The term Narcissism originated from Greek mythology. Once a young boy Narcissus fell in love with his own image reflected in a pool of water and sat there eventually dying because of thirst and hunger. It suggests a sense of egotistic admiration of one’s own self and an inflated sense of importance. A narcissistic parent is someone who is possessively and competitively entangled with their children. Children of narcissistic parents have to deal with a lot of image degradation and also suffer from a low self-esteem, as dealing with narcissistic parents becomes tough when the parents consider their own perspective superior to everyone else and seldom loves their children for being themselves.
Research has been conducted by several organizations on narcissistic parents and their effects (ill effects) on their children. These self absorbed parents show off their children like trophies. They have high expectations from their children and are more often than not stern at times when their child is behaving in an aggressive manner. The narcissistic parent, also want their children to make them proud. But only the above traits do not make up for being a narcissist. What differentiates the narcissistic father or the narcissistic mother from others is the weird tendency to deny their children, even as an adult, any sense of independence. The children raised by narcissists are raised in a manner only to serve selfish needs of their parents and not to produce any opinion which might hurt the fragile ego of their parents.
But how can we know whether a parent is narcissistic or not? Are there any signs? While few parents may show few of these traits at some point of time or the other, but a pathologically narcissistic parent tends to immerse themselves in many different personas without even noticing changes in them and also remaining unaware of their actions and implications on others.
Living their life through their child:
Every parent wants their child to succeed in life. It is normal for a parent to have an urge to see their child happy. But a narcissistic parent, does not care about their children’s happiness or what they want. They are more concentrated on fulfilling their selfish needs through their children. In exchange the child forgets to think about themselves and loses rational thinking. Their needs and wants are sidelined and they become a carrier of their parents’ dreams.
There have been numerous examples where the mother dresses up her girl like a Barbie, even though she detests such dresses. The praise the daughter receives boosts the ego of the mother. Daughters of narcissistic mothers often have to bear the brunt of their mother’s selfish motives.
Children of self absorbed parents have a difficult time coping up with their parent’s expectations and ambitions. Some narcissistic parents feel threatened by their children’s potential and talent, as that might come in the way of their own self-esteem. They often make efforts to demean their children just to maintain their superiority. For example, children of narcissists are used to getting a lot of flak for everything they do. Words like: “You are not good enough”, “You are always wrong”, “There are better children than you”, can be often heard from their parents.
Many narcissistic parents have a fake swelled up self perception, with a borderline arrogance about who they are and what their identity is. Mostly, people around them are not treated as human beings, but as mere props to be used for their selfish gain. Some children of narcissistic parents are objectified in the same manner, while others are nurtured into behaving just like their parents and thus they also possess and false sense of superiority over others. This feeling of grandiose, however, is based on shallow, pretentious, egotistical, and material objects, attained at the expense of one’s feeling of humanity, principles.
Narcissistic parents love to show the world how unique they are. They have a tendency of publically strutting their material belongings or achievements, not to mention their connection with the rich and powerful and also their heritage and background. They leave no stones unturned to get flattered and ends up seeking attention in the process. Social media is fantasy land to them where they try to show the world how blessed and happy they are in their life even though the reality is not often so rosy.
Masters in Manipulation:
They are master manipulators. They often blame and shame people in a manner that they start feeling guilty. They are good at guilt tripping by blaming the other person for their loss. They compare their child to someone else to make them feel inferior. These breed of parents also puts unreasonable pressure on their children and often threaten them to cut off their monetary supplies if a particular wish in their bucket list is not fulfilled. A typical behavior in these types of control is that love is given as a restrictive prize, rather than a normal process of parenting. The love children seek is used against them as a reward they will receive only when they have done something to please the parent’s selfish needs.
Narcissistic parents are control freaks. They are stern about their children’s activities, and anything leading to disobeying them may lead to consequences. They are control freaks. They frame the life and path of their child and any deviation may trigger them. They get irritated at short things like their children disobeying them or not doing particularly well in studies or anything that is against the parent’s will. They react violently when they figure out that their child will not work according to them and they cannot pull the strings in their life anymore.
Lack of Empathy:
One of the most well-known indications of a narcissistic parent is the failure to be aware of their children’s, feelings and sentiments, and approve them as real and significant. Just what the parent thinks and feels matters and nothing else. There can be three sorts of outcome from this. Either the child will fight back and go against the parent. They might also run away from the situation, thus abandoning the parent. They can also develop the same narcissistic traits as their parents, as they have already spent a lot of time being like someone else and being just the person their parents want them to be.
Some narcissistic parents expect their children to take care of them for as long as they are alive. They expect their kids to take care of them physically, emotionally and monetarily. Although, this is not a wrong thing to expect but the narcissistic parent generally manipulates the child into making insurmountable sacrifices, with little or no regard to their children’s wishes and needs. Some narcissistic parents may likewise move their children into codependency. Shawn Burn, a Psychology Professor states that : ” one person’s help supports (enables) the other’s underachievement, irresponsibility, immaturity, addiction, procrastination, or poor mental or physical health.”
Since a narcissistic parent believes that the kid will forever abide under the parent's discretion, she or he may turn out to be extremely envious at any indications of the child’s developing maturity and ability to think independently. Any act of separation or individual thinking in case of academics or love life might trigger the narcissistic parents. Whenever a child grows into a dependent being and often when they start to get romantically inclined towards their partners, the narcissist parent might feel undervalued and threatened as they feel they will not be able to control their child anymore. This triggers extreme jealousy in them and more often than not disturbs the mental well being of the child.
In certain circumstances, a narcissistic parent may decide to value their own vexed interest rather than listen to what their child wants or need. They are primarily focused on their goals and self interests and they often leave their child lonely and wanting for attention. The children are often left with someone else or by themselves while the parents fulfill all their wishes and self absorbed interests.