Narcissistic parents are extremely abusive to their own children, but that doesn’t stop when they become grandparents. The stereotype of the permissive, loving grandparent simply doesn’t apply to narcissists. They will continue to do many of the same things they did to their own children if you allow that to happen. To prevent them from harming your children, it’s critical to set and maintain strong boundaries.
Let’s take a look at 19 ways to set and maintain those all-important boundaries with narcissistic grandparents:
- Check that Family Gossip
- No Unexpected Visits
- Decide Your Own Family Size
- Parents Choose the Baby’s Name
- Monitor Photo Posts on Social Media
- No Spoiling
- Our House, Our Rules
- No Criticizing In Front of the Children
- No Rewards for Bad Behavior
- Scheduled Calls
- Watch Your Language
- Parents Decide on Clothing Choices
- Mom is Beautiful at Any Weight
- No Triangulation
- Permission for Large or Expensive Gifts
- No Religion Too
- The Food is Fine
- Don’t Give the Baby Away
- School Choices
If you have a narcissistic parent, you know that they like to insert themselves in everything you do. That includes the choices you make for your own children. It’s essential for your children that you understand that your narcissistic parent will emotionally abuse their grandchildren just like they did you. That’s why it’s critical to set boundaries and maintain them with consistent consequences. Let’s explore 19 ways to do that.
1. Check that Family Gossip
There’s nothing a narcissist likes to do more than manipulate and control people through gossip. For a narcissistic grandparent, a favorite target of gossip is the other set of grandparents.
They want their grandchildren to like them better than the other grandparents. To ensure that’s the case, they will almost certainly gossip about your partner’s parents. Narcissists will often go to extreme lengths too, so the gossip may be particularly harmful.
If you find this happening, you’ll need to set a strong boundary with your narcissistic parents. You’ll need to insist on monitoring the interactions, and you’ll have to use the threat of serious consequences to ensure they don’t do that. This likely means limiting their access to their grandchildren.
You want your children to have good relationships with both sets of grandparents as well as other family members. That’s why you have to talk to your narcissistic parents to make sure they know that family gossip is not okay. Tell them consequences if they continue to behave that way and be sure to enforce those consequences with every boundary violation.
2. No Unexpected Visits
Narcissists in general are famous for their surprise visits. They see everyone around them, particularly family members, as mere extensions of themselves, so how can they be unwelcome?
This can cause numerous problems with your partner and your children. It disrupts the normal flow of your family life, and given their toxic behavior, it can cause your children to act out in ways you don’t like. That’s why it’s vital to set a boundary around unexpected visits.
You’ll need to let your parents know that, no matter how close or far away they live, they are only able to visit after ensuring you are ready and willing to host them. The consequences of an unexpected visit may mean putting them up in a hotel rather than letting them stay at your home.
If they live close, you may have to ask them to leave and come back at another time, or you may choose to leave the house with your children. While these tactics may be hard to enforce, if you can do it a few times, your narcissistic parents will see that what they’re doing isn’t working, and they will adjust their behavior.
3. Decide Your Own Family Size
Many parents start desiring grandchildren once their own children are grown, but like many other things that are normal in healthy individuals, the narcissist takes this behavior to the extreme. Narcissistic parents see grandchildren as new sources of narcissistic supply, and to ensure they never run out, they want as many as possible.
On a certain level, narcissists realize that they exhaust people in their life, and the result is that these people will either go no contact or limit their contact. The narcissist, therefore, develops a strategy of cultivating new sources of narcissistic supply in anticipation of that eventuality.
That’s part of why they want more grandchildren, even if they don’t consciously realize it. That’s not, however, what you want for anyone you love. You know how abusive that can be. When your narcissistic parent becomes more insistent that you should have a particular number of grandchildren, calmly but firmly let them know that you will make that decision for yourself and tell them you won’t discuss this with them anymore.
The pressure to have children can be enormous even with healthy parents, so don’t underestimate how this might affect you. It’s important to remember, however, that having children is a personal decision that you must make for yourself so that you will be a good parent who can take proper emotional and physical care of your kids.
