5 Signs to Spot a Narcissistic Parent

Hey Optimist Minds!

Our parents are the most influential figures in our life as they shape our personalities. The way they interact with us builds our self-image. If they’re warm and affectionate, we grow up to believe we deserve love. However, if they’re cold, distant, or manipulative, we spend decades thinking that we’re inadequate.

Narcissistic parents have a knack for raising incredibly insecure kids who struggle with relationships and conflicts. Since narcissists have underdeveloped emotional skills, their children cannot process and express emotions in healthy ways.

Do you and your parent have a complicated relationship? Does it feel impossibly hard for you to earn their approval? There’s a chance that this is because your parent has narcissistic tendencies. 

This video will help you spot the signs of having a narcissistic parent. You can’t diagnose them simply by watching this, but you might gain some insight as to why you feel like they never truly loved you. Use this video only to understand your experience better and not to label any parent.

Here are five signs to spot a narcissistic parent.

Number One

They see you only as an extension of themselves.

Does your parent tend to praise you in front of others but mostly criticise you at home? Do they pressure you to do things so they can brag about your achievements?

A narcissistic parent does not see their child as an individual. They don’t care about your wants and needs or if you’re happy. The only thing they care about is how you make them look. If your success, appearance, or social status brings them pride, they’re happy to have you around when people are watching.

But if you do anything that they perceive as not good enough, they’ll give you a hard time about it. Narcissistic parents are known to pressurise, demean, insult, and be passive-aggressive to control their children’s every move.

Number Two

They emotionally blackmail you all the time.

If you do something your parent disapproves of, do they withhold affection? Do they ignore you for long periods until you beg for forgiveness? 

Emotional blackmail is a form of manipulation that involves using people’s feelings to get them to do something. Psychotherapist Susan Forward popularised the term. She uses the acronym FOG for the feelings involved.

F stands for fear. Maybe your parent controls you by using your fears against you. For example, they might say something like, “if you don’t do what I tell you, I’ll tell everyone about your secret”.

O stands for obligation. Have you ever heard your parent say things like, “I’ve done so much for you, and this is how you pay me?” A narcissistic parent will remind you of what an enormous burden you are, so you feel obligated to obey.

G stands for guilt. If you decide not to give in and do what your parent wants, they’ll make you feel guilty for it. They might say that you don’t care enough or that you have no shame. Anything that makes you feel terrible for not complying.

Number Three

They never hesitate to humiliate you in front of others.

A narcissistic parent has no empathy for their child. If you’re not giving them a reason to gloat, they’ll shame you in whatever way they can. For example, they might pick a social gathering as an appropriate time to discuss your flaws.

Sometimes they may not address things directly but make jokes or sarcastic comments targeting your insecurities. And if you try to speak up for yourself, they’ll call you oversensitive or pretend they never said anything of the kind.

Number Four

They never take accountability for their actions.

Does your parent always play the victim no matter what the situation? If they face a natural consequence of their behaviour, do they blame others for it?

Narcissists have a lot of trouble admitting their faults to themselves. That’s because deep down inside, they’ve suppressed an excess of unprocessed shame. Any admission of culpability opens the door to the intense and negative experience of this shame. They just can’t get themselves to do that.

So, instead, the narcissist will point their finger at anyone else and project their guilt. If they make a mistake, they’ll probably blame you, other people, objects, situations, the system… basically anyone but themselves. 

Number Five

If you have siblings, one is the golden child, and the others are scapegoats.

Is your parent blatantly more fond of one child than others? Is this sibling shown love because they do exactly what your parent wants?

Narcissistic parents often pick one child as their favourite. This is probably the kid with the most amount of achievements that the parent can show off. So the golden child is given preferential treatment, and all other siblings are compared to them. Even if the favourite made a mistake, the siblings are blamed for it.

But once the golden child starts developing a sense of individuality, the parent feels threatened of losing their narcissistic supply. So they’ll begin manipulating or even sabotaging just to ensure the child stays dependent. If they fail at it, the golden child loses the status and goes back to being a scapegoat.

Does either of your parents display any of the behaviours we discussed here? Were you able to relate to most of what we said? If yes, your parent may have narcissistic tendencies. 

We recommend that you consult a mental health professional to understand how you can handle and heal from dealing with this parent. Remember, even if your parent isn’t a narcissist, toxic behaviours like those described here will shape your personality as an adult. Therefore, it’s better to get help and undo the damage.

A link for further reading and the studies & references used in the making of this video are mentioned in the description below.

Thanks for visiting optimist minds, take care. Until next time.


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