5 Ways Narcissists Use Your Children Against You

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Aside from the manipulation, gaslighting, lying, and constant criticism that a narcissist will use to try to control you, they will also have no compunction about using your children against you. Your narcissistic spouse will see your children as extensions of themselves just like they do with you, and for that reason, they will also attempt to manipulate and control them too. It’s critical for you to be aware of the ways they will use your children against you so that you can best protect them from that kind of abuse. 

Here are five tactics you should be aware of that the narcissist will use to manipulate and use your children against you: 

  1. Triangulation to cause confusion
  2. Undermine you as a parent
  3. Suddenly contradict your decisions
  4. Sabotage your plans with your children
  5. Questioning your parenting ability

Much of the time, the manipulation has little to do with the children themselves; rather the narcissistic parent will use, as author, narcissistic abuse survivor, and covert narcissism expert Debbie Mirza points out, “anything to control you, anything to destabilize you.” That’s why it is vital that you learn more about each of these tactics so you can best protect your children and yourself from their abuse. 

1. Triangulation to Cause Confusion

Triangulation is a common technique narcissists use to disrupt the family dynamic. They will tell your children one thing and you another to try to play you against one another. For example, they might tell your children that you don’t want them to do something, but tell you that they wouldn’t allow it.

Your children see you as the restrictive parent, and if you were to discover this and confront the narcissist, they would simply deny they said that. They would say the children simply misunderstood. 

Triangulation causes damage to your family relations that is difficult to undo. Moreover, because the narcissist is willing to lie to you and your children, it can be hard to know what’s true and what’s not. 

This tactic also undermines your children’s confidence in both of their parents. They can’t necessarily see who’s right and who’s wrong. It’s very confusing for them and can leave them feeling extremely insecure. 

2. Undermine You as a Parent

Another tactic that narcissistic parents often use to get children on their side is that they will undermine you as a parent. They might tell your children, for example, that they would love to get them their favorite toy or take them somewhere they want to go, but you won’t allow it. 

They might also make passive-aggressive kinds of remarks that make it seem like you aren’t a good parent. They might say something like, “Well, I would never do that because I care about your safety.” This can make the child believe they care about them, but you don’t. 

They might even tell your children details about an argument the two of you had, and of course, they will make it seem as though they were the victim of your mistreatment. 

3. Suddenly Contradict Your Decisions

Narcissistic parents will frequently not seem interested in contributing to a decision about something involving your children. They will tell you to decide, but then, at the last minute, they will often suddenly contradict the decision you made. 

This causes instability for the children and it undermines your authority, which is exactly what they are trying to accomplish. It is also designed as a manipulative tactic to gain more control over your parental authority. They want you to seek their involvement more which keeps you focused on their needs and wishes. 

4. Sabotage Your Plans with Your Children

This is another tactic that narcissists will use to try to undermine the relationship you have with your children and keep everyone focused on the narcissist. An example of this might be if you had planned to take your children to the playground in the afternoon, but your narcissistic spouse was late getting home with them. By the time they arrive, it’s too late to go. 

This can make your children think you don’t want to go with them and that you’re unreliable. It also serves to keep you guessing. That makes you more focused on what your spouse is doing and when, and if you’re not careful, you can become obsessed with trying to anticipate the many ways they might work against you. 

5. Questioning Your Parental Ability

Questioning Your Parental Ability

This one is particularly true if you’re separated and trying to co-parent with a narcissistic ex. They will often interrogate your children about things like if you’re seeing anyone else and what your routine is like. They will also try to get the children to talk about anything you might be doing that upsets them, so they can use that information against you.

Many narcissists want to deny you custody if you separate as a means to punish you for leaving them. Even if you stay in the marriage, however, they may distort your relationship with your children or your parenting style to try and make other family members believe you’re a bad parent. 

This sets them up to use the question of custody against you in the future should you consider leaving them, and in their mind, it makes them look good by comparison. They think if they can show that you’re a bad parent, everyone will see them as the ‘good parent.’ 

How Can You Protect Yourself and Your Children from Narcissistic Abuse?

Narcissists will use every trick in the book to manipulate your and your children. Because they lack empathy, they can’t understand the damage this kind of behavior can do to children. Their only objective is to get their needs met. 

That’s why you need to be proactive in protecting yourself and your children from this kind of abuse. You need to set strong boundaries and maintain them, and you need to practice good self-care techniques for yourself and your children. You also need to teach your children to think critically about what they are told so they will know when something doesn’t sound right. 

Beyond that, you will also want to document everything that goes on regarding your children. Keep a journal of any incidents or problems as well as the plans you make and anything that disrupts those plans. That can help prevent problems in the future. 

Final Thoughts

Narcissists are not above manipulating your children and using them to manipulate you. They are unable to think about how their actions affect the kids, and thus, they will do anything to get what they want. They will also try to make you feel bad about your parenting style and your decisions even if you are still together. 

In their distorted reality, that makes them look better by comparison and gives them more control and power over you. If you are co-parenting with a narcissist, it is important to take the appropriate steps to protect yourself and your children from narcissistic abuse. 

To help you protect your children from narcissistic abuse, you’ll definitely need a free copy of my “Narcissistic Rejection Guide.” It will help you learn how to teach your children to say no and push back against the narcissistic abuse tactics, and it can help you to push back against a narcissistic spouse who may try to manipulate your children. Just click on the link and I’ll send it directly to your inbox for free!


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Narcissistic abuse takes a terrible toll on your life. I’m Patricia, and my mother is a narcissist, so I know what you’re going through. These blog posts will help you understand narcissism better and give you tips for dealing with the narcissists in your life. Healing starts here!

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