7 Hidden Tactics Of Narcissistic Grandparents

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When you think of grandparents, you typically think of charming, loving people who adore their grandchildren and want nothing more than to spoil them. Grandparents with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), however, are completely different. They use manipulative tactics to groom their grandchildren, undermine their own children’s parental authority, and gain control over the entire family. 

To do this, grandparents use any and all of the following 7 manipulative tactics: 

  1. Triangulation
  2. Playing Favorites
  3. Exploiting Vulnerabilities
  4. Filling a Need
  5. Subtle Isolation
  6. Gaslighting
  7. Buying Loyalty

When narcissistic grandparents begin to manipulate their own grandchildren, it’s extremely disruptive to the family dynamic. Parents need to understand these tactics and the reasons behind them if they are going to have a prayer of protecting their children from narcissistic grandparents. Read on to learn more about these 7 hidden tactics and what you can do to keep your children from harm. 

1. Triangulation

Triangulation is a very damaging manipulation tactic. This involves telling one person in the family one thing and someone else something completely different. Narcissistic grandparents regularly use this technique both between their grandchildren and between their grandchildren and their own children. 

In other words, narcissistic grandparents will tell one grandchild one thing and another something different. They will also tell their grandchild something and the child’s parents something different. This is an incredibly damaging manipulation tactic since it sows mistrust between family members. Sometimes, the damage done can last a lifetime. 

2. Playing Favorites

Playing Favorites

Another damaging tactic that narcissistic grandparents will use is to choose one grandchild as their favorite. They will shower this child with loving attention while ignoring or even devaluing their other grandchildren. 

They use this tactic to get the other grandchildren to compete for their attention. It makes them feel loved and valued, and it also creates family drama that narcissists just love. It’s also very damaging because it can cause a rift between siblings that will never quite heal. 

3. Exploiting Vulnerabilities

One thing narcissists are extremely adept at doing is spotting vulnerabilities. They are very capable of noticing what exactly makes a person feel uncomfortable or become emotionally distraught. 

Once they see what makes someone uncomfortable, they will use that to their own advantage. Children are typically very open about their emotions, and thus, they make easy targets for narcissistic grandparents. Because children are not mature enough to understand manipulation, their own narcissistic grandparents don’t have difficulty exploiting their vulnerabilities. 

4. Filling a Need

Narcissists are very good at presenting themselves as compassionate people who want to help in any way they can, at least initially, they are. It generally isn’t until later in a relationship that they reveal their true motivation. 

For narcissistic grandparents, it’s often easy to see something their grandchildren need. Some kind of seemingly emotional support or a friend to talk to when they are frustrated, for example, is a great way for a narcissistic grandparent to get on their grandchild’s good side. They often come off seeming like they are on the child’s side, but nothing could be further from the truth. Narcissists are only on their own side. 

5. Subtle Isolation

Subtle Isolation

Narcissistic grandparents, like all narcissists, try to isolate their targets. The reason for this is that they don’t want other people to give them perspective about the emotional abuse they are enduring. When the victim of a narcissist doesn’t have anyone they can turn to in order to process their feelings, they often start believing what the narcissist is telling them. 

This is true, as well, for the grandchildren of narcissists. Their toxic grandparents will subtly try to isolate them from other family members and friends so that the only people they have to turn to are their grandparents. 

6. Gaslighting

Gaslighting is a common tactic that narcissists famously use to make their victims feel like they are the crazy ones. In fact, the tactic actually comes from a movie where a narcissistic husband was trying to make his wife believe she was insane. That’s exactly what narcissists want you to believe. 

The grandchildren of narcissists are no exception to this rule. They, too, are the victims of gaslighting by their grandparents. It’s common for narcissists to either deny outright their victim’s version of a story or make it seem like they are overly sensitive or took something the wrong way. It’s an effective tactic that can undermine the self-confidence of their grandchildren, and that damage done can last a lifetime. 

7. Buying Loyalty

Buying Loyalty

Another tactic that narcissistic grandparents regularly employ is to buy their grandchildren’s loyalty. They often do this despite the objections of their own children. They will buy the grandkids that expensive gift the parents wouldn’t or couldn’t give them. They use this kind of tactic to create a ‘special’ relationship between themselves and their grandchildren. 

This not only gets their grandchildren to be loyal to them, but it also undermines your parental authority. Narcissistic grandparents might, for example, buy your children a gift that you didn’t want them to have. They will often go against your express wishes even though you have told them why you don’t want the kids to have the item in question. 

How Can You Protect Your Children from Narcissistic Grandparents?

If you know your grandchildren are exposed to narcissistic grandparents, you want to act in their best interests to prevent any long-term damage to their self-esteem or self-confidence. You also want to try to preserve their relationship with their siblings, which is something narcissistic grandparents will damage if left unchecked. 

There are several things you can do to prevent the damage narcissistic grandparents will do. Here are some of the best ways to protect your children: 

  • Set Strong Boundaries

The first thing you need to do is set strong boundaries with the narcissistic grandparents in question. They should know explicitly what is and what is not acceptable behavior. They should also be told exactly what the consequences will be for violating those boundaries. Consequences should include the possibility of going no contact. In fact, even if you feel you could never do that, you should leave that possibility on the table. 

  • Monitored Visits

If you fear that your parents are doing things to undermine your authority as a parent or cause conflict between siblings, you should exercise your option to monitor their interactions when they’re visiting with your children. That allows you to step in if they begin doing something you don’t want them to do. 

  • Limited Visits

Another way to control your children’s exposure to their toxic grandparents is to simply limit the time they can spend with them. You have a right as a parent to control how long your parents spend with your children. You can set a specific time limit so that there isn’t as much time to do the kind of damage that narcissists like to do. You also have the right to control when your parents can visit with their grandchildren. 

  • Off-Limits Subjects and Activities

You also have the right to set limits on what your parents can talk about around your children and/or what activities are off-limits. To ensure they don’t violate these boundaries, you’ll likely have to monitor their visits. There’s nothing a narcissist loves more than breaking the rules set for them by other people, so, don’t expect them to abide by your rules; you need to make sure they do for yourself. 

Final Thoughts

As a parent, you want to do everything in your power to protect your children from any dangers or challenges they might face in their life. Narcissistic grandparents are a very formidable threat to your child’s wellbeing, and it’s vital to ensure they can’t do the kind of damage that children of narcissists know so well. You not only want to take the steps mentioned above, but you also want to help them protect themselves emotionally. 

One very effective way to do that is to help them neutralize their emotional triggers, and this works for you too. My 5 Step Roadmap to Heal Emotional Triggers can help you identify and heal your emotional triggers which will keep toxic people from manipulating you. It can work for you and your children. For a free copy of this handy guide, just click on the link here and I’ll send it directly to your inbox.  


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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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