How Narcissistic Parents May Use Their Children

Dear Priscilla Bennett Friends,

Narcissistic parents tend to see their children as possessions and as extensions of themselves, as opposed to individuals in their own right. This can lead to the child growing up to develop serious identity issues. “Who am I?” and “Who can I trust?” are common questions asked.

Narcissistic parents also lack empathy for their child and view the child’s sole purpose in life as being to serve their needs. Two ways parents use and exploit their child is to treat her/him as both a source of emotional support and an emotional punching bag to vent their anger. Other reasons include keeping the child in her/his place and also to ensure that self-esteem and confidence remain low in order to control and manipulate. These parents also rely on the child to provide constant emotional support, resulting in the child becoming not only the parents emotional punching bag, but also their emotional caretaker, ‘parentifying’ the child.

Narcissistic parents tend to have a ‘black and white’ view oscillating between demonizing their child and idealizing her/him. They are incapable of empathy and love for their own children and for people in general, making it very difficult to correct this devastating behavior. For this reason, some adult children sever connections with their narcissistic parents while others try to reduce the dysfunctional relationship by setting up appropriate personal boundaries.

In my novel SOMETHING TO BE BRAVE FOR, Katie is raised by two narcissistic parents, who use her as a punching bag and for emotional support. Right after graduating from college, they pick her husband for her, and Katie readily agrees to marry in order to please them and to separate from them. With little sense of self, she believes she can create a perfect life with her new husband. It takes her some time to realize that she has married an abusive narcissist and goes to her parents for help. They refuse. They don’t want to see the marriage they put together broken. It’s Katie’s fault and up to her to fix it.

Take good care of yourselves,