The Narcissistic Parent
A parent's job is to love their child and prepare them for life as an adult. Unfortunately, in many cases involving a narcissistic individual, it is the parent who behaves childishly and immaturely. Narcissists are disastrous as parents. They are not designed to be caretakers and in many instances are simply not capable of it. In order to be a good parent, the child's needs must come first. Narcissists are unable to make this sacrifice. They simply cannot - and more importantly - will not do it. The child's needs and feelings are ignored in favor of the parent's needs and feelings. Narcissistic parents will buy things for themselves while their children go hungry. They will take more than their share of things while their children go without. They will allow houses to go into foreclosure or rent not to be paid, rendering their children homeless out of spite or simple irresponsibility.
For most parents, their children are the first people they think of when considering a course of action. Narcissistic parents often must be reminded that the children will be affected as well. It is as if this never even crosses their minds, and honestly, it probably doesn't. Nothing matters to a narcissist except what they want and how things affect them.
Characteristics of a Narcissistic Parent
Not only are the children's physical or immediate needs ignored, perhaps more importantly, their emotional needs are neglected as well. They are ignored. they are shamed. They are mocked. They are humiliated, lied about, made to seem crazy or to be troublemakers. They are forced to carry the responsibility of the parent's emotions. Children of narcissistic parents are often only noticed or given attention when they do something that affects the narcissistic parent, or when they can be used in some way. Narcissists are users. This is all they know. Their children are no exception to this. They will say terrible, unbelievable things to a child, or drag the child into arguments with the other parent or family members without thinking twice. They do not care at all how much damage this could be doing to the child. They are simply using the child to hurt someone else.
The child is nothing more than a pawn. A weapon. An inanimate object with no feelings, simply there to use. The fact that they are confusing, hurting or upsetting the child not only doesn't matter, it doesn't even register. The sad, disgusting thing about this is that the narcissist will often accuse others of doing this exact thing, proving that they do understand that children can be damaged by such behavior. they just don't care. The child does not matter. he or she is seen as an object, either a weapon or a tool or a trophy. The child is nothing more than a means to an end. The child is used to hurt others or to make the narcissistic parent look good.
Little Johnny's accomplishments aren't important to his narcissistic parent because they mean anything to or about Little Johnny. Little Johnny's accomplishments are important to his narcissistic parent because they make the narcissistic parent look good. Little Johnny's failures aren't important because they mean he's having trouble and needs help. they are important because they are making the narcissistic parent look bad. Little Johnny himself does not matter at all. He is simply an accessory for the narcissist's ego. It's just one more person the narcissist can use.
Narcissistic parents are often extremely abusive. They say horrific things to their children, they may physically or sexually abuse their children. When you see others as objects, their feelings do not matter to you. You don't care if you hurt them. All that matters is what you need them for. A really tragic side effect is that sometimes, both parents become narcissistic due to the influence of one. Then the child is surrounded by abuse on all sides. Many times, even if the other parent is not abusive, they do not do anything to stop the narcissist's abuse. They let the narcissist abuse the children and destroy the peace in the home.
Narcissists also parade their children around, talking about how much they love them and what wonderful parents they fancy themselves to be. We often see this on social media, but people who know the narcissist personally know that their actions don't match up to their words. They are simply projecting an image of what they want other people to believe. When the narcissist feels like being a parent or needs to seem like a good one, the children matter. The rest of the time, they don't matter at all. And sometimes, they can get in the way of the narcissist's plans. This often has tragic consequences. Narcissists believe they own the people in their lives, and when you own something, you can get rid of it if you don't want or need it anymore. This results in children being abandoned or even killed when the narcissist no longer wants them, or when they become too much trouble.
Examples of Narcissistic Parents
Some of you may remember Diane Downs, who shot her children in cold blood and blamed it on some stranger in the road. She did this because she was dating a man who did not want anything to do with a woman who had children. he was married and likely just used the children as an excuse, but she shot them because she felt they were in the way. Diane was diagnosed with Histrionic Personality Disorder, NPD and APD. Based on her hysteria over abandonment, she obviously had Borderline features as well. Her children were often neglected and abused.