4. Parents Choose the Baby’s Name
Choosing the baby’s name is another way your narcissistic parents might try to insert themselves into what are personal choices. Remember that the narcissist sees you as a mere extension of their own identity.
That’s often why they believe they should be able to make choices for you rather than giving you the independence to make your own decisions. Moreover, it would give the narcissists the greatest pleasure if the child is named after them somehow.
The narcissist is always looking for that adulation, and if you agree to name your baby after them, it shows the world the respect and love you have for them. That is exactly what they want. It’s a way to say to the world, “See, I am truly superior, and I am the greatest parent alive!”
Once again, you have to set a strong boundary here by letting your narcissistic parent know that you will choose the baby’s name. Once you and your partner have decided on the name, let them know that the decision has been made and the topic is no longer open for discussion.
5. Monitor Photo Posts on Social Media
Narcissistic grandparents will often go overboard with posting pictures of their grandchildren on social media. Many parents don’t want that because they feel it is a kind of exploitation of their child.
If you feel this way for that or any other reason, you’ll need to set a boundary regarding how many and which photos can be posted. You might set up a system with both sets of grandparents to review and approve any posts.
You can expect your narcissistic parents to violate this rule regularly which is why you will need to set strong consequences to discourage them from ignoring your wishes. Your consequences may include limiting access to your child or even confiscating cell phones while your parents are around the child.
It sounds like something a Hollywood star would do, but there can be problems with posting too many photos of your child. It can definitely feel like a violation of your privacy. Moreover, it’s something you have a right to control.
6. No Spoiling
Another thing that narcissists are famous for doing is spoiling their grandchildren. You might be thinking that all grandparents do that, and to some extent, that is true. The reason behind why the narcissist does it, however, is more toxic.
Narcissists can be very charming when they want to be. That’s how they reel you in initially, but the reason behind that charm is that they want you to like them so that you’ll give them the adoration they crave. That’s the same reason they want to spoil their grandchildren.
It’s not quite the same as spoiling a child because you just love them so much you want them to have everything they desire. Rather, they are spoiling their grandchild so that child will tell them how great they are and how much they love them.
What’s more, they will then use their generosity as a manipulative tool to get their grandchildren to do what they want. They also use it as part of triangulation with other grandchildren. They will often make one grandchild the golden child, thereby forcing their other grandchildren to compete with that ideal.
These are toxic games that can do irreparable harm to your children, so it’s better to avoid it by setting a strong boundary about spoiling. It will also help you raise better children.
7. Our House, Our Rules
Another thing that narcissists love to do is break everyone else’s rules. They will revel in doing things that are against your house rules as a way to show their superiority and charm your children.
They will strive to undermine your authority in your own house as a means of showing how much better they are than you. When your children see that someone can get away with breaking the rules, they will start to disrespect them too.
Even if it means monitoring every interaction to ensure no rules are broken, it’s worth the effort to show your children that everyone needs to respect your rules. A consequence of crossing this boundary is simply to not allow them back into your home until they can agree to abide by your rules.
8. No Criticizing In Front of the Children
As part of undermining your authority, your narcissistic parents will criticize you in front of your children. They want to show them that they know better than you do. This criticism will be a constant theme as long as you let it go on.
It’s important to nip this in the bud. You will want to set a hard boundary with your parents. If they have something they want to criticize, it is not acceptable to do it in front of your children. They can pull you aside or talk another time, but they need to keep quiet in front of the children.
This is a basic rule of respect for anyone. It’s particularly important for someone dealing with a narcissist because they need people to focus positively on them. They often achieve that by criticizing the other people around them.
While they have a right to have their opinion, they do not have the right to express that opinion in front of your children. The remedy for continued violations may be to simply not allow them around the children until they can control their critical voice.
9. No Rewards for Bad Behavior
We have all probably experienced times when a child has done something inappropriate, but they seem so cute doing it that they sometimes get rewarded with positive attention, if nothing else. The problem with a narcissistic grandparent, however, is that they will often reward bad behavior that serves their toxic purposes.
They do this consistently with grandchildren, particularly when the child is doing something that makes them feel adored or superior. This can easily create behavioral problems in your child.
