Title image. How a Narcissist Treats His Children The Brutal Truth and How to Help Them

Have you ever wondered how a narcissist treats his children? They do not have a normal parent-child relationship with their children. The children are used for narcissistic supply, are given roles to play in the family drama, and are used to make the narcissist look good. The way a narcissist “parents” can cause psychological and emotional damage to the children.

Read on to see examples of narcissistic parenting and learn many ways to help children stay healthy even if they are in regular contact with a narcissist.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Parenting

A narcissistic mother or father puts their own needs above the needs of their children. They place high expectations on their children to achieve and make them look good to the rest of the world. Narcissistic parenting is damaging to a child’s development in many ways.

Family members are placed into certain roles by the narcissist, such as the scapegoat or golden child. They are turned against each other to create an unstable family dynamic. Control is maintained through engineered chaos and weakening of the family unit.

The parent with narcissistic personality disorder has unrealistic expectations of the children. They are to represent the family and must appear perfect and happy to the rest of the world. It is all for show and they are expected to play their part or suffer the consequences.

One of the worst things a child of a narcissist can do is make their parent look bad in some way. Often the children do not even know what will make the parent angry and live a life of walking on eggshells.

Even after a child leaves home they will continue to live in fear of upsetting their narcissistic parent. They will live their lives as if their narcissistic parent watches their every move. The narcissistic parent’s voice plays through their mind no matter how far away they are.

Adult children of narcissists will have to work very hard to become free of their parent once they come out of denial and learn the truth of their situation.

How a Narcissist Treats His Children

Growing up with a narcissistic parent damages a child’s self-esteem. They are emotionally, psychologically, and sometimes even physically abused.

A narcissist sees their children as property. They believe they can use them in whatever way they want. They are careful enough to be perceived as a loving parent publicly so the child is doubted if they dare to speak up.

Narcissistic fathers and mothers do not have empathy and cannot see how they hurt their children. This lack of empathy for others means they will not be able to understand or care how and why they hurt their children.

Photo of children in silhouette reaching their arms up into the sky with the sunset as a background.

The Golden Child, Scapegoat, and Forgotten Child

A narcissist gets supply from both positive and negative situations.

The narcissistic parent loves to be seen as a victim. A child will be cast in the scapegoat role not only to take the blame for things but to elicit pity from others. The narcissist will tell tales of how the scapegoat is a difficult child to raise, how they are failing in some way, and how they don’t show love for their parent.

What isn’t said is how badly this child is treated by the whole family. The child is punished for daring to see the truth even if they don’t speak up about the abuse they suffer.

The narcissist will use any success their child may have to look good to their friends and family. In public, they will praise the child and show how proud they are of them. At home, the child is shown disdain for not being perfect and for any mistake they make.

This child, also known as the golden child, will fall hard from the pedestal the narcissist places them on if they no longer bring the desired attention to their parent. The narcissist will even begin to hate and punish them if they step outside of the role that has been set for them.

The forgotten child is the quiet child who keeps a low profile in the family. They maintain their safety by going along with their narcissist parent. Sometimes they will move into the golden child’s role if that child has fallen from grace. Other times they will take over the scapegoat’s role, especially if the scapegoat has escaped and no longer plays their role.

The Other Parent’s Role in the Family Unit

The other parent is recruited by the narcissist to cater to them and help keep the children in line.

A constant state of chaos and stress is maintained in the home to keep the other parent and children walking on eggshells. This keeps the healthier parent from nurturing the children and creating a strong bond with them.

The narcissist will hurt the children to cause pain and suffering in their partner. There are many ways a narcissist can do this. They are masters at manipulation and using people and situations to get the results they want.

If the other parent gives the children snacks the narcissist will declare that the children are no longer allowed to receive snacks. If the other parent dares to give the children a snack the children will be punished for eating the food given to them or the other parent will be yelled at for giving the children snacks.

