Were you ignored by your parents? Did they pit you against your siblings? Growing up with a narcissistic parent can look many ways, overtly abusive or covertly cruel and invalidating

I always knew my family wasn’t like my friends’ families, and I spent a lifetime comparing and questioning. Why can’t we have holiday dinners together? Why does everyone hate each other? Why don’t we play board games, go to movies or vacations together? Why is everyone always fighting? Why am I always the one to hold the family together? I grew up with two sisters. I am the middle child. I had one crazy mother, a stepfather, and added to the mix was a biological father that left us when I was six.

The confusing part was that there was this illusion that even I didn’t know was a deception. On the surface we seemed to have it all: the perfect home, the summer home and the boats. To the public we were by all means the perfect family living the dream, but the reality was, that isn’t how any of us experienced life.
This was the only life I knew, yet it wasn’t until I began my recovery after an abusive marriage and relationship that I stumbled upon the term “narcissistic personality disorder” that the pieces of the puzzle of my life all started to come together.
I had been raised in a home where my mother was narcissistic, so her behaviors were what I thought were normal behaviors, so much so that I married and dated narcissistic men. This is so common. Victims do not recognize the childhood behaviors as abuse. If you are like me and just thought your family was crazy, you have some learning to do.

Understanding and making peace with your childhood, your parents and quite possibly your siblings will be a long, hard journey, but eventually the healing and peace will be empowering and set you on a different path.

Before we get deeper into the narcissistic parents behaviors, you need to first understand the DSM’s Criteria for any narcissist.

The disorder begins by early adulthood and is indicated by at least five of the following to be medically diagnosed as having Narcissistic Personality Disorder

An exaggerated sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
Believes he/she is “special” and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
Requires excessive admiration
Has a sense of entitlement
Selfishly takes advantage of others to achieve his own ends
Lacks empathy
Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him
Shows arrogant, haughty, patronizing, or contemptuous behaviors or attitudes

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If your mother or father is doing these things you need to evaluate no contact

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TRAITS OF NARCISSISTIC PARENTS – MOTHER OR FATHER

Grandiosity & Superiority
All narcissists feel they are superior and have a false and inflated self-image, but a narcissistic parent flaunts this sense of superiority to their children, creating a kind of competition that is unhealthy and a game that the child will never win.

Narcissistic Parents Lack Empathy For You
When a parent has Narcissistic Personality Disorder their only concern is about taking care of themselves. Having empathy means someone shows care about what you are going through. They might support you verbally or emotionally to get through a tough time. When a parent is unable to show empathy to your concerns, fears, or immediate life issues, it leaves a victim unable to deal with life in many ways. Children need empathy and unconditional love from a parent to thrive; without it they can become uncaring of others and become narcissistic themselves. Or they might go to the opposite end and be people-pleasing and always needing validation to survive. The feelings of the child get dismissed as ‘nothing’ and the child learns quickly to not to have needs or wants.

When Your Narcissistic Mother or Father Neglects You
“Children are to be seen and not heard,” echoed the halls of our house daily. The exception for this was when we had guests, then we were expected to show up and be perfect. It was like a role we were being forced to play. We had to fight for every crumb of attention because in their eyes we were just there to make the parents look good and give them bragging rights to keep up with the Joneses. The rest of our days we were forced back into the box of not being seen or heard. Another way parents can neglect you is to make a young child-parent them and cater to their needs as if you were a slave or employee. When this happens, a child is forced to grow up faster and they learn to ignore their own needs. I understand that my personal example is Heaven compared to many others who have endured a narcissistic parent, especially where neglect meant not getting basic needs like food and clothing met.

Is Your Narcissistic Parent Jealous and Competition
This one hits home for me in so many ways. I watched my mother be jealous when I got married to a man she perceived as a better catch then she had. Her jealousy reared its ugly head in the form of little things like purposely knocking over a priceless piece of art at my in-law’s house to never willing to spend time with us and putting my husband down to try to take him off the pedestal she herself had put him on. My sisters and I were very smart, but my mom never finished school (it’s all our fault because she had us). She devalued everything we all did and made our achievements unimportant. If my sister came home with a 4.0 report card there was always something she could have done to be better and a 4.0 was never enough.

