The Narcissistic Parent – Family Dynamic
The dynamics in a narcissistic household are abundant. Each member of the family has certain expectations to fulfill, to satisfy the needs of the narcissist. In a case where there is only one child, this particular child may have the daunting task of serving several different roles to appease the narcissist.
A narcissistic parent is concerned with how they look in public, both by themselves and as a family unit. To many outsiders, the family may appear to be ideal, and the narcissist will pose as a genuine, caring, and committed loving parent. On the inside of the home, things are very different and can be catastrophic for the children.
High expectations on children to perform exceptionally well create perfectionism and people-pleasing attributes, and minimizes a child into thinking they are not enough because no matter how good they truly are, it will never be good enough for the narcissistic parent.
The narcissistic parent is unable to provide the basics humanities needed by children to develop into confident, considerate, and compassionate individuals. The parent is only concerned with their own needs and is not concerned with the child’s need for nurturing, support, compassion, encouragement, or the expressing and understanding of feelings and emotions. Children want and need love and acceptance to thrive and the narcissistic parent is simply oblivious to these needs, and truly doesn’t care about them.
Children will fight over scraps of attention and approval which leaves children competitive with one another, and unable to share and trust. The child will perceive that love is a limited resource that is earned only through perfect actions.
The Universe In A Narcissistic Family
~ The Narcissist ~
A narcissistic parent uses manipulations and gaslighting to control their world, for which they are very skilled. They truly believe they are the ‘source’ of everything good. If there is anything bad, it will be someone else’s fault.
The narcissist needs ‘supply’ which is like oxygen to them. Supply is basically a reaction from their target, good or bad, they just need the attention and to feel superior.
There are narcissistic parents that go through a specific pattern of love-bombing, devaluing, and discarding over and over with a child. The child feels something like love and is drawn in, the parent then slowly starts to devalue the child with slight comments, and when they want serious control, they will then discard a child and not engage with them. The silent message received by the child is confusion, mistrust, and a belief they are not good enough that will haunt them into adulthood.
~ The Enabler ~
Usually, this is the spouse of the narcissist. This person is of a quiet nature with few demands of their own and whose main function is to support the narcissist. Not having a real backbone to stand up to the narcissist, they really just try to keep the peace.
~ The Golden Child ~
This child is molded in the narcissist’s image and is typically the firstborn child (especially if it is a boy). The golden child often receives special treatment and any slip-ups could be overlooked by the narcissistic parent. They often receive praise, gifts, and adoration. The trouble with this role is in adulthood they begin to see the manipulations but they are in too deep with the narcissist to pull away fearing the wrath that would come. Many turn into narcissists themselves later in life.
~ The Scapegoat ~
This is one of the most difficult positions in the family. The scapegoat is the narcissists dumping ground for their rage and disappointment regardless if it had anything to do with this child or not. This child is often blamed and shamed for anything that goes wrong. This is the child the narcissist feels most threatened by, and they will do whatever it takes to keep this child in their place. Nothing this child does will ever be good enough to satisfy the narcissist, and the child will likely become a people pleaser and carry guilt for not being enough.
~ The Lost Child ~
This child is often overlooked in the family system. They grow up not really knowing who they are or their place in the family, or the world for that matter. They feel shame and inferiority and don’t fit in. The narcissist doesn’t acknowledge them or their existence.
~ The Truth Teller ~
The narcissist fears the Truth Teller. This child can see through the manipulation of the narcissist and the narcissist knows it. Nothing is more fearful to a narcissist than the threat of exposure and so this child is not welcome in the narcissist’s bubble. Usually, they are one of the first to be discarded, and of course, it will be the child’s fault.
It’s incomprehensible how a narcissistic parent will use their children for their own gain and to fulfill their need for superiority and feel no remorse for their actions.
In truth, the narcissist is insecure, self-loathing, unstable, and vulnerable. Narcissists’ children are simply pawns in their grandiose, self-righteous world.
These dynamics are not limited to a narcissistic parent and can be an aunt, uncle, sibling, son, daughter, or in-law. Any narcissist in a family can be extremely destructive.
It is so important for children and adult children of narcissistic parents to find help and support. Every person is deserving to live their best life and victims of narcissistic abuse struggle to find their value and purpose outside the narcissistic personality.
For those that recognize themselves in one of the roles listed, I want you to know that you can find peace, as I did. I was the scapegoat and truthteller.
Another amazing article from Janine!
Janine is a coach, guide, and supporter for those who have chosen to stand up and heal, inspire, love, and unapologetically live their best life.