The Narcissist and Children

It is hard to cope with a narcissist when you are a mature, well-functioning adult. Pity the children of narcissists as they have an especially difficult burden to bear; they lack the knowledge, power, and resources to deal with their narcissistic parents. They may be cast into the role of Golden Child or Scapegoat, but either way the child of a narcissist never receives that to which all children should be entitled: a parent’s unconditional love.

Narcissistic mothers and fathers tend to be very intrusive in some ways yet entirely neglectful in others. A narcissistic parent may come off as loving and caring because he or she will have an exclusive and possessively close relationship with the children in order to control and manipulate them. The child is considered and treated as an extension of the narcissist. The children are punished if they do not respond appropriately to the parents’ needs. This punishment may include physical abuse, angry outbursts (narcissistic rages), blame, attempts to instill guilt, emotional neglect, and harsh criticism. Whatever form it takes, the purpose of the punishment is to ensure compliance with the parents’ narcissistic needs.

Narcissistic Parent-Child Cycle

The narcissist views children simply as sources of Narcissistic Supply (and are idealized and over-valued) or not sources of Supply (and are valueless, devalued). He does not seek to be loved by his children as he gets all the love that he needs from himself. They are his audience and he wishes to impress them, shock them, threaten them, inspire them, attract their attention or manipulate them.

When a narcissistic parent begets his own children, he or she is likely to go through three phases:

At first, he (she) perceives his offspring as a threat to his Narcissistic Supply, such as the attention of his spouse or mother (now a grandmother). The offspring intrudes on his territory and invades his personal space (Narcissistic Space). The narcissist does his best to belittle them, hurt (even physically) or humiliate them. If these reactions prove ineffective or counterproductive, he may retreat into a period of emotional absence and detachment.

The child is considered the enemy as they are in competition for scarce Narcissistic Supply. Where the expression of aggression or hostility is illegitimate or impossible – the narcissist will stay away emotionally, if not physically. Rather than attack his offspring, he will disconnect, detach emotionally, become cold and uninterested, or redirect anger at his mate.

However, other narcissists see the opportunity in this event. They seek to manipulate their mate by “taking over” and monopolizing the newborn child. They indirectly benefit from the attention directed at the infants. The progeny becomes a vicarious source of Narcissistic Supply and is utilized as a proxy for the narcissist.

For example, by closely identifying with his child, a narcissistic father secures the admiration of the mother (“What a great father he is”). He also assumes the credit for baby’s achievements. This is a process of “annexation and assimilation of the other”, a strategy that the narcissist makes use of in many of his relationships.

In the second phase, the narcissist’s attitude changes as the children grow older; he is able to see their potential to be reliable and satisfactory sources of Narcissistic Supply. His previous enemies have now become promising Supply potentials. He encourages them to idolize him, to adore him, to admire his deeds and capabilities and to learn to blindly trust and obey him.

It is at this stage that the risk of child abuse – from emotional incest up to sexual incest – is heightened.  Molesting or having intercourse with them is as close as the narcissist gets to having sex with himself as he considers them strictly as extensions of himself.

However, as they grow older and mature, they often refuse to continue to be his pawn or puppet. They may hold grudges against him for what he has done to them in the past, and they can now realistically judge his true stature, talents and achievements. In this third phase, the child is perceived as no longer meeting his primary role as a source of Supply. The parent’s emotional reaction is harsh and the true nature of their pathological relationship is exposed. The narcissist reacts to this “breach in the unwritten contract” with aggression, contempt, rage, emotional and psychological abuse, and not infrequently physical abuse. He tries to destroy the “disobedient” child and regain the former, subservient child.

This brings the narcissistic parent full circle back to the first phase. Again, he perceives his sons or daughters as threats, enemies. He devalues them and loses all interest; he becomes emotionally remote, absent and cold, and rejects any effort to communicate with him. He (or she) may sometimes give a reason for this behavior such as life pressures or the preciousness and scarceness of his time.

The narcissist parent rebels either passively-aggressively (refusing to act or by intentionally sabotaging the relationships) or actively (being overly critical, aggressive, verbally and psychologically abusive etc.).

Children of Narcissists and Custody

According to Sam Vaknin, author and expert on narcissism, a parent who has been diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) should be denied custody and be granted only restricted rights of visitation under supervision.

Narcissists view and treat children the same way they do adults. They regard both as sources of Narcissistic Supply, simply instruments for their gratification. They idealize children at first but then devalue them in preference to alternative, more subservient sources. Such treatment is traumatic and can have long-lasting emotional and psychological effects.

Furthermore, the narcissist’s inability to acknowledge or abide by the boundaries set by others puts the child at heightened risk for abuse – verbal, emotional, physical, and sexual. His or her possessiveness and array of negative emotions (aggression, rage, envy, etc.) hinder their ability to act as an adequate parent. Their inclination toward reckless behavior, substance abuse, and sexual deviance endangers the child’s welfare.