For that reason, you have to set a strong boundary around how your children are treated when they do something inappropriate. A 2004 study by the Canadian Paediatric Society notes that consistency is a vital part of disciplining children effectively.
Consistency means that all adults responsible for discipline must enforce the rules the same way every time there is a violation. Grandparents, in general, have problems with this, but for narcissistic grandparents, it’s almost impossible. That’s why you’ll need strong boundaries and effective consequences to ensure they abide by your rules.
10. Scheduled Calls
Another way that narcissistic grandparents can be overly intrusive is by calling, either on the telephone or via video calls, way too often. This is particularly true when they live further away, but it can also happen if they are nearby.
From the narcissist’s point of view, their needs take priority, and they also believe you should be focused on what they want. They don’t see anything they do as intrusive and will continue to do as much as you allow.
That’s why you should set up a plan of scheduled calls. You should decide when the calls will take place and for how long. You can also feel free to make a list of unacceptable conversation topics.
If a narcissist is in your child’s life, you don’t want them to be feeding your kid toxicity, and so, you shouldn’t feel like you can’t set appropriate limits. You want to protect your child from that kind of negative and abusive interaction.
To maintain this boundary, simply don’t take the call if it is outside the time you’ve set up. You can also feel free to let the narcissist know that your child has to go now and it’s time to hang up.
11. Watch Your Language
This doesn’t only refer to foul language, but also the way that the narcissist talks about other people in general. They are often dismissive and condescending. This can leave a strong impression on young children who are unaccustomed to seeing adults disparage people they know.
That’s why you need to let your narcissistic parents know exactly the kind of language you feel is appropriate around your children. Remember that children are like sponges, soaking up all the different behaviors to which they are exposed. When they see someone they love behaving in a certain way, it’s common for them to copy that behavior.
If you don’t want your children to start talking that way about other people and/or using foul language, you need to be stern with your narcissistic parents. Remind them that the consequences for their bad behavior include limitations on how frequently they can see their grandchildren.
12. Parents Decide on Clothing Choices
Another way that narcissistic grandparents will insert themselves into their grandchildren’s lives is by getting them clothes to wear. Their choices may or may not be something you agree with, but often they are inconsistent with what parents want for their children.
While you might appreciate your parents buying clothes for your children, you need to approve their choices to be sure they are something appropriate for your child. Remember that narcissists won’t feel as though anything they do is inappropriate. They believe themselves to be above any judgment.
That’s why you need to let them know before they buy anything what is and what is not appropriate. Let them know that if they go off script and get something you haven’t yet approved, you will not allow them to give it to your children. This is another situation where you need to be calm but firm.
13. Mom is Beautiful at Any Weight
Another common tactic of narcissistic grandparents, particularly with regard to their daughter-in-law, is to criticize her baby weight gain. Narcissists are accustomed to feeling shame, and they like to make other people feel that way too.
They will shame the mother of their grandchildren in numerous ways, but one particularly hurtful way is to make her feel bad about any extra weight she put on during her pregnancy. It’s a personal attack on her appearance, and in a culture obsessed with weight, it often cuts deep.
Whether the narcissistic grandparents are the mother’s parents or her spouse’s parents, they need to be told that any such criticism of their grandchildren’s mother will not be tolerated. You want to make clear that such toxic behavior is not welcome in your house, and the narcissistic grandparents need to adjust their behavior or they will not be allowed back.
14. No Triangulation
Another particularly damaging behavior that narcissists regularly use is called triangulation. Triangulation is basically playing both ends against the middle. This is where narcissistic grandparents will tell a child one thing and either their parents or siblings something different.
They feel superior when they can create problems within the family and watch it play out. They also use this manipulative technique to control both their child they favor and other family members.
This is incredibly destructive to your children’s self-esteem as well as the family dynamic in general. It can create long-term problems and rivalries that may never be fully resolved. It’s vital for you to stop this kind of manipulation before it takes root.
The solution may be no contact, but it can also be only allowing supervised visits. You might also have to talk with your children to help them realize what is happening so that they won’t buy into anything their narcissistic grandparents might tell them.