Even while in a relationship with the child’s parent the narcissist will counter-parent and teach the children they don’t have to respect their other parent. They do this by being abusive and disrespectful to the other parent in front of the children.

They will go against what the other parent has told the children to do. They will even randomly stop parenting the way they have agreed to so that they can undermine the other parent.

Photo of children's faces in a circle looking down at the camers.

Examples of Abusive Behavior

Snide remarks will be made to the children. If a child objects the narcissist will say it was just a joke and imply the child is too sensitive or serious.

The narcissist will swing from micromanaging the children to ignoring them. The children learn to stay out of sight and hearing of the narcissist if they want to be left in peace. They never know when normal behavior will be seen as a problem or what to expect from the narcissist.

The narcissist keeps the children off balance by being affectionate in between bouts of yelling and lecturing. The children are trauma-bonded to the narcissist which enables more control over their lives.

A narcissist will ask questions as a way to belittle, embarrass, and control their children.

The children learn to give in instead of getting into a power struggle with their parent. Standing up for themselves on an issue is rarely worth the angry reaction they will receive from the narcissist. They are expected to go along with anything the narcissist demands or suffer for their independence.

Comments are used to shame and embarrass, especially in front of others. They will make random statements about a new pimple, the child’s weight gain, or messy hair to keep them from developing normal self-worth.

The children will never measure up to their standards. Nothing is ever good enough for a narcissistic parent.

The narcissist will destroy their belongings in fits of rage. This is done to keep the children under control and afraid to defy them in any way.

They will get rid of their children’s possessions without permission. The child doesn’t own anything without the narcissist parent’s approval.

They will make sure the child they are unhappy with has less than the other children. This can include gifts, clothing, and a less comfortable bed than the other members of the family.

When the narcissistic parent is upset with a child they will turn other family members against them. The other children and/or parent knows they have to go along with the narcissist or their wrath will be turned on them.

They will use a “show of violence” to keep the children in line. A “show of violence” is an action that implies that they can become violent at any moment if the victim is not compliant. Examples would be taking a wide stance to block someone from passing, getting in someone’s personal space, throwing or kicking things, screaming in the child’s face, grabbing them by their clothes, etc. It is anything that stops right before abusive physical contact.

Sadly, some narcissists will also physically abuse their children. The children are most at risk when the narcissist is in a rage or feels like others are slipping out of their control.

The Most Important Thing

The most important thing you can do to help your children is to set a good example of what a healthy person is. You have to pursue your healing so you can be in a healthy relationship with your children and others.

 You must do what you can to help your children develop good self-esteem.

The more you heal the more you will lead your children towards healing and a fulfilling life.

Educating yourself on narcissism and narcissistic abuse can help you heal and help you teach your children how to navigate challenging relationships.

A Child Can Thrive With the Emotional Support of One Good Parent

Ideally, children would have two healthy parents to raise them but that’s not always possible.

Is the cliche that a child only needs one good parent to thrive true? I think so, especially after the healthier parent no longer lives with the parent who is struggling with a personality disorder.

When you make a clear choice to live a peaceful life with your children you show them they can choose peace also. Their tolerance for chaos will be lower which will help them see the truth about people who engineer a chaotic situation.

A group of 7 children in silhouette holding hands and lifting them up towards the sky. Birds fly off into the distance.

Teach Your Children What Healthy Relationships Look Like

When you are teaching your children it is important to use a neutral example and never speak directly of their other parent. Pointing out the other parent’s flaws can make the children feel badly about themselves.

The more exposure your children have to healthy relationships the less likely they will be to emulate the bad examples around them.

We can teach our children the basics of healthy relationships through our interactions with them. When we treat them with respect they will learn that they should be respected.

You can use examples of healthy and unhealthy behavior as you watch TV shows and movies with your kids. You can read and discuss books to help them learn how normal people solve problems with others.

When they have trouble with a friend you can talk through different ways to resolve the problem. You can talk about how what someone said made them feel. It’s also important to talk through things they have done to hurt others and teach them to take responsibility for their actions.

