We talk about toxic, narcissistic parents all the time but now it’s time to talk about narcissistic grandparents.
This blog is for educational and awareness purposes only. The terms narcissist, sociopath, and psychopath are used as descriptors to identify toxic and harmful personality traits. The said terms are not intended to diagnose anyone with any disorder.
Often people think that since a narcissist has aged, they’ll be more mellow or that they will calm down their toxic behavior and be better with their grandchildren because they might want to make up for all of the wrongs they’ve done to you - but that is not often the case at all.
Not only do a lot of narcissists get worse with age because they don’t have that outward grandiosity anymore because now they have a deflated sense of self because they don’t like their aged appearance, and they’re often even more resentful of the scapegoat in their family because that scapegoat is still young. Society also gives a free pass to older individuals in many cases. “They’re old, they don’t know any better” is a common phrase used along with society being forced to respect the elderly when they offer no respect for anyone themselves. Of course, not all elderly are like this, but the narcissistic ones take advantage of people letting a lot slip past them because they’re “old”
The narcissistic parents scapegoat, in this instance, has children and a better opportunity in life currently. The narcissistic parent is resentful of the fact that the scapegoat has more life to live and opportunities that they didn’t have because of technological advancement, and the world's differences since their youth. The narcissistic parent cannot stand to see the scapegoat ever have a child and be happy.
Let’s talk about 6 ways narcissistic grandparents will try to take control of your children.
1. Manipulating your child into liking them more.
Narcissistic grandparents are notorious for doing absolutely everything that you’ve told them not to do with your child not only will they purposefully and spitefully do all of the things that you say Jimmy can’t do they will also blame you for being an “unreasonable” parent who should let the kid be a kid.
So a quick example of this is Jimmy isn’t allowed to watch R-rated movies at the age of six, but your narcissistic parent, who is their narcissistic grandparent, will allow little Jimmy to watch this rated R movie and little Jimmy will be terrified for weeks just because grandma and/or grandpa wanted to seem like the cool ones who let him do whatever he wants.
The narcissistic grandparents want to manipulate the child into thinking, “Oh grandma and grandpa are so cool they’re so much better than my mother and father.” Then the narcissistic grandparent is going to get the child to be sucked into an illusion that they’re such a good grandparent that can do no wrong. The child is going to have high expectations from the grandparents. They’re going to want to connect with that grandparent more than the parent because the child is going to say “Oh well Grandma is more fun. Grandma will do ___ with me. Grandpa will do ___ with me.”
The narcissistic grandparent will want to have that power over you. It’s like when you’re home and you tell your child that you’re sorry and explain why the child can’t do something because it’s not age-appropriate or that it’s not safe, the child may resort to saying, “Grandma or grandpa let me do it. I’ll just ask them!”
It’s absolutely heartbreaking when your child is siding with your abusers. The child is now brainwashed with the idea that the grandparents are the fun and loving grandparents and you are the poor excuse of a parent. That’s exactly what the narcissistic parent wants. They know that they can hurt you the most when they can take away your child.
If you have more than one child, there is a high chance that one child will become the scapegoat and one will become the golden child. There are situations where both or all children from the scapegoat can become scapegoats or all can become golden children. It depends on the personal situation.
2. Narcissistic Grandparents often use Permissive Parenting for their golden child grandchildren
Narcissistic grandparents will often adopt permissive parenting styles for their golden child grandchildren. The Permissive parenting style is child-driven where the child calls all of the shots. The parents or in this case, grandparents, rarely or never enforce rules or boundaries. The grandparents overindulge the children to “keep the peace” and to keep the child happy to avoid conflict and to keep the child thinking that the narcissistic grandparent is amazing. This is the parenting style where the children always get their way. Bad behavior is not corrected. It is instead accepted and the grandparents adapt to the child’s bad behavior.
Permissive parenting is dangerous in many ways. It sets the child up for entitlement, it teaches the child that they do not have to respect or listen to authority figures or respect anyone’s boundaries or opinions. The narcissistic grandparent feels the need to “spoil” the child to always have the child on their side for triangulation purposes.
3. Narcissistic Grandparents often use authoritarian or Uninvolved parenting for their scapegoated and lost child grandchildren.
For the scapegoated and lost child grandchildren, the narcissistic grandparents are very different. They can use a mixture of both authoritarian and uninvolved parenting styles to try to control, berate, ignore, and often completely ostracize the child from the family system.
