Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a complex and varied mental condition that is expressed in varied ways. Because of the complexities of NPD, there are several identified types of narcissism, including grandiose narcissism, covert narcissism, and malignant narcissism, among others. Because these various characteristics can come together in different ways, the condition in parents can express itself in different ways.
There are at least five distinct types of narcissistic parents that present with different kinds of behaviors. These five types are:
- The Classic Narcissist
- The Covert Narcissist
- The Communal Narcissist
- The Neglectful Narcissist
- The Self-Righteous Narcissist
Let’s explore each of these narcissistic parental styles to better understand the common behaviors they exhibit and if a narcissist can even be a good parent.
1. The Classic Narcissist
This is the stereotypical kind of narcissist you probably think about when you think about this mental condition. These narcissists are extroverted and love the limelight. They are constantly bragging about their abilities or accomplishments.
As parents, they often use their children to further their own needs and achieve their own goals. They are not really interested in their child or their needs or wants. Instead, they see their child as an extension of themselves.
For that reason, they want their child to be exactly what they want them to be. They tell the child how to dress, what activities to become involved with, what major they should have in school, and even what their career will be when they grow up.
They live vicariously through their child and will often boast about their child’s accomplishments as if they were their own. If they feel as though their child isn’t listening to their advice or they feel threatened by their child’s success, they will not hesitate to belittle the child or shame them.
They will only show their children love if they do what the narcissist tells them to do. If the child doesn’t do what they want or rebels in any way, they will withhold love and shame the child or undermine them even if it means destroying their future.
2. The Covert Narcissist
Covert narcissists are more introverted and shyer than overt narcissists. They still crave the attention, but they use more subtle means to get it. As parents, they are quiet and avoid social situations. They also don’t care about looks, fame, or money.
What they do care about, however, is making sure everyone understands the suffering they have endured and how it is worse than anything anyone else has gone through. If anyone, including their own child, disagrees, they react with narcissistic rage.
These types of narcissists are often more manipulative than other types. They might say something like, “I’m such a bad parent,” in order to manipulate their child into disagreeing and stroking their ego. In essence, they play with their child’s emotions to prompt them to compliment them. They use their own children for their narcissistic supply.
They will also frequently rely on their children as support for their fragile self-esteem. That means the child ends up parenting their own parent. Additionally, they frequently choose a favorite child and shower them with love while ignoring their other children.
They also compete with their children’s struggles. They will argue they are going through far worse than their child and that what is happening to them is more important than anything the child is experiencing.
3. The Communal Narcissist
Communal narcissists are those that think they are being helpful, empathetic, and even nurturing. They feel as though their good deeds make them special, and they want to be validated as such.
As parents, they appear altruistic to people outside the family, but they are not doing their good deeds for the right reasons. In fact, they use those good deeds to feel special all while neglecting their own child.
From the child’s perspective, their parent is doing something good for everyone except them. They can internalize that belief which can have lifelong effects. The child feels they are selfish for wanting their own parent’s attention.
These parents are the ones who are most involved in every area of their life. They want to appear as though they are the best, most loving parent, but in reality, they are neglecting their child’s needs at home.
They always talk about how much time they spend doing for others and how little they do for themselves. They are also not above calling their children shallow or petty even as they extol their own life as full of purpose and meaning.
4. The Neglectful Narcissist
Neglectful narcissists are those who simply refuse to allow other people to engage in their life unless they can get something they need from that person. This includes their own children.
These types of narcissists see their own children as inconveniences. They are, therefore, disengaged, aloof, and disinterested in their children’s lives. Their lack of attention on their child can have an extremely detrimental impact on the child’s sense of self-worth.
This kind of treatment can foster a fear of abandonment in their children, but that is of little concern to this narcissistic parent.
5. The Self-Righteous Narcissist
These types of narcissists like everyone to believe they are morally superior. They are extremely perfectionistic and controlling. To others, they may appear loyal and seem to adhere to all the rules, but they can also be judgmental and critical because they are so rigid.
Their children often experience very strict, limiting childhoods. These types of parents can be very punitive when a child makes a mistake, and it becomes very clear to their children that their parent’s love is conditional. They must behave if they are to be loved.
Can Narcissists Be a Good Parent?
The characteristics of narcissism make it very difficult for a narcissist to be a good parent. Their inability to empathize with other people extends to their children, and that has a very damaging effect on their child’s self-esteem and their ability to develop their own sense of self.
Sometimes, narcissistic parents will include their children in their illness. They will work to convince their children that they are special and deserving of everything good in life. They will shower their child with praise and never point out any areas where their children need to improve.
While that seems less abusive than the other parenting styles, they are effectively turning their own child into a narcissist. That sets them up for a difficult life of constantly seeking external validation.
It is hard to conceive of the difficulties that children of narcissists experience if you have never lived through such treatment. The characteristics of NPD make it extremely difficult for the narcissist to be empathetic or focus on anyone other themself. That’s not a good situation for children, and the damage that is done often lasts a lifetime.
Now that you have a better understanding of the different parenting styles among narcissists, you might also be interested in this post about the 5 ways your narcissistic mother abuses you.
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