How to avoid being like a narcissistic parent

5 minute read

Narcissistic traits are within us all to some extent, and in healthy doses, it’s actually a positive. But if you’ve been raised by a narcissistic parent, we’re talking one with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder or Antisocial Personality Disorder, you know all about the scars out of control narcissistic traits leave on children all the way through into adulthood and will not want to be anything like them. Equally, for those who haven’t undergone this type of damaging childhood, you also will want to know how not to be like a narcissistic parent.

Many people undergo some form of childhood trauma, some less damaging, while for some it is nothing short of heartbreaking. For those who are familiar with narcissistic parenting, and a scapegoat rather than the golden child, the experience should give the formative understanding as to how to raise children themselves without causing narcissistic scarring. Of course, no one is the perfect parent and you won’t be either, but ensuring you never become that parent is one of the most important things you can do.

Not only will this help you connect more deeply with your child, but it will help you bring out the best of yourself, healing further the scars from your own childhood. So in order to get started with the best intentions possible, or to rescind previous behaviour and turn over a new parental leaf, you might wish to try the following:

Understand Their Individuality

Understand their individuality. It’s important to understand that while your children are an offshoot from your individuality and who you are, they are their own person. You do not identify yourself as a product of your parent solely, even though you know that’s what you are, so don’t expect a child to do the same for you. Give them the space to grow as a person and to enjoy their own life in the ways that make them happy.

Let’s say that they get a swimming certificate at age 12 and are quite proud about it because they have overcome their fear of open bodies of water. You are proud of them. Stick with being proud of them. This isn’t the time to point out that you received your swimming certificate at 7. In fact, there’s never a time for that. Never try to one-up your child. Instead, encourage them to your best ability. Let them know that there’s nothing they can’t achieve if they put their mind to it, but also don’t tell them to do so with a forceful tone. It’s about backing them because this is what they want to do, and letting them know you believe in them.

let your children shine

Your child is a different person to you. Does this mean you shouldn’t parent them and guide them? Of course not. But they will never be you, and sometimes accepting that is the first step to ensuring they develop healthily and begin to build genuine self-confidence.

Living Vicariously Through Your Children

Parents all over the world do this. From cultures that push their children to succeed in highly-achieving STEM positions as a point of pride, to those who decide to push their children into sporting achievements to relive their past glory, to parents who might even take their children to child beauty pageants, there are a million ways of living vicariously through your children.

Of course, you likely care for your children in many ways. You want them to be healthy, strong, able, competent, intelligent, and have success in all the life milestones that come their way.

But living through them as a means to bury your past issues or to relive your glory through them is deeply unhealthy, and they will feel the effects of doing so in a negative fashion.

Love your child, support your child, encourage your child. But never, never, never try to live through your child. Let them have the freedom to live life on their own terms when they come of age, and do not force them down any avenue you feel is best for them.

This is how true health and interest blossoms.

Be Gentle With Their Vulnerabilities

It’s very easy as a parent to worry that vulnerabilities in children may cause challenges for them in life. Narcissistic parents will often be extremely hard, even cruel, about any vulnerabilities because of how they consider these reflect back on them. For the narcissist the perception of being a good parent is actually more important than actually being a good parent which is one of the main reasons why they are relentless about vulnerabilities. This is of course absolutely abhorrent.

Just as you have vulnerabilities, your children will have vulnerabilities. Sometimes this might be something small, such as difficulty understanding a maths or English question at school. Sometimes, it could be something far more serious, like identifying the need for help in coping and getting teen depression treatment to work through anything they might be struggling with.

The first step to helping your children work through problems is to listen to them. Never marginalise their opinion. Encourage their voice. As a loving parent, you want to hear it. If they are struggling, and you disregard them this breaks their trust in you, makes the world feel unsafe, and you teach them that to be vulnerable is shameful rather than part of being human. This is how people grow up damaged and with limited self-belief. Never allow that to happen.

Lead By Example

The best thing a parent can do is lead by example. It’s not exactly the most consistent day when you chastise your teen for trying a cigarette when you smoke in the house all day, everyday. This is a somewhat silly example, but it happens enough to ensure it remains valid.

how to avoid being like a narcissistic parent

The best parenting you can do is guide, and the best guidance you can give is leading by example. Drive safely when they’re in the car. Never badmouth people in front of them. Never encourage a defeatist attitude, or moan about your lot in life. Never show yourself as work-shy, or act in a manipulative manner around them. When you lead by example, you develop a comfortable and confident understanding of how to live with integrity, and will give them the tools to become their healthiest self.

With these tips, you’ll avoid those narcissistic traits that can create a lifetime of hurt, and set your children up to be confident, strong healthy individuals.

4 thoughts

  1. So glad I found your site!!!! I am curious if you have anything on parenting with an ex husband that’s narcissistic?!

    1. Dear Anonymous, there is work in the pipeline which should be published in the coming weeks on this very important issue. Keep your eyes peeled. In the meantime, look after you. Light & love, Maggie x

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