The terms narcissistic, sociopathic, or psychopathic are not being used as a diagnosis. These terms are being used as descriptors for patterns of behaviors that are exhibited by individuals. This blog is not intended to diagnose or treat anyone. This blog is strictly for awareness and educational purposes.
Have you ever wandered if you have a narcissistic parent? Have you always felt like something was wrong in your family dynamic? Let’s discuss the signs of a narcissistic or toxic parent.
Toxic or narcissistic parents all will have at least a few unhealthy personality traits and behaviors in common. Here are seven key behaviors that are typically seen in toxic and narcissistic parenting:
Lack of empathy
Narcissistic people have little to no empathy for everyone but themselves. Narcissistic behavior can be very selfish and inconsiderate to their chosen target at home but they can sometimes show false empathy to others to look superficially like a good person.
When a narcissistic parent lacks empathy, they can act like they are the only person in the world who has gone through anything - even if the issue was a minor inconvenience - and their child’s problems have no worth. The narcissistic parent will invalidate their child by comparing their child’s issue or pain to something extremely irrelevant. The narcissist or toxic parent can write a script to make the child believe they are ungrateful for what they have and then the child will feel guilt and shame for having basic needs and feelings.
A sense of entitlement over their children.
A toxic or narcissistic parent will see their child as their property instead of giving their child the ability to develop their own sense of self and identity. The narcissistic parent always has to be in charge. They will typically see children and people as either fully good and they can do no wrong or fully bad and they can do nothing right. The main reason why someone is fully bad in a narcissist's eyes is because they are typically an individual who has a strong sense of right and wrong, someone who is empathetic, they are the truth teller that calls out the narcissist on their bad behavior, or someone who will not be controlled as they have a strong sense of self.
Sometimes narcissistic parents who are more covert will play the victim because of the "fully bad" person or people in their life. A narcissist has the entitled mindset where they can hurt others and still expect an apology from their victim. Even when their victim has done nothing wrong. The more vulnerable narcissistic types are typically out for revenge and will use their children's past wounds in order to get supply.
They need everything to be perfect
If things are not perfect in a narcissist's eyes, there will be trouble. A narcissist has a deep need to look perfect to the outside world. This is one reason why children are forced into silence and the phrase, “What happens at home, stays at home” is so common in a narcissistic household. The narcissist needs the outside world to view them as perfect, who can do no wrong because they need to hide the way they abuse their children, often their spouse or significant other, and sometimes one or more people from their work or extended family
A narcissistic parent may have a little or a lot of grandiosity, but a narcissist is very insecure about themselves. They often fear that they are not enough so they force perfection on the people in their lives they can control the most, which in turn can make the narcissistic parent seem like the most ideal parent. This makes the child growing up in the narcissistic household unheard by outsiders, as the narcissistic parent has already painted themselves in a very positive light and they can twist the narrative into the child being bad and the narcissistic parent can be seen as a great and unappreciated parent that puts up with a lot.
Excessive need for control
A narcissistic parent has an excessive need for control. For this, they use many different manipulation tactics to create their ideal life for their own selfish desires. With this, a narcissistic parent writes the script to where their children either become the golden child - the child who can do no wrong and often sides with the narcissist for survival, the scapegoat - the child who is blamed for everything, speaks out against injustices and has the biggest target on themselves for the abuse, and the lost child - the lost child is the child that is not praised or blamed, they are forgotten and ignored within the family dynamics.
The roles of golden child, scapegoat, and lost child can be a set position or they can be switched at any time during the abuse. If the family only has two children, the golden child and the scapegoat roles are the typical roles that are filled. If there are more than three children in the family dynamic, it is possible that the narcissistic parent has more than one child in each role. If a single child is being raised by a narcissistic parent, that child may take on both the scapegoat and golden child roles depending on the day.
This is a classic narcissistic abuse tactic. Gaslighting is when someone tries to alter your sense of reality. It is a form of manipulation to force you to not trust yourself and get you to believe your reality is the falsified version being told to you. You begin to believe their lies. We had no other choice but to believe them, as they were our authority figures, our parental role models, they were all we ever knew. They were supposed to love us and care for us, but they chose to alter our reality to fit their narrative.
When you are gaslit, you are often left feeling confused. The victims reality is denied. The victim may have spoken up about something and then they were shut down when the narcissist says, “I never said that. You’re remembering wrong.” Or “It was just a joke. You can never take a joke.” Or the narcissist may insult their victim and say, "you’re crazy", "you’re too sensitive", "too emotional", "you’re a drama Queen", or other negative adjective. This gaslighting that we hear from a narcissistic parent unfortunately embeds itself into our minds and we begin to self gaslight as a result of the continuous emotional abuse.
They are competitive
Narcissistic parents compete with their children. A narcissistic parent - especially mothers to their daughters - will compete with their children in looks. A narcissist can start to feel insecure when their growing child begins to look more mature and like an adult. Looks mean a lot to a narcissist, and if a narcissist is aging, they feel the need to compete with their children’s youth.
A narcissistic parent can also compete with their children by “one upping” them. The narcissistic parent may compare their accomplishments to their child like, “I could already do that when I was younger than you. Why can’t you do it?” Or the narcissistic parent can pit the siblings against one other by comparing their accomplishments.
Pitting children against each other (Triangulation)
Narcissists will triangulate children so that they will have ostracized one child out of the family loop. The narcissist will tell their children lies about one another and cause a division between them. A narcissist cannot stand peace in the family. They want to divide and concur.
When siblings in the narcissistic family dynamic are divided, there is more control from the narcissist. The narcissist can manipulate them by using smear campaigns, which are lies spread about the children to influence and ruin the reputation of the child to someone else, to gain the upper hand. Once the narcissist has the upper hand, the golden child sibling will side with the narcissist, and the scapegoat will be left out. The lack of connection between siblings makes it harder for everyone to discover the toxic dynamic. The narcissist looks like the hero in this case to the golden child, and then the golden child builds hate for the scapegoat.