Interacting with a narcissist in any context is difficult. When it’s your son, you might feel it’s even more of a problem. You probably don’t want to, or may not be able to, leave your own son. It’s not a relationship you’ll likely want to end, and that limits your choices.
Whether your son is an adult or still a minor, his narcissism will be a major problem in your life. He is likely unpredictable in his reactions and behavior. He probably gaslights you, flies into a narcissistic rage, and uses every manipulation technique in the book to make you feel as though you need to cater to him.
What’s more, as he struggles with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, he might even threaten at times to hurt himself. As the parent of a narcissist, it can be excruciatingly painful to watch your beloved child struggle with this mental condition.
In addition to watching him struggle, you also have to deal with his continuous attempts to manipulate you. It can leave you feeling helpless and hopeless for his future. There are ways, however, to interact with him that can help.
How to Interact with Your Narcissistic Child
It’s important to remember that you have to set strong boundaries and enforce them as you say you will, every time. You must also be sure to make time to care for yourself. Using the following tips can help you interact with your son in a healthy way that might help him improve his behavior, too.
Spend Time Apart
It will be vital for you to take a break from your narcissistic son to help you recharge your battery and reflect on your interactions with him. If your son lives at home, you’ll want to take several breaks throughout the day just like you would at a job.
During your break time, get away from him, and use that time to reflect on what has occurred. Narcissists are experts at generating confusion so that the only voice you can hear is theirs. By taking regular breaks, you can counteract that effect.
Help Him Affirm His Worth
Narcissists require their daily supply of affection, attention, adoration, and appreciation. If they can utilize affirmations to boost their ego, that can help with their underlying insecurity. It’s preventative medicine, in a way. It can help to work with your son on repeating daily affirmations. Perhaps these can be done before meals or right before bed. The more you can help him to realize his own worth, the more you can help him reduce his narcissistic tendencies.
The Hamburger/Sandwich Method — Compliment, Criticism, Compliment
The hamburger method, also known as the sandwich method, can help when you have to confront your narcissistic son. With this method you sandwich a criticism between two compliments.
When you use this method, you increase the chance that your son will hear you and understand what you’re saying. It’s never ideal to have to confront him head-on, because he will feel attacked and likely react with narcissistic rage. That can make him too defensive to listen to reason, but with the hamburger method, you appeal to his need for adoration even as you slip in your confrontation.
Be Firm with Your Boundaries
When dealing with a narcissist, it’s vital to set and maintain strong boundaries. In the case of your narcissistic son, it might help to even make a contractual agreement for how you will treat one another.
It’s critical to make boundaries and consequences crystal clear so that your son will know if he is crossing a boundary, and he will know what to expect as a result. You must implement without fail those consequences each and every time there is a boundary violation. It’s the same with any child, really, since if they figure out you don’t mean what you say, they will take advantage of that.
Don’t Take Any Guff
You should never allow anyone to abuse you. Often, it’s more difficult to stop when it’s coming from your child. That being said, you must make this a strong boundary and implement any consequences immediately if abuse occurs.
You should lay out those consequences clearly. They may include walking away if your narcissistic son becomes verbally abusive, hanging up on him if it occurs over the phone, or even calling the police if the abuse escalates to something physical. You don’t want to hurt them, but you also have to protect yourself.
Shut Down Any Gaslighting
Gaslighting is a favorite technique of narcissists. They like to make you think you’re going crazy. They deny doing something you know they did or they act as though you are overreacting. In short, they are trying to paint an entirely different picture of what you know happened.
It’s a common technique of abusers, and you need to shut it down before it has its intended effect on you. You can keep a journal of incidents and facts; you can even tape record conversations. Inform him you’re doing so and that will help keep him in line.
This will also help you to be certain that you’re not crazy and you’re not overreacting. You have to be able to trust your own perception of reality, so don’t let even your narcissistic son make you question that.
It’s very difficult when the narcissist in your life is your child and to interact with him in a healthy way. As his parent, you’re focused on trying to do everything you can to show him you love him and help him succeed. When he’s struggling with narcissism, that becomes an almost impossible task.
One of the most helpful things you can do if he is agreeable is to get him into counseling. It’s even worthwhile to involve the whole family to help improve the dynamic between your narcissistic son and his siblings and his other parent.
The best therapy is one where the parents and children are equal participants, and involving the whole family can help everyone understand this mental condition. It can also make everyone accountable for their own behavior, help to mediate any disputes, and provide the whole family a safe place to discuss their feelings.
While therapy will give your narcissistic son his best chance for overcoming this challenging mental condition, it will also help you to process your own feelings about the situation and learn effective strategies for dealing with a narcissist. That’s an important part of self-care when you’re interacting with a narcissist.
It can help to understand your son more if you have a better understanding of the traits of a narcissist. Check out the article, “7 Characteristics of a Narcissistic Person,” to learn in greater detail the characteristics to be aware of when you think you may be dealing with a narcissist.
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