Co-parenting / counter-parenting with a narcissist

This article shares ten patterns of behaviour to identify, learn from and armour yourself with if you have a child with a narcissist.


10 patterns of behaviours to identify in a narcissistic parent

1. A narcissist is not capable of empathy

You will rarely find a narcissist putting the 'needs of your child' first unless there is something in it for them. This can be incredibly frustrating and upsetting for you as 'the caring' parent.

2. Narcissists are highly controlling

It is their way or the highway. If a child refuses to do it their way, the narcissist will become easily triggered and blow up. This is because a narcissist's brain does not develop further than a child of around seven or eight, there is no awareness or indeed care, as to how the 'narcissistic rage' will impact the child's feelings of safety and security.

3. Narcissists view children as extensions of themselves

To a narcissist, children are like extensions of themselves - they like to 'present' a good impression, an image of order and perfection. How things seem to the outside world is more important to the narcissist than how the child feels or what the child wants to do. They will often state how proud they are of their child to other people to show them off like a 'trophy', but not tell the child themselves how proud they are of them.

Typically, instead, they will find something too critical to say about the child's thoughts, feelings and behaviour and exclaim this. As the child grows older, these put-downs can become worse because the narcissist never wants the child to grow up and succeed more than they have. They may well come out with such spiteful comments that make you scratch your head thinking 'Did they really say that?'

4. A narcissist is not capable of true love

It is all about manipulation and because of this, the child's emotional needs are rarely met. The child may learn to keep themselves 'safe' by going into what is known as a 'high alert fawn response', trying to adapt their personality to appease and keep the narcissist 'happy'.

This forms the start of people pleasing, an unhealthy personality trait that the child can develop and hold onto into adulthood. The child begins to hold their true thoughts and feelings in for 'fear' of consequences.

5. A narcissist will have no problem making promises and breaking them

Lying comes easily to them. if you are no longer with a narcissist they will have no qualms at all about lying to the child support agency about how much they earn because the welfare of the children comes secondary to their own wants and needs. Because of this, their prime goal will be to make the co-parent's life as difficult as possible both financially and emotionally with no consideration for the knock-on impact this has on the children.

6. Narcissists may play off children

As the children grow older, be prepared for the narcissist to play one child off against the other, this is when one child becomes the 'golden child' who can do no wrong and the other 'the scapegoat'. There is often a game of 'all change' when the narcissist switches this dynamic between the children leaving the child confused as to when their parent is going to shift from passive to aggressive. The narcissistic parent also enjoys the conflict that this causes between the siblings fighting for the narcissistic parent's attention.

7. Narcissists brainwash children

A narcissist uses a form of brainwashing to turn the child against the other parent who is typically, but not always, on the empathic side. There may even be other 'flying monkeys' supporting the narcissist with this.

8. A narcissist will create 'drama'

When the atmosphere is too 'happy' and 'peaceful', narcissists will often create drama - typically on Birthdays or during Christmas. Bizarre as this may sound, a narcissist feeds off of conflict and will often disagree with your parenting style or decision about something just to press your buttons.

Help yourself by maintaining strong healthy boundaries and keeping the needs of your child paramount - remember your child is 'powerless' but they are always picking up signals and learning by your guidance. As much as you can, keep your children away from the 'narcissistic rage' and control.

9. Gaslighting

A narcissist is an expert at making you look as if you are the crazy one. Your child may tell you things and the narcissist will tell you that they are twisting things and they "did not say that" or "that didn't happen." Getting down to your child's level and inviting them to share how they feel about that will help your child feel loved and secure in your care.

10. A narcissist will not change

Only you can decide if you wish to remain in this relationship. A narcissist is very good at giving you just enough of the 'good times' to keep you hooked and 'hoovering' you back in for a while. This may lead to a feeling of trauma bonding - where you feel a sense of knowing the relationship is dysfunctional but still not being able to recognise that you deserve more.

If you are struggling with co-parenting with a narcissist, reach out to a narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) trained therapist who can work with both you and your child. You owe it to yourselves.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Hypnotherapy Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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South Woodford, London, E18 1BD
Written by Louise Levy, Snr Clinical & Cognitive Hypnotherapist, Clinical Supervisor
South Woodford, London, E18 1BD

Louise Levy is a senior(Acc) Clinical Hypnotherapist, Cognitive Behavioural Hypno-Psychotherapist, Mind - Body Syndrome Therapist & Master of NLP, who specialises in Narcissistic Abuse and Codependency. Louise treats adults, couples adolescents and children age 6+. appointment face to face in London and Nationwide Via Zoom

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