Competition is different for everyone. The need to always win and to have the better things is an unhealthy practice that on the surface looks like they are encouraging you and pushing you to be a better you! The reality is that when forced to compete we created a lifelong competition with everyone because you think that is what you are supposed to do. When you are forced to compete with the love of your spouse or with your parent that is crossing the line. “How dare you let that woman break up our family!” I heard that all the time. Your parent is creating a competitive situation to try to steal the love you feel for your spouse or children. This behavior is heartless and crippling. You can love them all, but the narcissistic parent makes you feel like you have to pick them only.

They Are Spotlight Thieves – They need to be the center of attention
At your own birthday party, wedding or celebration, you should be the center of attention and yet a narcissistic parent will steal the attention from you. As an example, at my own wedding, my mother faked being overheated and faked a faint – just as I was about to walk down the aisle. I had to go back inside while everyone tended to her, then throughout the entire event, she got all of the attention as everyone stopped to make sure she was okay.
If you get an award or had an achievement did, your narcissistic parent shout out that “You got that skill from them and then they might tell a story about their award-winning basketball days.” If the wind was always being taken out of your sail, then your parent was stealing your attention.

PATTERNS YOU LEARNED WITH A NARCISSISTIC PARENT

Our minds were programmed to endure pain, rejection, disapproval, and drama. We must stop the patterns and the cycle of this abuse. Get help for yourself and your children’s future.

Children of narcissistic parents often fear authority figures and they can have a strong startle reflex.

When you have a narcissistic parent their treatment and their behaviors become all that you know. You think this is how people love. Because of this blindness to normalcy, we often marry the same person as our parent, just dressed up in a pretty package, someone that we can save.

Narcissistic parents create conflict in your own marriage and with your children. Expect them to become horrific, jealous in-laws.

It’s easy to get confused when your parent praises you in front of other people because they don’t ever praise you or support your interests. This intermittent reinforcement is another pattern we adopt as normal.

Remember narcissistic parents become grandparents and they turn the kids against you. They buy their love and tell lies about you and your spouse to remain in control of you.

We fear being like them. You may fear you are not good enough; and that your passions were never allowed to bloom. You are good enough and you are loveable. Start by loving yourself enough to do the work, dig deep and break the cycle.

Children of narcissistic parents run a higher risk of becoming a narcissist. These behaviors take over and you get lost. The flip side is we go the other way and become people pleasing, boundaryless codependent that dates or marries another abuser.

We deny our feelings about abandonment, neglect, rejection, and abuse and then we lose the ability to express our feelings. The wounds are scary and the recordings run in your head every day. You can break the patterns by reading and educating yourself, and by getting coaching or therapy.

Because our parents never taught us or modeled boundaries, we didn’t understand that we could say no and not be judged or yelled at. If you do not learn how to set personal limits for yourself, other abusers will come in and take advantage of your lack of boundaries. Those who don’t have set boundaries are the types of people that abusers seek out. It’s time to set your own personal boundaries in order to break the cycle of abuse that children of narcissistic parents often go through. Don’t be afraid to speak up when you’re feeling as though your boundaries are being overstepped, because you are a valuable person and deserve respect.
Rescuing and pleasing your parents became your life patterning, so we attract people with our stories that also can see our lack of boundaries, and they take advantage of you too. Its time to rescue yourself put the oxygen mask on first and start healing. This does not need to define your future, learn to change the story in your head and free yourself.

Signs and behaviors of a narcissistic parent:

If you are doing what they want, then you are loved
These types of parents are all about them. If you do what they say, then they show you that you are loved. If you deviate from what is expected from you, then you can expect them to show you that you are not loved. It’s a reward system of love that is not that far from a dog getting a bone if they roll over; this is not unconditional love. This keeps the child always need to prove their love. This hot and cold mixed message confuses children and makes them get used to this intermittent type of love, and so victims often marry someone that treats them the same way.