Narcissists view children simply in terms of unlimited sources of Narcissistic Supply. Young children will unconditionally admire the narcissistic parent and yield to every wish and every command. A narcissistic parent will regard all other aspects of child-rearing as repulsive: the noises, the smells, the invasion of narcissistic space, the nuisances, the long term commitment and, above all, the diversion of attention and admiration away from the narcissist. Furthermore, the narcissist will envy his own successful child as he would any other competitor for admiration and attention. As the child matures, the narcissistic parent will devalue his or her children causing significant harm emotionally and sometimes physically. The narcissistic parent-child relationship is pathological and follows the same pattern as all of the narcissist’s relationships—first they idealize the person/child and then they cruelly devalue and abandon them (emotionally, if not physically).


  • You paint vivid images of the narcissist as well as the devastating effects inflicted on those who interact with narcissists. Thank you for your hard work and helpful information.

  • Beste Alexander, wat zou ik graaaag es met jou praten.. Ik maak me grote zorgen om een kind die bij narcistische ouder leeft…
    Kan ik jou persoonlijk bereiken ??

    vriendelijke groet, J.L.

  • My mother-my x-my roomate-and mayber 2 best friend from the past-I now see why I chose them-they date back to the original-my mother-in many ways you have described her to the T-In coming home for the holidays-I NOW SEE…….WHY! and the lights came on and alllllll the angels sang WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH-LAAAAAAAAAA! and everybody said-Ah-men and PTL!

  • Thank you for your blog. You’ve just described my childhood, except that my mother has continued this abuse into my adulthood. She has stalked me, chased me out of jobs, forced herself into my home and has come between me and every man I have ever loved. She has called me every name in the book, physically attacked me on several occassions and continues to threaten me with violence for not obeying her. She won’t stop isolating me from family, including my father and anyone close to me, until she gets her hands on all of my stuff and I’m dead. She’s even talked me into slitting my wrists to make up for being a disobedient and ungrateful daughter. I’ve had two restraining orders on her. Nothing stops her, except her not knowing where I live and work. It’s amazing how many people continue to support our mother/daughter relationship, or healing our relationship, simply because she is my mom. Or, make light of it, because she is my mom and is not well. The mental abuse, physical abuse, even sexual abuse that I’ve suffered from her, don’t compare to the isolation she’s caused in my life. She’s a master manipulator and it’s as if she wants to be the only person there left standing for me, so she can draw me back in and finish me off. It’s as if she won’t rest till I’m six feet under and up in heaven with my sister, who she managed to get to self destruct. To her, we are reminders of a failed marriage to a powerful man, who gave her access to a powerful life. When that ultimately failed, she lost all interest in being a mother to two little girls who obviously needed parents. She found new ways to get revenge on him, through torturing and destroying his daughters. One’s dead. One more to go…

    • I hope you’re okay…. You should stay strong for you! You can change things! Good luck – feel empowered to live and prove you are not a product of your so called mothers actions!

    • I am so sorry that this happened to you. A book called “Mean Mothers” may help you. It addresses the issue of how people expect a close Mother/Daughter relationship and how an abusive mother does not fit that narrative.

    • I am 63 now, the youngest of 4, my Eldest brother followed my mothers footsteps in abuse, my youngest brother found finally love in his 60ties & my sister has found a live with her daughter & 3 grandchildren. I left when I was 16 and have been for many years through several types of counseling. I have 3 healthy happy boys ranging from 44 to 21. What I want to say there is hope. NEVER EVER GIVE UP!!, I owe a lot to a Psychodrama teacher who in a weekend session with a group of 30 separated me from the believe that my mother would ever change. by simply putting one person(representing my mother) on a chair and telling all the others to form a wall around that person. He directed me to break through the wall with all my might and whatever I had in me. I couldn’t and had to come to the conclusion that it was never going to happen, that she had chosen her road & I was choosing mine. Up till today it has given me strenght & I have been able to forgive her and to get on with my life. She has a place in my life but she has no power over me in any form. I wish you lots of strength & hope that you find the right type of counselling for U. There is so much more these days. Narcissistic mother’s have got an incredible invasive power, but we can get rid of it. Just don’t give up. Ange

    • you are an amazing person, a survivor. I share the same pain, similar background. I am now no contact. She doesn’t know where I live or work. The price personally paid has been in terms of loss of my father, brother, niece and nephew. I do keep in touch with my mother,s sister who she has nothing to do with. It has been liberating and I feel relieved I have left the vicious cycle of narcissistic rage verses abandonment with the phone slamming down and no talking till the next lot of verbal and emotional abuse. The accusations, raw anger and total disregard of healthy boundaries and respect in an adult relationship are always there. She will never change. Set boundaries, she will be very angry and hit back escalating her rages. Don’t give in. Put yourself first. You deserve a life. You dont need anyone’s approval or disapproval. As my aunt said recently, we have missed out on a lot of love. True, but we must learn to love ourselves and focus on our own worth and value. You are strong, you are beautiful, resilient, intelligent and you deserve your own wonderful life free from the oppression and abuse. Trust yourself. Xxx