Help Your Children Learn to Set Healthy Boundaries

Your children can set boundaries for themselves and others. The simplest lesson on boundaries is personal space. Depending on the age of your child you can demonstrate or talk about personal space. They can understand how it feels when someone doesn’t respect their need to take up space safely.

Once a child understands personal space it is easy to explain how to ask others to respect their space. They also need to learn the importance of not invading the space of others.

Keep building on boundaries by discussing your personal boundaries such as, how loud noises affect you, how it feels when a stranger stands too close to you, and that you don’t like when people dig through your belongings.

How to Respond to a Narcissist Text From an Aggressive Co-Parent

Emotional Abuse vs. Emotional Support

You can counteract the emotional abuse of a narcissist with emotional support and education.

Teach them how to handle the emotional abuse their narcissistic parent uses against them. You know what your children are up against since you survived it already. You can give them guidelines for each situation they may encounter.

Listen and affirm what your children say. Support them by replying with comments such as, that must have been so difficult, I’m sorry that happened, and lots of hugs and space.

Teach them how to work through anger healthily instead of suppressing it.

Good Self-Esteem

Teaching children how to advocate for themselves helps them keep a strong sense of self-confidence. They might not be able to speak up to their narcissist parent safely but practicing with safe people will help them build the skills they need in life.

One day they may be able to be honest with their toxic parent.

Unconditional Love

The more we show our children unconditional love the more they learn what is not okay and how they should and should not be treated.

Teach them they are worthy of being treated with love and respect, especially by their parents.

Photograph of three children looking at the camera while lying on their stomachs with a book on the floor in front of them.

Self-Care Tip

Children can learn self-care. They need to learn how to recognize when they have been triggered and how to calm themselves. They must know they can ask for help.

Self-regulation is important for kids to learn. We can experiment with different activities to find out what helps our children transition from one home to the other, how to calm down after a tough day, how to safely work out anger, etc.

Some kids need a transitional activity when they go between homes. For younger kids, this can look like stopping by a park on the way home, getting a treat or meal before going home, watching a movie together so they can cuddle with you, lots of hugs, time alone, or crying out their feelings.

Plan for the reactions your kids have to transition time and when they are struggling. It will help you stay calm and present with them if you know what to do.

They can each have their own self-care plan even if it is just something you keep in mind and recognize a need for.

The youngest children can make a self-care plan by drawing pictures of things that make them feel safe and happy. You can also print images for them to color in and then cut and paste onto their plan.

Canva has some templates for self-care plans and checklists that you can help your children customize if you have an account.

Teach Them How to Stay Safe

If your children have to spend time with someone prone to narcissistic rage, has struggled with substance abuse or displayed abusive behavior you you can help them set up a safety plan.

They will have to learn skills as they get older to diffuse a situation so they can stay safe.

It’s important to know they will have to change their behavior to stay safe around the narcissist. This includes going along with things that are said or saying things they don’t mean. Letting your children know you understand can help them feel less conflicted and mitigate some of the emotional damage this can cause.

They need to know when to call 911 for help. You can role-play different scenarios of when you should call for emergency help. Remember, when you role-play do not use the other parent as an example. You always want to use a neutral example when you are teaching your children about helpful and harmful behavior and how to handle it.

Professional Help

Counseling for yourself and your children can help you build a good foundation once you leave a relationship with a narcissist. Learning about yourself and how to heal will protect you from future abusive relationships.

School counselors are available for children and can be a starting point if you cannot take your children to a counselor.

Legal help can be an option to keep your children safe from a narcissistic parent.

Depending on what is happening you may need to ask for help from your child’s doctor, school nurse, or someone else who can legally document the situation.

Good News

The more you learn about narcissistic abuse the more you will be able to help your children. Teaching them how to set strong boundaries and how to protect themselves from their narcissistic parent will armor them against the emotional, psychological, and physical effects of how a narcissist treats his children.

Remember you deserve to live in freedom and peace.

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