15. Permission for Large or Expensive Gifts
This is another favorite technique the narcissist will use to garner favor from their grandchild. What’s more, they will often buy one grandchild something expensive or large while completely ignoring the other grandchildren they have.
Whether your child is an only child or one of many, it’s important that you don’t allow their grandparents to give them large or inappropriately expensive gifts. Their grandparents will use this to manipulate them in the future.
It’s not an act of generosity, but a way for them to lay a foundation for future control. While you might not be able to explain this to your child, you can prevent their narcissistic grandparents from influencing them in this way. It’s a good idea to allow them to give only gifts that you have pre-approved.
Let them know that if they violate that boundary, they will not be allowed to give your child a gift at all. That way, they will have no choice but to abide by your wishes.
16. No Religion Too
The religion a child is raised in is the parent’s choice, but narcissistic grandparents will try to repeatedly and persistently to influence this decision. They might even go so far as to take your child to religious services when they are alone with them.
It’s vital for any parent to make their religious choices clear to their parents. It’s equally important to set strong boundaries around the consequences for violating their wishes. It almost goes without saying that narcissistic grandparents will try to violate your choice if they don’t agree with it.
That’s why you need to make it absolutely clear what is acceptable in your mind. Once again, the threat that carries the most weight is that they will be restricted from seeing their grandchildren.
Even if you set strong boundaries, you need to be vigilant for any violations. Religion is a very sensitive subject in many families, and true believers will go to extreme lengths if they genuinely believe they are saving a soul.
17. The Food is Fine
Another way that narcissists are critical of their own children’s childrearing choices involves the food they feed their children. The narcissist may think you’re not being healthy enough or that you’re being overly cautious and not letting your child have any fun.
In either case, the ultimate goal is to get the child on their side and alienate you from your own children. They have done the same thing in many ways throughout your life, and this is just another expression of that same kind of behavior.
Give your parents a list of foods that are acceptable and those that aren’t. If you find they are giving your children other foods, restrict their time with their grandchildren. That may mean no contact or supervised contact, but it’s essential you monitor the situation.
In some cases, some foods may be a real health risk to your child, so it’s vital that you set strong boundaries. As your child gets older, they can understand why it’s important for their health, but when they’re younger, you have to keep close watch over what they are given to eat.
18. Don’t Give the Baby Away
While narcissists want desperately to be around their grandchildren, their motives are not always driven by love for the child. They often want to show off to the other people around them by showing them their grandchild and letting them hold them child.
They love the attention that they get from the other people in their life as a new grandparent. Letting other people hold the baby is a way for them to get that attention without having to really care for the child.
You may not want this, and in fact, early on, it can even pose a health risk because of possible exposure to bacteria or viruses. It’s probably the best course of action to allow your narcissistic parents to visit and hold the baby only while you’re around. As the child gets older and stronger, you can let them have unsupervised visits, but you still need to make your wishes clear.
Anytime you let a narcissist make such manipulative choices without restriction, you can be sure they will do something they see as benefiting them, and only them. That’s why it’s imperative to set and maintain strong boundaries.
19. School Choices
One other common way that narcissistic grandparents will try to insert themselves into the lives of their grandchildren is through attempts to influence your education choices. It’s almost a given that they will criticize your choices.
They will likely try persistently to get you to do what they think is best because, of course, they think only they know what’s best. The type of education your child receives is one of the most important choices you will make.
You need to be clear about what you want, and you need to tell your narcissistic parents to back off. It’s critical that you make it clear to them that you will make that decision, and if they can’t accept your decisions, they don’t have to visit your child.
It might also be important to let your child’s school know that your parents do not have your permission to come get your children or make any decisions regarding their education. The school needs to know about any family members that don’t have your permission to intervene in any way.
Narcissistic grandparents can cause almost as much damage to their grandchildren as they did to their own children. It’s vital for parents to recognize the danger they can pose and take action to prevent them from harming their children. That means setting strong boundaries and maintaining them consistently.
Setting strong boundaries is vital for protecting your children from narcissistic grandparents. This article about how to identify, set, and maintain strong boundaries has important information that can help you do just that.
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