    • Hey…dont give away your power…why are you anywhere near her? You can report everything she has done…and if your sister killed herself due to your mothers malicious harrassment emotional psychological sexual abuse her counselor should have reported this to authorities. Also, if you have restraining orders im wondering why you havent called the police to arrest her for violating the judges courts orders. That is contempt and a felony. Also, she is a pimple on the ass of mankind..honey karma may be a patient bitch but shes not forgetful..Do you work.? Do you have a friend or relative in another state or country? Im wondering why she has so much control still if you have sought counseling especially a counselor well seasoned in helping those surviving a narc parent. I know it well having been slandered humiliated and gossiped about abandoned shamed betrayed broken molested beaten blood blistered skin cut skin busted open lips cracked front teeth bruised neck arms legs ass my head my gosh ive been lied about lied to and abandoned so many times ive been kept in isolation hungry and cold. Ive been put down and kept from everything i love and one by one my biological parent has picked off every single person i thought loved you said no one thinks to question her smear campaign after all shes my mother and no mother could ever make up lies to destroy her own child….if they only knew…she has turned my father rest his soul, my husbands my chikdren my cousins against me…anyone who ever left me anything she has stolen from me..she tricked me into paying her 96,000 for my godparents home she was selling to me even though they wanted to leave me 40,000 plus the house she gave me 1500 total and i paid 96,000 when suddenly she laughed and said i never got a dime from you nor did i ever say i was willing to sell you this house..even though sge has a house of her own and i am the only dad had three kids before me 1st marriage. So she told everyone the house i have paid into still pay for everything but my mother told me my cousin is going yo be in charge of the will and upon her death the house i live in with my 14 year old daughter is to be sold immediately and the money dispersed to a list of 50 people she has promised she would leave them something. You would think i was a horrible person..but truly all ive ever wanted was a mom a nice mom who loved me not just said the words with the actions of hate and loathing. You know she isnt important to me anymore and it kills me to say that but she doesnt matter and it took me 53 years to get here..dhe is an evil horrible mean cruel backstabber who is greedy and self serving all day every day.i could tell you stories well i think you get me..i get you..if you could talk to that abused little girl i want you to talk to her write her a letter save her from herself..if you could shower her witg love and encouragement please do so and then read it to yourself in the mirror..hug yourself tell yourself you matter because you do..i dont even know you but you matter to me i am super busy but refused to let your letter go without my supportive love and strength i send you cleansing pure calm fresh air a new beginning and new hope..find out who you are and whst you like. If you are afraid of her entering your home 5150 her based on your truths..tell them she keeps trying to kill you but first says she will sexually abuse you if she has left you notes put that date on there and have her committed. She is a criminal a violent criminal with a history of violating the law and contempt sex crimes against a child attempted murder harrassment as to intentionally cause duress mental verbal psychological physical zbuse falls under domestic violence also pedophilia. And threats to murder you cause you great bodily harm is considered a serious felony report it she will be incarcerated also thry will get a taste of her bullshit and hold her in mebtally ill ward criminally insane which is exactky what your biological mother is..hope this helps dont ever feel bad about loving yourself protecting yourself.go talk to that abused child you once were go write and tell her every day how you will love and protect holding your hand and saying good job brave girl..well done.
      Sincerely Scout

    • I’m so sorry. But you’re so right. That’s where the behavior seems to ultimately go – to killing everyone. It just gets worse and worse and worse. I’m so sorry about your sister. My mother – killed my father’s mother. I should have completely cut off all contact when I became informed of that. She drove my father and my sister completely crazy, and nearly murdered my father too. She just became so dangerous. And finally – she was murdered. Stay away from your mother. I don’t know if I’m ever going to recover from her abuse, and it turns out my father and sister, who are much worse off than I am in the insanity department – but I think they were also trying to hurt me, and may have caused my mother’s behavior to just become rapidly worse and worse on purpose. My whole family became totally crazy and extremely dangerous, and I can’t trust anyone now. Don’t listen to everyone you meet who says you have to maintain your relationship with her because she’s your mother. Don’t do it. Just escape, especially since your sister died. Your life is in real danger. Most people are just completely clueless, and they tell me the same thing, even if they are professional counselors. And if your mother doesn’t kill you, she will at the minimum do her absolute best to control you psychologically in any manner she can think of. At least, that was my mother’s goal. It was a thrill for her to actually drive me insane. She also became adept at causing me to become physically disabled simply by screaming at me like a banshee. The stress actually caused mild paralysis in my toes, which is improving but still has not completely healed. This was a thrill for my mother, and this type of behavior became much much worse. She loved to stress me out as often and as harshly as should could possibly achieve. I kind of am relieved that she is dead, and I know almost everyone else she knew feels the same way. Run run run away from your mother and do your best to forget the awful memories and the random thoughts that she may have planted in your mind that return at least daily. That is not an easy task, and I don’t know if I will ever succeed at it, because all she wanted was to be constantly the center of attention and worked nonstop to achieve that and used any and every method she could dream of almost constantly, many of which were extremely unpleasant to say the least. And remember too – that the other members of your family, although they may not seem as bad as your mother – and may even appear to be the exact opposite and someone you can trust completely – may actually be your enemies. Keep that in mind, and be very careful. Your mother didn’t develop her personality and behaviors in complete isolation and the other people involved had something to do with how she eventually turned out. My own father, especially – hid his true nature extremely well. He sabotaged my mother and me by being unbelievably two-faced – because he had a lot to gain financially. I don’t really know how to cope, but I find that I am much better off, now that my mother is dead and my dad and sister choose to have nothing to do with me anymore, because they were involved in my mother’s murder and trying to take everything she owned while leaving me with absolutely nothing. We’ll see how that turns out. But I think I’m lucky to be alive regardless, and so are you.

