1) Narcissist Parents Take Ownership of Their Children’s Successes:
The narcissistic parent feels deprived of recognition and lets this unfulfilled need guide their actions. In other words, the goal is personal attention and external recognition
If the child doesn’t live up to these unspoken needs, the parents may react with quite a large emotional scale ranging from contempt, rage, pouting, silence to emotional, psychological, and even physical abuse, at the extreme end.
Basically, there is an unwritten, one-way agreement from parents to child, and when the parents feel that children are reneging on this agreement, they will feel they have been unjustly treated and betrayed. In their mind they have ‘sacrificed’ everything for their children’s successes, remember! However, when the children are successful, the parents tend to take credit for their children’s successes.
For example, if a child is congratulated for an award or recognition, the narcissistic parent might respond with something like, ”He gets his academic ability from me. When I was his age I always had the highest grade in the class.”
Or, ”I spend hours at the hockey arena, get up early every morning to take him to practice, and work extra hours to make sure he always has the best equipment.”
It sounds good, but what they are really saying is, ”I have sacrificed my entire life for my child. They wouldn’t be where they are if it wasn’t for me, therefore, I am the one that really deserves the accolades.”
In some cases, this can even go so far that the parents become envious or jealous of the children’s recognitions and accomplishments. Needless to say, this may cause a lot of confusion since these children are simply pursuing the goals outlined by their parents, yet they receive conflicting emotions when they realize success.
2) Narcissist Parents Struggle with Empathy and Emotional Connection:
The personal needs of these parents are so overwhelming and dominant, that there is little space for the needs of others. This means that they have tremendous difficulty with tuning in to their children’s thoughts and feelings. Their own feelings and unmet needs simply overshadow everything.
Think about it! When you find yourself in emotional turmoil how much are you able to not only feel other people but also satisfy their emotional needs? Not much! According to statistics, narcissist parents were most likely raised by narcissists who were unable to give them the unconditional love they needed. As a result, when these children have children of their own, they tend to perpetuate the cycle because they are constantly focused on their own unmet needs.
3) Narcissists Often Use Emotional Blackmail:
Narcissistic parents can be indulgent and very affectionate as long as children are obedient. However, they might also become angry when faced with disobedience. The showing of love is conditioned on how good the children make the parents feel, and this inconsistency or unpredictability tends to create emotional insecurity and co-dependence. The parent needs the child in order to feel good. And the other way around the child becomes responsible if the parent feels bad. Children become confused by the vacillation between approval and punishment, and these mixed signals may cause feelings of betrayal because the same person who gives them love and stability is also the one who takes it away.
Very unbalanced narcissist parents will often be engaged in criticizing their children and then justifying these actions by saying that they are just trying to help because they ‘know what is best’. They tend to make demeaning comments and might use favoritism or comparison between siblings or friends as a form of manipulation. They will constantly exalt one child and list all their good points with the implication that another child is unworthy or does not measure up.
As adults, children raised by such toxic parents may feel like they have to earn love. That love is dependent on something else, like their achievements. Because of the unstable emotional climate in their childhood, as adults they fear abandonment if they do not perform according to expectations. In order to ensure that they are needed, they often perceive their primary role to be ‘taking care’ of their spouse, partner, parent, friend, or employer.
4) Narcissistic Parents Must Always Be in Control:
Parents with narcissistic personalities exercise controlling behavior by telling their children how they should feel, how they should behave, and what decisions they should make. The result may be that these children never really develop their own interests because they are always being told what their preferences should be. In this way the space for children’s autonomy is very little. As children grow, the natural desire is to pursue the development of their personality, independence, and boundaries.
However, independence is a threat to a narcissist parent because the consequence is that they will not be needed anymore. Remember, children are the source of narcissistic supply or self-esteem. In an attempt to maintain status quo, narcissistic parents might resort to various types of controlling behavior and control mechanisms in order to enforce compliance and prevent autonomy.
Two Possible Scenarios for Children with Unresolved Issues Because of Narcissist Parents:
Sadly, children of narcissists rarely have their own emotional needs met, and if the issue goes unresolved, one of two scenarios typically results: These children develop narcissistic personalities themselves and wind up using their own children as a means of attempting to fulfill their unmet needs, thus perpetuating the cycle.
Many remain the codependent and will actually seek out relationships with narcissists, despite the abuse they may experience. Fortunately some children of narcissistic parents do manage to break the narcissist circle or the dependency pattern and become the creators in their own lives.