Susan Smith was an eerily similar case. She pushed her car into a body of water with her two toddlers in it for the same reason Diane Downs shot her children: she was dating a man who did not want to deal with children. Based on her crime, her history of sexual abuse and her repeated suicide attempts, Susan is clearly a narcissist.
Dr. Debora Green not only poisoned her husband - and nearly killed him - she also set fire to her home and killed two of her children in revenge against her husband. Dr Green has Borderline, Narcissistic and Antisocial Personality Disorders.
Pat Taylor Allanson not only orchestrated the murder of her in-laws by lying and provoking her husband against his own parents and playing them against each other, she also drove her brother to suicide with her continuous attacks and cruelty. She tried to get her husband to kill himself as well, stating they could only be together in death. After her husband was in prison for killing both of his parents in a situation she set up, she took care of his grandparents and poisoned them both. When she was released from prison for that, she worked as a sitter for the elderly, eventually working with a rich couple and poisoning them both as well. Pat did this all for money. Her children took a backseat to her needs - always. It is believed she poisoned her own daughter as well, though her daughter refused to have testing done. Pat was a diagnosed narcissist.
Then there are all the crimes where men kill their children to get back at the mother, or kill their pregnant wife for insurance, or simply to be rid of her, such as with Scott Peterson. David Brown convinced his 14 year old daughter that his young wife was going to kill him. His daughter, Cinnamon, killed her stepmother to protect her father. She went to prison and protected him for years. His reason? He wanted to date his wife's 13 year old sister.
Sadly, sometimes this is not even the worst that can happen. Sometimes the children who survive end up infinitely worse. We can look at serial killer and necrophile Edmund Kemper, whose mother was likely a Borderline Personality and definitely a narcissist. Or serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, whose mother was also likely a Borderline Personality. What about all the people in the prison system? Narcissistic abuse and abandonment often just creates more narcissists.
Narcissistic People as Parents
Narcissistic people are catastrophes as parents. They are cruel, heartless and selfish. If you're dealing with a narcissistic parent, just remember that they cannot control you. You don't have to remain in contact with them if you don't want to. Too many times, people think they have to stay in contact with family members. If they are abusing you, you don't. You don't have to ever stay in contact with someone who hurts you. Many people keep contact with the parent because they are trying desperately to fix the relationship, to create some semblance of a family and maybe get some of the love, validation and approval they've never gotten from the narcissist.
This is probably not ever going to happen. All that will happen is what has always happened: you will be hurt, they will not care. But that's OK. You don't need anything from them. You learned to make it on your own. You made it this far without them and you will be all right. It can be hard to let go of this desire, though.
Take the case of a client with a Borderline Personality Disordered narcissistic mother. She was extremely emotionally volatile and very abusive, very heavy with the guilt and suicidal threats. He'd moved away from home a decade before to escape her and she'd never forgiven him for leaving. It had only that year gotten to where he could call and chat without it turning into a huge blowup. She'd died a few months before, and he was full of guilt because they'd never worked out the past and now it was too late. He lamented that it could have been better and different and all the things people usually feel when someone dies. When told that things realistically couldn't have been better, he seemed surprised and asked what that meant. He was then asked, "What do you think would've happened if you tried to talk to her about these things? What always happened when you tried to do that? Be honest." He replied that she would simply deny everything, blame him, become hysterical and hang up on him. It would be a big fight, as it had always been.
Your narcissistic parent is still who they are, and you're still you. There's nothing you could have done differently. There's no reason to feel guilty. You have to let that go. You will not get what you want from a narcissist because they are not capable of giving it to you. You want a real mother, or a real father. And you know what? You deserve one. You didn't get one, and that's terrible - it really is, but don't let it ruin your life. They have no power over you. They don't define your worth and they cannot hurt you if you don't allow them. They can try, but they cannot succeed if you don't permit it.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.