  • This was/ is my father. He was a dad when I was a child. Then one day everything changed. He withdrew and became cold, nasty and critical. He was also violent, demeaning and a bully. My heart rages when I thnk of myself as a vulnerable child wanting my father’s attention. Only to have him turn coldly away. He used to call me weak and chicken. He was the weakling. He was the most cowardly person I have ever met. He chose to hide and run away from an eleven year old girl. He did not have the guts to stand up to my abusive mother. He was a pussy.

  • Just realising something about my siblings and how they are behaving to my elderly father.Thought at first they were after his money,but they didn’t try to realise maximum value for an asset.They just wanted rid of it.Leaving aside money as a motivation,it has dawned on me that they are punishing my father.They have removed him,he has dementia, from his much loved home,to the totally unfamiliar enviroment of his son’s house,where, mostly wheelchair bound,they have complete control over him.
    There are at least two components.There is [control]punishment and control where control might be a form of punishment.The siblings are acting in unison and very coherently.
    The other thing is that they are making out that they care for him.There is no need for violent emotion or action.They have deprived him of the thing he loves and loved the most.Does it get better than that?And they can pretend that they love him/care for him because they know 24/7 he doesn’t have what he loves,that they are keeping him from what he loves most in the world,which has the deepest well of his most cherished memories.

  • Thank you so much for your helpful article it has helped me enormously.

    I grew up separated from my father and is interactions with me were few and confusing. At the age of 43 I decided to contact him and ask him for a meeting so that we could catch up and expressed the desire to meet his wife and 2 daughters (aged 18 and 22). And also for him to meet his grandsons (aged 5 and 7). I explained in my letter to him that life was good for me and I had a wonderful family, friends, career and home. I was thinking that as a father he would be pleased to hear this.

    When I spoke to him on the phone as he didn’t call me as he agreed to he was really angry and explained he was so busy that he was never going to call that weekend and didn’t remember making that commitment.

    He eventually wrote to me last week and explained he thought it was best we didn’t meet. The reason being he was extremely close to his wife and daughters but as he was so busy never managed to spend as much time with him as he would like. His letter was emotionally cold, lacking in empathy and has shocked the friends I have shown it to.

    He has reacted in exactly the way you describe in the 3rd phase.

    I am thinking of writing back so that I can get closure. I am not sure if it is worth it and should just consider it a lucky escape.

    I cannot understand how he can just reject me and treat me a though I don’t exist. His letter actually says he has 2 lovely daughters, when he in fact has 3.

    I have worked extremely hard and could be a daughter to be proud of. I have a degree, PhD and a god job. Last year I was made a fellow of the royal society of chemistry. My friends describe me as funny, kind and honest.

    Any advice on how to go forward and heal the hurt would be gratefully received.

    • He is not worth your concern. Sad to say but it is absolutely true.

      Pls watch Sam Varkin’s you tube short lectures.

      A narcissist… Is a narcissist…,is a narcissist.

      If you did connect with him he would most likely find a way to get “supply” from you thru the years. You don’t need that horrid experience.

      You are gracious, kind & intelligent.
      And yes, someone to be proud of.
      Be proud of you!

      Forget him, nothing you will ever try to do
      can fix or heal a narcissist.

      They have an empty spot where the “feeling widget ” was supposed to get inserted.

      Count yourself blessed that you did not grow up with him.

    • Please don’t write back, when he says he has two lovely daughters he doesn’t actually mean it.he only says it because it will gain him the reaction in you that he wants. He wants you to want him. Its all just a game to him. He doesn’t have any kind of emotional feelings for you or anyone else. He only feels love for himself and even then its in constant turmoil with self loathing and low self esteem. He is damaged and no amount of you writing letters or even talking to him will change it. That fact that you have done so well for yourself will not make him proud only jealous because narcissists are not successful in anything they do. They never ever see anything through to end ever!!!! Your success will only make him angry or hell use it to fees his needs by parading you around and them once hes had all he’ll get from people congratulating him about you he’ll drop you and move on. I would call it a lucky escape and count your blessings you never had a proper relationship with him. These people are toxic and incredibly dangerous. Goodluck. Xx

  • This is my husband. He feels that our children take all of my attention away from him. He resents them for this.(he has told me this). He spends his time at home either sleeping or making himself unavailable – hiding downstairs away from us. He is cold toward them, never has time for them. Boasts himself as a great provider (which he is), so why should it be wrong of him to never interact with his kids? His attitude toward the situation.

  • After you are raised by a narcissist, your life is in ruins, and the law of attraction kicks in, and that personality is all you attract until you work it out, and that takes a lifetime, your’e lucky if you can make the sucker float, other than that have a nice day!

