the main needs of any child… love, safety and protection… are often not provided by the narcissistic parent.
For the ‘golden child’, they learn affection is based upon how much they feed the parents ego and image. The golden child is often encouraged to mock and bully their siblings. They are encouraged to feel superior to their siblings.