Authoritarian parenting is a very strict parenting style that often uses fear-based tactics. This parenting style is often referred to as militaristic. It places extremely high expectations on the child while the narcissist grandparent focuses on obedience, control, and punishment instead of discipline in this parenting style.
Narcissistic grandparents who use this parenting style are about control. They do not feel the need to explain anything to the children and do not allow children to use their voice. Children are to be seen and not heard - unless you’re the golden child in this dynamic. Authoritarian grandparents are not typically nurturing and they punish mistakes. This parenting style uses yelling and corporal punishment for discipline.
Moving forward to uninvited parenting, the lost child and sometimes the scapegoated child will sadly face this form of neglect. Uninvolved parenting is just like it sounds- it is uninvolved and neglectful. The Children’s basic needs are not met in either physical or emotional way. It is also common for both physical and emotional needs to not be met in this parenting style. Children are left to fend for themselves as their grandparents are dismissive or indifferent.
This parenting style clearly has negative effects on children and often makes it hard for those children later on in life. These children are often unsupervised while the golden child gains attention. The Uninvolved parenting style can actually sometimes fall in line with using manipulation tactics like the silent treatment or stonewalling in order to harm the scapegoat or lost child.
Learn more about parenting styles here.
4. They will try to get custody of your child
In some cases, narcissistic grandparents will stop at nothing to ruin their scapegoat's life and that includes trying to take your babies. If a narcissistic parent can’t get what they want out of you, and they feel the need to threaten you with your child to try to manipulate you into doing what they want and they can’t get you to do as they say like you used to, they can resort to calling CPS. The narcissistic parent will have fabricated a story to tell DHS or CPS to make sure that they have a reason to think you’re an unfit parent. The narcissistic parent will work on their smear campaign against you by saying you use substances, you don’t feed your children, or you are an abusive parent.
Most of the time these false claims end up with a visit from a social worker who will soon find out that these lies were spread about you. The situation is terrifying even when nothing happens other than a visit that may leave a stain on your reputation if you have nosey neighbors or live in a small town where everyone knows everyone and everything.
There is the alternative case where you may have a toxic partner and the narcissistic parent knows this. They can use the abuse that you’ve been through from this partner - especially if you have previously reported the abuse - against you to be granted legal custody or kinship custody of your child. Kinship custody is where the state has legal custody of your child while the narcissistic grandparent will have physical custody of your child.
5. They will cry out for “Grandparent’s Rights”
Narcissistic grandparents often cry out and claim that their scapegoated children are alienating their grandchildren from them. They will demand to have their grandparent rights to see their grandchildren, but there is no such thing - at least in the United States.
Grandparents don’t have to be in a child's life. It’s nice to have grandparents and a family system, but that’s only great when it’s healthy. The goal here is to protect your children and if you are low or no contact, you are not denying your parents’ right of being a grandparent. They don’t just get to have that title when they weren’t even a parent to you, intentionally harmed you, and made you suffer for years.
Narcissistic grandparents believe that they are entitled to see their grandchildren. They are mistaken. Keep your stance firm. You have every right to protect yourself and your children.
Children only need at least one healthy and safe parent. Someone who provides love, empathy, physical, emotional, and medical support, guidance, freedom of choice, and safety. Having two healthy parents is great but if you are a single parent, you can break the cycle of toxicity.
6. They Slowly manipulate your child to side with them as an adult.
Narcissistic grandparents can slowly attempt to cause your child to side with them as an adult. This can even result in the child going no contact with the parent based on the smear campaigns and years of manipulation that the now adult child has been subject to by the narcissistic grandparent. It took years and years of programming your child against you for the narcissistic grandparent to become successful at keeping the child aligned with them.
You are not at fault for the narcissistic grandparent’s actions and you can’t change what your child believes about you but you are in charge of how you heal, and how you act. The best thing to do in this situation is to be yourself. Keep moving forward and hopefully, your child will discover the truth on their own. You are not what the narcissistic grandparent said about you. Show your child that the lies spread about you are just that. They are lies. You are doing you’re absolute best to be a healthy person and end the generational curse of trauma.
There is not much to do other than to keep unlearning toxic behaviors that were forced into you, healing from your trauma, and keeping yourself available if there becomes a time your child may want to connect with you. Remember that a narcissist doesn’t just decide to change when they can add the title of “grandparent” to their name. Their toxicity remains.