    • I once moved away for 5 years to go to school, it was like stepping outside the box and seeing just how screwed up my relationship with my father was. Though I wasn’t able to connect the dots to narcissism at that time, it really changed my perspective on life and gave me the strength to start on the long road to recovery and personal strength. Nothing heals like time and space away from a narcissist…

  • Reading through these comments following the main article, I am shocked to see just how many people are suffering as the victims of narcissists. Natalia, in particular… The situation you describe fits my life pretty much to a tee, except that the narcissistic parent in my family is my FATHER, not mother. Otherwise, I can identify with almost everything you describe.
    What I struggle to understand is why, in this day and age, so few people are able to spot narcissists, recognise them for what they are, and recognise the damage that they do. WHY, oh WHY, do so many people seem to fall for them, and believe them? WHY, in particular, is it that victims of narcissists are so often overlooked or disbelieved?
    I do have some theories as to the above. These come from personal experience…
    In MY case, I was raised in what looked from the outside to be a “perfect” 2 parent family. That’s how BOTH parents wanted it to look – “perfect”! They worked hard to maintain the impression that they had this “great” family. In reality, my MOTHER has Bi-Polar disorder. She tried sometimes to be a good mother, but her illness often left her tired and debilitated, and she had the customary mood swings that accompany Bi-Polar. Still, I can at least understand HER behaviour…
    My father is a person whom I find hard to fathom – I would say I know him only about as well as the average stranger. He is cold, arrogant, aloof, distant and devious. Selfish does not begin to describe his nature. He is an absolute “workaholic”; being self-employed he would probably argue that he needs to devote time to his business. However, his work took over from family time; it took over our home. Every room was his “office”. He did not play with me, interact with me, or spend time talking to me. He was always too busy. He appeared to see his parental role as being “breadwinner” and nothing else. Emotionally and physically he was utterly unavailable. But, he would still tell me (and other people too) that he “gave me everything” and that I was “spoiled” or “indulged”. How is a child who is never even hugged or kissed by her own father “indulged”? I never even knew if he really cared about me!
    I grew up feeling that I had to “jump through hoops” to get attention and any show of affection. My parents obsessed about school and high grades; but if I got high grades, I never got rewarded or praised. I had hobbies as a little (pre-school) kid, but as I got older I was told there was no money any more for them, and anyway, I was to be focussed on school. My parents dictated what I wore and what I did. We were NOT a hands-on, touchy-feely sort of family – no open shows of affection, hugs, kisses. My father, especially, never held hands or used words like love or care.
    Whereas my mother seemed at least to remain somewhat interested in me, my father’s interest appeared short-lived. I recall that from my reaching @ 8 years of age, he spent little if any time with me. He took no interest in me, and it felt like he’d withdrawn from my life. The only time he re-entered my life was to be malicious.
    As I grew up, he got more critical. As a teenager, I went through a somewhat rebellious stage, and dressed in black jeans and Doc Martens. My parents HATED this – especially my father. My rebellion was prompted by my parents’ (mainly father’s) attitude and behaviour. Excessive fuss about school grades (even though I was already a high achiever); barking rules and orders. My father always believed he was right, and knew best. He told you to do things, and you were NOT supposed to question or answer back. Very much like the army, I think! He was vindictive and deliberately cruel. He told me that my favourite subject at school (English Literature) which I was passionate about, and got my best grade (an A) in, was “piss assed”, “arty farty” and “wouldn’t lead to a proper job”. WHAT kind of parent denigrates their own child?
    When I achieved anything successful, I never got acknowledged or praised. If anything, achievement simply lead to the setting of higher goals. My father would deliberately try to sabotage my achievement at school – he NEVER helped with homework, and often when I was trying to complete my homework, he would deliberately turn the radio up very loud to distract me. If I asked to turn it down, he’d refuse, pointing out that I was “in HIS house”; if I argued back, we’d end up in an almighty row.
    Despite the fact that I got good grades at school, and attended University (I now have 2 Degrees and am undertaking Postgraduate qualifications), my father treats me like I am stupid and worthless. He appears incapable of acknowledging my talents and abilities to the point that I question them myself. This, I cannot understand, as it was HIM who wanted me to get good grades and attend University! Now that I have done it, it’s somehow not good! I am accused of being “stuck up”. My father treats postgraduate study as though it’s pretentious, or unnecessary, and keeps asking when I’ll get “a proper job”. This is despite the fact that I worked for a number of years as a Social Worker, and when I had that job he kept telling me it was “dirty”! Furthermore, he was clearly unable to keep his disapproval to himself, and instead spread this nasty gossip round the extended family. I know this because at a recent family gathering, I was asked by a cousin on my father’s side of the family how I could work with offenders (as a Social Worker, I’d worked in Forensics). The whole family seemed to treat my job like it was shameful, and this reflected my father’s attitude.
