Every human being requires a favorable opinion. However, this need should not develop into narcissism. Narcissism is a property of character, which consists in excessive self-love and self-esteem, which is untrue. The term narcissism appeared due to Sigmund Freud who introduced it into psychology when creating the theory of psychoanalysis. Narcissistic parents are an interesting, controversial issue because narcissism and parenting appear to be incompatible terms. Then, the question arises whether narcissistic people actually need to have children. Such parents care about the physical health of their children, can sign them up for different clubs, dress splendidly, but they understand nothing about the inner world and the necessities of their child; as a result, this traumatizes him or her mentally. Unfortunately, narcissism is inherited, and in adulthood, the child can use behavior patterns adopted in the family and presented as the only correct ones.

Narcissistic parents’ love for their child is always conditional. They love him or her for something. The child does not understand that other parents love their children only because of their filiation; respectively, he or she has no experience of unconditional love. At the same time, the narcissistic parent also rejects the natural love that exists inside each average child to his or her parent and devalues this love as something insignificant. Then the understanding of pure love distorts and instead, the concepts of “desire”, “passion”, “thirst for possession” appear. 

One of the effects which narcissistic parents cause is the transformation of children into their parents’ continuation, bearing compensatory functions. The “continuation of oneself” in the person of the child is intended to solve the unsolved parents’ psychological problems. “Too often, we use our children to compensate for our own unmet goals or limitations. When we don’t feel fulfilled in our own lives, we can over-identify with our kids” (Firestone 2013). Gradually, the children lose themselves and, as they grow up, begin to search people to perform for them the same compensatory function and fill in the internal voids. 

What is more, narcissistic parents always demand absolute success in everything that the child does. However, if one asks such parents why they require from their child an excellent performance, they cannot justify their desire. Such parents believe that assessments measure the individual’s value. More precisely, that only external evaluations measure the value of the individual. They give priority not to the child’s knowledge; they focus on teachers’ assessments and make their child surpassing among others. In the eyes of such a parent, a child is a collection of knowledge and skills that he or she possesses. They ignore the child’s feelings, inner world, and the outer world begins to replace the inner one. It is only essential for such a parent to boast of his or her child’s education and abilities. Narcissistic parents find constant faults in their children with the purpose of comparing them with other “perfect” kids.

In such a comparison, the child is always insufficiently successful because there is someone else who always surpasses him or her. The child feels still insufficiently good for parents to love him or her. There may be no direct comparisons, but the parent makes it obvious for the child. Later, an adult narcissistic individual cannot enjoy any success, because no matter how praised the person is, after five minutes he or she again will feel not good enough. One mistake can make them consider themselves unworthy of respect and love. 

Moreover, narcissistic parents are constantly monitoring the child and systematically destroy his or her interests. They are afraid that the child will become strong enough, will form his or her personality and one day he or she will understand what is happening. Under awkward pretexts, they can throw away items that the child appreciates and loves. They even like to “blacken,” to call the child’s body “dirty” when he or she becomes a teenager and begins to mature and grow attractive sexually. During this period, the parent can throw phrases that devalue the appearance of a seemingly pretty girl or a handsome boy.

The narcissistic parent feels at a distance when children get out of control or begin to experience those sensations that they should not experience (inspiration, joy, love). And in case of any failure, they immediately indicate where exactly the problem was, making him or her feel miserable and then help to solve the trouble. Thus, against the background of the failure, he or she rises spiritually and becomes successful. The narcissistic mother can devaluate an adult son and reduce his self-esteem so that he will not be successful in work or family. Such parents are afraid that the grown-up child will become strong and break the connection with them, leaving them alone. 

Overall, adult children of narcissistic parents are psychologically traumatized people. The consequences of the narcissist’s influence are negative for an adult, but for children, this influence is merely destructive. Parents impose high expectations, try to control the lives of their children, force children to succeed in spheres where they failed. As a result, children grow up with blurred boundaries and low self-esteem. They do not know who they are, what their intentions and plans are, they try to satisfy people and are constantly embarrassed. That is why setting boundaries with narcissistic parents is necessary.

Narcissistic parents cause traumas to their children, but they may not be aware of it, so it is highly desirable to make them realize their mistakes to avoid unfortunate consequences in the future. Fortunately, healing from narcissistic parents is possible with the help of a good therapist.

Anton Kurapov

Anton Kurapov

PhD, a professor assistant at Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv. Fascinated by the role of psychology in lives of people and simply astonished by the complexity of the brain and its functions.

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