A Common Tool of Narcissistic Parents is Sibling Divide
Siblings are often pitted against each other; we call it triangulation. Somewhere in the back of their evil minds, they know that if all the siblings got along they would be stronger together. Together you could stand up to the parent, so they divide siblings to maintain control. Look at your sibling relationships. Were you always having to earn your parents love? Was it a competition?

The Dance of Conversation Avoidance
Narcissistic parents get aggressive and twist things if you are talking about something sensitive that they don’t want to hear. You need to talk about something might not be important to them, so they bow out of real conversations. This leaves the child feeling like nothing they have to say is worth saying because if your own mother or father doesn’t care, who will? As a narcissistic parent age their tolerance for even faking that they care gets less and less that they prefer to talk about neutral topics like the weather. Conversations become eggshell land mines as we try to navigate having an adult conversation with them. Does your parent cut you off as you try to tell a story and make the conversation all about them? When victims see patterns that what you have to say is not important to their own parent, they get the message that they are unimportant.

When Your Parent Plays Childish Games
Narcissistic parents might play the game of “getting even” if they perceive you wronged them or caused them embarrassment. This is called a ‘narcissistic injury’. When you were younger they might have punished you with consequences ranging from no TV to groundings or in severe cases with a smack or beating. Later in life they might have hidden something you loved and added gaslighting to tell you that you lost it. Sometimes they sabotaged your relationships with friends and siblings, telling lies about you to turn them against you. Spreading lies about you gives them supply because it hurts you. Even if they feel wronged they are entitled to do this to you. It’s like a game of revenge with their own children.

Narcissistic Moms and Dads Use Name Calling As A Tool
Another childish tactic to devalue you and keep you small. If you have an insecurity or weakness, they will latch onto it like a mighty sword to cut you over and over, further injuring you and exploiting the weakness. They know exactly how to hurt you, and what names to call you that will trigger you. These names they called us affected us negatively. What names were you called? Were they associated with your weaknesses?

Gaslighting Is A Way To Deny What You Know As Truth
A tactic that almost all narcissists use to make you doubt your own sanity and leave you feeling like the crazy one. Think of Gaslighting as another form of lying, but with a twist. They might move your school books or toys and then blame you for losing them. The blaming you is the part that makes it gaslighting. This type of abuse can lead to self-doubt.
Projection is when they accuse you of something they themselves are doing.

Boundary Busters
Personal space is something that everyone needs to find sanctuary. When you were young and played in your room with your dolls or action figures, your room was your personal space. As you grew up you might not have wanted your parents to invade your space, but they may have gone through all your papers while you were at school, maybe your diary and then they yelled at you for something they read. Did your parent feel entitled to your belongings, clothes, electronics or money? When you tried to set boundaries, like “I don’t want you to go in my room” or “don’t wear my clothes” how did they react? If they got angry or just broke your boundary and went into your stuff you probably felt less safe and powerless.

Ignoring their Own Children
Narcissistic parents ignore their children’s feelings, desires and dreams for their future. If the career or the mate they choose isn’t cleared by them, they will forever be on the naughty list. The difficult part is the other side of life, the in ‘front of other people’ part where you did get attention, you were shown off like a shiny object that confirmed for the world what wonderful parents they were. This gave the child this intermittent love that the child came to believe is how all love is. My mother ignored us unless she needed something, but she also triangulated us with strangers. She proudly called friends daughters ‘her other daughters’, people we never met, that we always felt like we were in competition with for her love.

Does Your Parent Live Life Through their Children
Instead of raising a child to be independent with their own thoughts and needs, the child becomes an extension of the parent. If dad played football or mom was a cheerleader, the children were expected to follow in their footsteps. The child was never given the opportunity to be themselves or feel they had a choice or voice. Children must comply with these guidelines, and this creates unspoken life crushing limitations that most children cannot break free from until they become adults.