    Throughout my life, I’ve grown up feeling sidelined, overlooked, dismissed. I have been ordered about, and shouted at. I have been hit and kicked. I have had my father make me promises, and then break them. My father has criticised what I loved and was good at in school. He has disapproved of my choice of clothing. He has sabotaged my career, and openly voiced disgust at my choice of employment. He has attempted to ruin every relationship I have had (he called my ex-boyfriend of 4 years a “playboy”, and when I moved in with the man I am now married to, said “don’t expect to be happy with him, and if you’re not then don’t come running to me”). WHAT kind of parent does not want happiness and success for their own child?
    I have had malicious gossip spread about me – and I know the source! My father has many rules, which he defends aggressively and applies rigidly. One of these is that I am NEVER allowed to ask him about the past, or my upbringing. I wonder why?!! However, HE can bring up things from the past whenever he likes, and use them to chastise me. Talk about hypocrisy. If I attempt to talk about past events, he shouts, gets angry and aggressive, and intimidates me. But, HE can dredge up things from the past whenever he likes!
    He also has terrible double-standards. An example of this is that I have a younger brother (whom my father favouritizes). My brother dropped out of University. Curiously, my father does not comment on this. However, whenever he criticizes me for doing postgraduate study, if I attempt to point out that my brother dropped out of University, my father will try to change the subject, or say “that’s a different matter”. He also used to let my brother stay out late at night, though I wasn’t allowed to. And, despite my father’s hatred of MY clothing as a teenager, he allowed my brother to grow his hair long and to wear Doc Martens and ripped jeans. My brother NEVER came in for the criticism that I got!
    Another example of the double-standards (and of deliberate nastiness) is that when I got married, I was afraid to ask my parents from much assistance. I had a small wedding, and did everything possible to keep the costs down. No top hats and tails for me; no fancy car; no huge layer cake; no enormous, frothy, sparkly dress and veil and tiara. My dress was an off-the-peg evening gown from Debenhams (cost less than £100). I drove in my own car to and from the wedding venue. My husband and I paid for the flowers, the photographer, his suit, my hair and makeup (which I did myself), table decorations and cake (which my mother-in-law made). My mother helped pay for my dress, and my father for the venue. In total, my wedding cost less than some brides’ DRESSES cost! On the day, I was ill with a chest infection. I also felt unhappy, and cheapened – as though my wedding reflected what my parents felt I was worth. ALL my female cousins, and many aunts too, had been given ENORMOUS weddings with top hats, huge dresses, flash cars, hundreds of guests, big cakes… THEY had ALL the trimmings, and nobody objected. Instead, I had to be made to keep things as cheap as possible. My own parents told me I was “not a wedding dress type of person”! When I’ve since pointed out I might have liked a different type of wedding with all the trimmings, my father has accused me of being “spoiled”. HOW is a woman who kept her wedding inexpensive, and paid for much of it herself, “spoiled”? When I try to point this out, my father just accuses me of being “jealous” of my cousins. I can’t win!
    That’s one of the things I notice most about my narcissistic father – that he always portrays other people as forever in the wrong. You just cannot win. If you attempt to explain your actions, or point out flaws in his argument, he just moves onto something else – usually safer ground where he knows he’s winning all over again. Just like the wedding example above… so, when I point out that my wedding was actually inexpensive (so proving I’m NOT “spoiled” like he claims) he then changes his criticism of me to say I’m “jealous of my cousins” instead. So, I am ALWAYS going to be wrong! And there are the double-standards; like my father’s thing about NOT discussing the past (unless HE drags it up!). My brother can drop out of studying, but I can’t… and when I complete my studies, somehow it’s ME who’s in the wrong!
    THAT is how narcissists operate. Their is only THEIR version of events, aggressively defended at all times. Anyone who tries to point out an alternative perspective is automatically deemed “troublesome” and the narcissist HAS to shut them down or head them off. Usually viciously! By shouting, ranting, threatening, or physically harming. Sometimes by underhanded tactics like spreading malicious gossip, or talking behind the person’s back. Narcissistic parents do this to their own kids!
    I firmly believe that narcissists are MAD. Absolutely, totally and utterly. But, they are usually the ones to be calling other people “crazy”. If their victims attempt to speak up for themselves, then the narcissist will attempt a “smear campaign”. This is where they label the victim as “melodramatic”, “nutty”, “fussing about nothing”, “confused”, “unstable”… the narcissist will use any word to describe the victim that makes them sound to others unreliable or incompetent. In this way, the narcissist prevents the victim from being heard, and ensures that even if people listen, the victim is not seen as credible.
    However, I can detail an event that shows my father for the crazy, mad, narcissist that he truly is. It describes what I can only suggest is a narcissistic rage event. It is a TRUE event, as follows:
    A couple of weeks ago my husband was very ill, and ended up at A&E. He was taken into intensive care, and I was very upset, scared and distressed. Despite having had no contact with my parents for some time, I contacted them to let them know how poorly my husband was, and that he was in hospital. I did not expect a response for certain. Initially, I was not even sure that I wanted to let my parents know what was going on. However, as my husband remained very unwell, I decided to inform my parents (as I felt very low, afraid my husband might die, and unsure as to what to do). Out of the blue, my father turned up at my house, ranting and raving from the moment I opened the front door.
