Can Narcissistic Parents Really Love their Children?

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If you’re the child of narcissistic parents, you’re likely wondering if they are even capable of loving you. From your end, it likely seems as though they just don’t have the ability to love anyone. They are constantly criticizing you, they make you question your own judgment, and they don’t ever support you. You likely feel as though you will never be able to do anything to please them. Try as you might, they are never happy with anything you do. With all of that, it’s natural to wonder if they love you at all or even if they can love anyone. 

While it’s difficult to know what anyone truly feels inside, narcissistic parents are unable to express their emotions well, and their love is not unconditional. Instead, they expect that their children will behave in the way they want them to in order to deserve their parents’ expressions of love.

Even if you do everything they want, narcissistic parents are unlikely to reward you with a loving expression. That often only happens when they want something from you, but it’s important to explore how toxic parents feel about their children in more detail. 

How Narcissistic Parents Process Emotions

Narcissists learn early in life to bury their emotions, particularly loving emotions, because they believe those types of feelings make them vulnerable. They are very wary of anyone who might seek to exploit their emotions and use them for manipulation or to cause them harm. That’s part of why a narcissist will rarely express their feelings directly. 

If a narcissist wants something from you, they will often love-bomb you as a way to manipulate you into doing what they want. This is an extravagant display of affection, and it’s something all narcissists, including toxic parents, will use as a manipulation tactic. Perhaps they really love their children, but this display of affection is really not about that; they just want to get you to do their bidding. 

When narcissists are confronted with their bad behavior, they often respond with narcissistic rage. They are hypersensitive to anything that feels like criticism, and because they often dissociate from the reality around them, they have a distorted kind of logic and perceive many innocent remarks or actions to be a form of criticism. Something as simple as neglecting to tell your narcissistic parents that you love them before leaving the room could set them off. 

What Does Love Mean to a Narcissist?

What love means to a narcissist is that you do what they want when they want it while simultaneously expressing your undying love for them. For the narcissistic parent, it means you always behave exactly how they want you to so that you show the world that they are great parents. Moreover, their love is conditional. If you misbehave, refuse their requests, or confront them, they withdraw any expressions of love, and they typically do so in a particularly cruel way. 

Grandiose narcissistic parents will want to make sure that everyone knows they are good parents, and toward that end, they will often do particularly nice things for you in front of other people. In the privacy of your own home, however, they will show their true colors. They are frequently critical of their children and won’t hesitate to devalue you. 

Covert narcissistic parents are more insidious in their manipulation tactics. They will use guilt to make you feel inadequate, and they will make themselves out to be your victim. They will make sure that everyone knows how badly you treat them even though they do everything for you. They will use sneaky manipulation tactics to undermine your attempts to become independent and have even been known to go so far as talking you down at your place of work.

In both cases, these narcissistic parents want to ensure their children will remain dependent on them. Unlike healthy parents, they don’t want their children to become independent. The narcissist wants their children to need them until the day they die. 

What Can I Do to Protect Myself from Narcissistic Abuse?

What Can I Do to Protect Myself from Narcissistic Abuse

Adult children of narcissists have more options open to them than minor children do, but regardless of your age, one of the most important things you can do is practice good self-care techniques to help build your self-esteem. You can do this by practicing affirmations regularly and getting away from them as often as possible. 

It’s also helpful to build strong friendships outside of your family unit. Having good friends you can lean on will help you process the emotions that narcissistic abuse generates in victims. It will also help you to journal your thoughts and feelings as a way to help process what has been happening in your life. 

Options for Adult Children of Narcissists

Adult children have several options available to them to recover from narcissistic abuse. They can control when and how long they communicate with their toxic parents, and they can even choose to go no-contact

They can also set and maintain strong boundaries with clear consequences for violations. This may mean going low contact or ending communication altogether. Furthermore, they can choose to get therapy for the damage done by their narcissistic parents. 

Options for Minor Children of Narcissists

For minor children of narcissistic parents, there are fewer options available to them. They can and should practice healthy self-care techniques to help them process their emotions and build self-esteem. Beyond that, they can seek to limit time spent with their toxic parents as much as possible, and try to process their problems with good friends who offer them helpful support. 

It’s also helpful to praise narcissistic parents so you won’t be the target of their rage. Another technique that’s good to use is the ‘grey rock’ technique. This is where you make yourself as uninteresting to the narcissist as possible. Don’t react emotionally to their manipulation techniques, and respond to their inquiries with as short a response as you can manage. If you can manage to make yourself less interesting, they will look for someone else to target. 

Final Thoughts

I can’t tell you what your narcissistic parents genuinely feel for you. I can tell you, however, that narcissists — just like anyone else — feel emotions, but they often bury feelings they believe will make them vulnerable such as love. It’s also true that their love is conditional, and when you disobey them, fail to do what they want, or confront them, you’re likely to be met with an emotional, illogical, and rageful response that won’t feel like love at all. 

Now that you understand more about your narcissistic parents, you’ve got to check out this post that gives you 5 examples of how they can manipulate you. It will give you greater insight into their behavior and what you should watch for. 


If you want more tips for dealing with narcissists, setting boundaries, and managing emotional triggers, make sure you subscribe to my youtube channel


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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