Mirror Mirror On The Wall – You Reflect Them
Narcissistic parents use their children to show the world, that they are a good parent. They show off your wins and hide the fact that you have any weaknesses. The child must be perfect, or it reflects on them. This pressure leaves the child that can’t fulfill this expectation as the scapegoat, that way they can call you the black sheep to justify to their friends the behavior they determine will reflect badly on them.

Marginalization
While the narcissistic parent wants the world to think their child is great, the rules are they cannot outshine them. To keep the child in their place narcissistic parents use the tactics of name-calling, put-downs, judgments, nit-picking, criticisms, and comparisons to let the child feel like they are never enough. The child that gets this message usually pushes themselves further with hopes of pleasing the parent, never realizing that they will never measure up to these expectations.

Manipulation Tactics Are Deployed To Keep You Down
We have all heard of the parent’s guilt-trip tactics, like “After everything I have done for you, you can’t do this one thing for me?”. A narcissistic parent pushes the envelope, to intimidate and make the child feel obligated or unlovable – “If you loved me, you would do this”. Blaming the child for ‘their’ failures is also quite common. “Its all your fault I could never get a better car, you always need things, you are so needy.” Shame is a tool that leaves the child feeling like nothing s/he does is ever good enough. “If you get another C on your report card they will kick you out of school and then everyone will know how stupid you are, and that will embarrass me. It that what you want?” Negative comparison to other siblings is another form of shaming, that does two things. First, it creates a shame wound to the child, but it also creates a rivalry that isolates the siblings against each other, losing any sense of family. Verbal abuse and threats are another way a narcissistic parent manipulates a child. “If you don’t clean up your room or get straight A’s you will be punished.” Did you ever have those if you don’t, then… type of verbal abuse? This is control and manipulation with a side of fear, threats, and abandonment.

WHAT DO YOU DO IF YOUR NARCISSISTIC MOTHER OR FATHER SHOWS SIGNS OF THESE BEHAVIORS?

Never tell them you think they are a narcissist
This tactic never ends well. You are dealing with someone with no ability to care about you and are willing to up the game to destroy you, no matter what the cost. This is a secret you will need to keep from them. When a narcissist feels like the game is up, the mask has fallen and you are no longer going to be under their control, then the game changes and they will do everything to hurt you: the lies and the smears will reach epic proportions. Try to avoid this common mistake.

Protect yourself and listen to your intuition
There is no one that can tell you whether to have your parent in your life but you. Ask yourself what types of behaviors you are willing to allow from your mother or father and be honest with yourself to examine if they can keep their end of your guidelines. Your intuition has always been warning you of the dangers; now tap into that and listen to it.

Set better boundaries
The boundaries we tried to set as children didn’t work. To set a proper boundary you need to clearly define what it is that you do not want them to do anymore. Then decide a consequence if they violate it. It is so important to set something that is possible. If you tell them if they violate your boundary again that you will…. Make sure it’s enforceable. Then communicate to them the boundary, because if you don’t tell them and you keep this only in your head then it’s not a boundary, it’s a wish. They need to hear it for it to be a proper boundary. Then, if they violate it again you must be willing to enforce the consequence or they will begin the walking all over you again game. I made a ‘Learn better Boundaries workshop’, check it out!

Often going no contact is your only solution
Narcissists do not like to play by a new set of rules and narcissistic parents that have had a lifetime of using you as a punching bag will not go down without a fight. The game you are playing now (self-healing) will piss them off and they may begin to jack up the pain and smears, in which case evaluate going completely no contact. It may not be easy to never see your sibling again because of family events that you may need to skip if they are there. Understand what the price will be of this choice. Not a day goes by that I don’t wonder about my sisters, but I know I am finally healing because of the drama being gone. If you cannot go completely no contact, then learn Grey Rock techniques to manage the exposure you will have with them going forward. Only when you are free from the narcissistic sibling are you free to heal and release the drama.