    He started shouting that “if I wanted something out of him, I’d better shut up about the past and change my attitude”. I tried to point out I wanted nothing, other than to tell him my husband was very ill and in hospital. I noted there was NO sympathy for my poor hubby at all. My father then instantly dragged up the past, and started criticizing me because I’d once had an unplanned pregnancy. He shouted at me that I “should have been more careful” and “should have tried harder not to get pregnant”. I pointed out that I’d used contraception (condoms) but he ignored this and kept screaming at me. He got so close up to my personal space that I thought he might strike me. All this whilst my husband was ill in hospital! I kept trying to explain that I’d used contraception, but my father just kept shouting and screaming. A true narcissistic rage. He then started going on about how he had been “so very careful” with my mother not to get her pregnant, and that they had used the “withdrawal technique”. He was almost boasting, and clearly seemed to think he was superior to me in morals.
    This shocked me very much indeed. Not only was my father very aggressive and in my face, but he did not even seem to realise that he was talking nonsense. I HAD used contraception and despite this had become pregnant. My father, by contrast, had used the “withdrawal technique”. This is NOT contraception at all – it is simply very risky, unprotected sex where a man tries to remove his penis before ejaculating! I could NOT believe that my own father was telling me he had unprotected sex, but somehow felt he’d been more careful than me! THAT is the level of ignorance that spreads STDs and other nasty things!
    During his rant, he also criticized me again for doing postgraduate study and demanded to know why I hadn’t completed the course yet (this is despite the fact that he knows I’ve had time out for surgery in hospital). He kept going on about “when are you getting a proper job?”, clearly implying he did not respect my choice to undertake further study. Then he started going on about how bad his pension was! I’ve heard this complaint before – ever since I began work as a Social Worker, my father has been seething. This appears to be because I receive a workplace pension, whereas he is self-employed. Well, THAT is HIS choice. I am NOT responsible for the state of HIS pension (though he seems to think he can blame me)!
    The above showed me clearly just what my father really is – it was eye-opening! It showed that he is NOT rational, lucid or logical. It shows that this thinking is NOT healthy, or sensible. It shows that he does NOT make sense. As far as I’m concerned, it shows that he is mad – most likely Personality Disordered in some way. I certainly don’t think his problems could be treated with medication, the way my mother’s are. Narcissists are people who have their own issues, their own “baggage” – but they take these out on everyone else. Basically, they scapegoat people. I am this scapegoat. Anything wrong in the narcissist’s life will be hidden from plain view, and covertly taken out on others (usually nearest and dearest). Kids make good scapegoats because they cannot escape the narcissist until they are old enough to leave home. By then, they are usually very hurt, upset and damaged. The narcissistic parent will probably have already traumatized them.
    I just CANNOT get why it is that people so often fail to spot narcissists and the damage they do. Is it because narcissists are such good liars – so full of b.s.? Because they act so cocky and confident? Because they always boast and act the life and soul of any party? Because they seem “larger than life”? Or is it because they threaten, cajole, wheedle, manipulate, twist, distort, two-time, move the goalposts, bluff, hedge, disguise, fabricate? Is it because the victims of narcissists lose their self-confidence, act all shy, become confused, get scared? Because they fear to speak out?
    I know I have changed as a result of my experiences. I have low self-esteem, and find it hard to believe compliments (I also blush a lot and get very clammy when people compliment me). I am uncertain as to my self-worth, and whether I am loveable or not. I am uncertain as to whether I am physically pretty, and lack confidence in my looks. Going out, I feel uncomfortable as centre of attention, and I often find it hard to pick an outfit. I struggle to know whether I am a good person, or a useful person. I know that I have achieved things in life, but find it hard to acknowledge achievement. I am a perfectionist and a people-pleaser and put others’ needs before mine. Sometimes, I even give up on things I’d really like, because I feel that somebody else’s needs ought to take precedence. I live constantly in fear of ridicule and rejection. If I do well in something, I fear being called “spoiled” or “attention seeking”. If I need help, I find it hard to ask. I am terrified of failure.
    THAT is the legacy of living with a narcissistic parent. I just wish that the authorities that are supposed to protect victims of abuse would recognise the danger that narcissists pose. I wish that the Police, Social Services, the NHS and Health Services, the Legal System, the Education System, Probation Services, Domestic Violence Services, Charities that protect the abused… I wish all these and more would recognise that they need to do more to protect people from narcissists and their abuse. I wish that the general public (employers, families, friends, colleagues, neighbours…) could be more alerted as to what narcissists are like, and learn how to keep them at bay. I wish that the Government would create laws that criminalize narcissists and their abuse, and recognize that their actions are often insidious, chronic and sneaky.
    I firmly believe that in cases where there is chronic, but well-hidden abuse of somebody, the abuser may well be a NARCISSIST. I just wish that people would learn more about these cruel individuals and how they operate, so that eventually all of society could know how to recognise them. Then, maybe, there would be fewer victims and less abuse. NOBODY should have to suffer. Just the sheer number of comments on this website shows that TOO MANY people are suffering.

