Narcissists are very adept at spotting people that they will be able to manipulate and control. This is particularly true if they are looking for a child or grandchild who they can turn into their ‘golden child’ or use to manipulate other family members. When they are building an emotional connection with that child so that they can gain their trust and then either abuse or exploit them, this is known as grooming. So how can you as a parent deal with grooming from your children’s grandparents?
To combat grooming from toxic grandparents, you have to deal with the triad of features that increase your child’s vulnerability to grooming. This includes helping them to recognize abusive behavior. You also need to admit there is a problem and talk about how hurtful the narcissist’s behavior is.
As loving parents, you want to keep your children from any kind of harm. The damage narcissistic grandparents can do is significant, but it’s critical that you take specific steps to protect them. Read on to learn exactly what you can do.
How Can You Protect Your Children from Grooming?
Oprah Winfrey did a show where she talked with admitted child abusers about how they molested children. One of the topics she covered with them was the question of how they chose their victims and how they got them to do what they wanted.
Perhaps one of the abusers, David, put it best when talking about how he groomed his victim. He said he was able to abuse her because, “I was the only one in her world who would listen to her, who would validate her.” This is one of a triad of features these child molesters identified that allowed them to choose and abuse their victims.
In brief, the triad of features they mentioned includes children who are not equipped to identify untrustworthy or abusive behavior, who have been exposed to adults who don’t take responsibility for their actions and who are not made to take responsibility, and whose families denied problems rather than openly discussing them. Let’s take a look at what you can do to prevent each feature so that your child can identify and prevent abusive treatment, even by their grandparents.
They Don’t Know How to Recognize Abusive Behavior
Narcissistic grandparents, like all narcissists, will not ever take responsibility for their actions. Instead, they blame everyone else. A child doesn’t know the difference until someone calls out their bad behavior. This is what you can do as parents to help your child recognize that their grandparents do bad things sometimes.
You have to call out the abuse as such, and you also have to ensure you don’t even accidentally reproduce that behavior at home. You want to teach your child that abusive behavior can occur in anyone and that it’s okay to speak up about it even if it’s someone close to you. When a child learns to spot manipulation, efforts to control, and abuse, they are much better equipped to say something if it happens to them.
They’ve Been Exposed to Adults Who Won’t Own Their Bad Actions
In most narcissistic families, there is a habit of denial. Of course, the narcissists themselves will deny any responsibility or that they made a mistake, but that habit often gets passed on to other family members as well. When you can’t admit there is a problem, you can’t expect to solve it.
This is why open communication about the bad behavior of narcissistic grandparents can equip your children to deal with it. You want to encourage them to talk about any questionable behavior as well as how that behavior made them feel. In this way, your child will see that you are holding their toxic grandparents accountable for their actions and that will give them the courage to speak up when something happens.
Denial of Problems Rather Than Discussion
This is the way an abuser can know they can get away with it. They know that if your child brings up some kind of bad behavior and you deny it or shut down the conversation, then your child has no recourse to prevent it.
That’s why you want to encourage your child to speak up openly about anything that makes them uncomfortable. Let them know that you are a safe haven where they can come to discuss any problems they have without fear of judgment or being shamed for what they express.
The more open you can communicate with your children, the less hold a toxic grandparent will have over them. It’s a vital part of ensuring that no one can abuse your children without you finding out about it.
What More Can You Do?
It’s a difficult thing because you probably love that your child is trusting and open to experiences in the world. To prevent grooming from narcissistic grandparents or any other kind of abuser, however, you have to teach them that sometimes they can’t trust other people.
The key to successfully teaching them about this is to let them know that trust is something people earn. You can only do that, however, if you also show what trustworthy behavior looks like. For example, you can let them know that keeping secrets is not trustworthy behavior, and if someone asks them to do that, they should question that behavior.
Trustworthy behavior does not include threats either, so you can let your child know that if someone threatens them, that is probably not someone they can trust. Along with teaching them about trust, they need to understand that a person is responsible for their own actions.
Narcissists often blame their victims with phrases like, “You just made me so mad that I lost my temper.” Other abusers do this as well. Each and every person is solely responsible for their own actions no matter what stimulated them. Your child needs to understand that so they won’t take on the guilt if a narcissist tries to blame them for something.
Finally, talk about what bad behavior looks like and about anything they tell you about. Don’t let that cancer grow in silence. Let your children know that they can always talk about something that happened to them as well as how it made them feel.
By teaching your child these things and letting them come to you with anything that happens to them, you’re equipping them to best fight any narcissistic abuse whether from their grandparents or anyone else they encounter in their life.
What Does Grooming Look Like?
This is a really good question because it can be difficult to spot. Here are several stages that grooming involves and what happens in each.
Stage 1: Targeting
During this stage, the narcissists are learning about your child’s vulnerabilities. Maybe they are emotionally needy or lack self-confidence. Narcissists pick up on vulnerabilities very easily.
Stage 2: Gain Trust
After identifying your child’s vulnerability, they will then proceed to gain their trust. They might offer advice, buy them gifts, give them attention, or take them someplace special. This seems like normal grandparent behavior, but the key is the intention behind it. They are setting them up for what comes next.
Stage 3: Fill a Need
This is where they start to influence your children behind your back. They might give them something you told them they couldn’t have, for example. They will also subtly start to make them feel indebted for what seems like grandparent kindness.
Stage 4: Isolation
This is where the narcissistic grandparents start trying to isolate the child from the rest of the family. They will offer to take one of your children to do something special. Again, that seems nice, but if they aren’t spreading the love around to the other children or if they’re wanting to have the child alone too frequently, they may be attempting to isolate them.
Stage 5: Abuse
This is when the actual emotional abuse begins. The narcissistic grandparents will do the same kinds of things they did to you or your spouse as a child. They will withdraw love if their grandchild doesn’t do what they want, they will gaslight, lie, and triangulate. All of these are very damaging for your children. They will also use your child’s own emotional triggers to manipulate and control them.
Stage 6: Maintaining Control
This is where the grandparents will begin to openly undermine your authority as a parent. They may tell your child that you are a bad parent and that they can’t trust you. They put real pressure on your children not to divulge anything they have told them. If they are successful here, it can be very difficult to get the child to admit something is wrong.
Like all abusers, narcissists groom their victims, and that includes their own grandchildren. Making your children aware of the possibilities and what grooming looks like can help them recognize it and be prepared for when it happens. It also helps if you can assist your children in getting their own emotional triggers under control.
My 5 Step Roadmap to Heal Emotional Triggers can help you and your children recognize, defuse, and heal your emotional triggers. It’s free, and if you click on this link, I’ll send it directly to your inbox. It will help you stop narcissistic abuse in its tracks.
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