The Danger Of Narcissistic Parents And How To Identify Them

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Most parents are probably confident in their ability to identify child abuse if they see it — whether it’s physical, emotional or sexual.

But did you know that children of narcissistic parents often suffer from abuse so subtle, that close friends and family probably wouldn’t even know?

According to Psychology Today, a narcissistic parent “lives through, is possessive of, and/or engages in marginalizing competition” with his/her offspring. Essentially, they see a child’s independence as a threat — even adult children — and coerce the child to exist in the parent’s shadow with unrealistic expectations.

Think you know someone who is a narcissistic parent? Or, are you concerned that you might display some characteristics yourself? Here are a few warning signs to keep in mind:

  1.  Uses his child/lives through his child: Some narcissistic parents set expectations for the fulfillment of their own selfish needs and dreams and not for the benefit of their children. Instead of nurturing a child’s thoughts, emotions and goals, the child simply becomes an extension of the parent’s personal wishes.
  2. Marginalization: Some narcissistic parents feel threatened by their kids’ potential and success, so they might try to redeem their self esteem by putting the child down. The common messages are: “There’s always something wrong with you,” and “You’ll never be good enough.”
  3. Manipulation: Some examples of manipulation by narcissistic parents include: “I’ve done everything for you and you’re so ungrateful.” “You WILL perform at your best to make me proud.” “If you don’t pursue the college major I chose for you, I will cut off my support.”
  4.  Inflexible and touchy: Some narcissistic parents are extremely inflexible when it comes to how they expect their children to behave. Minor details are regulated in regard to their children, and these parents can become upset when there’s any deviation.
  5. Lack of empathy: One of the most common signs of a narcissistic parent is the inability to be aware of a child’s thoughts and feelings, and to validate them as important. Only what the parent thinks and feels matters.

(Read this article from Psychology Today to see the list in its entirety.)

As you can imagine, having a narcissistic parent can have many negative effects on children — both short-term and long-term.

Younger kids learn early on that their every move reflects directly on their parent. They experience anxiety as they attempt to fit this mold in order to please their parent. When children don’t comply with the narcissist’s expectations or try to set goals for their life, they are punished, ignored or avoided. They internalize intense feelings of shame, learning this message from the parent: “You’re only as good as I say you are, and you’ll be loved only if you’re fully compliant with my wishes.”

Adult children of narcissistic parents tend to gravitate toward similar, toxic relationships. They might continue to experience anxiety, depression and low self esteem and have co-dependency issues. Children of narcissistic parents may even go on to have similar relationships with their own children. Unfortunately, narcissistic parents, if allowed, can also be narcissistic grandparents.

Do you display any of these characteristics as a parent?

Do you know someone who can benefit from this information? Pass it on.


  1. Julie Moss

    April 30, 2016 at 6:47 am


  2. Mai Hazem

    May 26, 2016 at 6:57 am

    Like all those parents who put their young girls in beauty pageants

  3. Susanne Frederiksen

    June 13, 2016 at 5:12 am

    This is totally heartbreaking

  4. Trupti Jadhav

    June 13, 2016 at 12:46 pm

    Soemtimes we forget how little our babies are and become unreasonable in trying to discipline them.During our childhood, our parents adjusted to our schedules, these days, we try to make our kids adjust to our busy life! Unfair to them!

  5. Karuna Chitnis

    June 13, 2016 at 3:06 pm

    This is crazy

  6. Abby Saikali Warnaar

    June 13, 2016 at 4:16 pm

    This is so true thanks for letting ppl know. We always need education on parenting always thank you

  7. Chanel Bolden

    June 13, 2016 at 5:37 pm

    Sheri Chapman-Ash

  8. Jasmine Brady

    October 13, 2016 at 12:34 am

    Matthew Brady we both are like this sometimes

  9. Nicole Clements

    October 13, 2016 at 12:37 am

    A very interesting article. scary when you know someone who does exactly that and it has been carried on from generation to generation.

  10. Crystal Brough

    October 13, 2016 at 12:54 am

    Interesting read

  11. Shellie Perkins Unger

    October 13, 2016 at 7:59 am

    Hannah Rimstidt

  12. Ms. Siddiqui

    December 11, 2016 at 6:54 am

    I have seen Narcissist parent, my mother in law is a Narcissist, and unfortunately my husband and his only sister are her victims. And the other 2 Brothers are super kids because they obey whatever she says!
    It’s hard to deal with her.. In the end we r the Bad people and she is innocent

  13. Lisa Davis

    December 14, 2016 at 9:07 am

    My grandsons step mother fits this description to a t but I can’t get authorities to do anything about it.

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