    • Of everything I just read…all I can think is you said your mom was bi-polar and you can get her…but can you really? Is she bi’polar? Really, living with a man you just described can make a normal person crazy and have mood swings that mimic bipolar. That woman was mentally abused as much as you are and provably sufferes serious ptsd! Im sure her “bipolar” declaration was stemmed from his suggestions of her being the crazy one.

  • Now in my mid 40’s, came to the realization earlier this year, by accident, that this was my father. Have done piles of reading, research and more recently counselling on the subject. I always knew something was wrong with this man, I always hoped that one day we would have a normal balanced relationship, oh how I tried to make it work out, but our relationship is nothing but a string of us reacting to his constant threats, attacks and fits of rage. His constant belittling, criticising, finger pointing and demoralizing attacks. As this was my normal I thought it was normal until my wife pointed out to me that it was in fact from from normal. My breaking point was the first time, earlier this year, he started on my 9 year old son. We made the mistake of allowing them to babysit our kids, my son wouldn’t respond to his orders, he screamed at my son, then he waited until the next morning before attacking us, we were totally unsuspecting, caught off guard and blind-sided. Clinging on to the memory of him attacking my son is what has kept me focussed to seek treatment, cut the one-sided life-long attachment I’ve had to him, keep my family protected and move on to a better place in life.

  • I live currently with a narcissist who is now have sexual relations with our youngest son 16yrs. Up til this abuse began she want no part in his rearing. And was often cruel to him and his older brother; while putting the son from he first marriage on a petistal. One example, she rutinely told them (our boys) they didn’t matter she only cared about her first born son. I thought she did this to hurt me,and could not understand why she would intentionally hurt them. She would not allow them close to her unless it was a reason to do so, such as showing affetion in front of those she wanted to fool into beliving she was a loving parent. Name calling, ignoring, blaming. She cared more about her Pomerainian. It was hell on me as well, consistently hindering in my work and humiliating me at every opportunity. I’ve lost multiple jobs due to her behavior. I stayed in this marriage because of the boys. I haven’t faired well. Now I just want to run as far as possible…What do I do? There was allegations made to school 7yrs back by neighbors who son witnessed sexual act w/ our other child. I didnt believe it at all and defended her. I now know better.

  • I had been with a Narcissist for 3 years, i have only just realised that his behaviour was not only narcissistic but toxic. I have a 21 year old son and an 11 year old son from a previous relationship. He was horrible to both boys at different times but my oldest son is academic and he would brag about him to people as if it was him who was clever. He loved the admiration of people saying you must be so proud when he had no input into his upbringing at all. He was so jealous of him though and would be nasty when they were on their own. Same with my youngest son he would act all father like in public but behind closed doors he was vile. We have a daughter together and at first he loved taking her places showing her off but only to fed his sick need he has now not been in touch with me for 3 months because he has a new victim but i know that he will be back using my daughter as his excuse. I am prepared for him this time and will be having no more contact unless it is through a solicitor. These people are dangerous and can drag you down some very very dark places. If you are in a narcissistic relationship be very very careful.

  • I honestly can’t make sense of relationship I had with a guy who clearly has npd (although not formally diagnosed). Especially when it comes to the relationship with his son. He was a full time Dad to him from day 1 to the day he started school. He then seperated from his wife and I then met him. He always professed to what a terrible mother his wife was and it was always clear that he put his sons needs before anyone (including me). I can see that he was ultimately his primary source. Is this why he doesn’t act like a typical narcissistic parent as you’ve described here? I hate the thought of him not actually being able to love his son and it really doesn’t make sense considering the way he so dotingly cares for him. Saying that I do recognise he has no identity and his son has therefor become who he is. Not only that, the trauma of his father being unreliable in his childhood Would support his often obsessive and protective way he prentsbhis son. The halving of his custody with his son was a hard blow and most definitely wounded him and pushed him into depression, which ultimately lead to the demise of our relationship. I’ve read that narcissist feed of everyone in the same way but I’ve also read about their relationships with their kids and this is what doesn’t seem to make sense to me?

  • Women can be narcissists too. I think it is important that people understand that. My mother is one to the bone. There was always that constant worry everything from where she would hit me for wanting to use the bathroom to her picking up a knife, threatening to kill herself in front of my brother and I for being too loud while we were playing once. The blame for why her life is so crappy. I’m still living with her and my father who doesn’t seem to care a single bit, not stepping in once to defend us. I could maybe see it from his end where he didn’t know what to do but he has no sense of being a man. I’m moving out for sure by the end of this year. I’ve said this before but now I am actually working towards it and learning to get over it.

  • Reading this at a late stage of life-I’m coming to understand that I was used by my parents.
    They gave me a lot, but not without a price emotionally. I resisted their put downs and control, and it only made things worse. Yet I wanted and craved a family.
    Reading all of the comments, at least I feel that I’m not alone.
    Too bad I didn’t understand the pathology more when I was growing up.
    You can’t ever change them. They are what they are.

  • Wow! Thank you so much for sharing this. I have read many articles on narcissists since realising I was in the process of divorcing one. I know what he is capable of having seen his relationship with his two other children disintegrate as they didn’t meet his expectations. I have now started to see the actual effect of abuse on our own children and it is shocking. I am currently getting myself fully informed and making plans to detach

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