Recently, someone asked me what I considered to be a sort of confusing question, but one that I think a lot of us have asked ourselves at one point or another.
“Can a narcissist be a good parent who doesn’t cause any damage to their children?”
Is this even possible? I have to be honest with you. I have met a LOT of narcissists and even more victims of narcissists doing what I do.
However, I cannot say that I’ve ever met a malignant narcissist who didn’t directly or indirectly cause significant psychological harm to their children.
Often, the harm was also physical and emotional. Sometimes, it was direct and intentional. It was also just a lack of interest or presence or pure neglect.
Considering all of that, how could it be possible for a malignant narcissist or someone with narcissistic personality disorder to be a good parent to raise emotionally healthy, self-actualized, and well-rounded children who become adults without many trauma issues?
Can narcissists be good parents?
While you might initially think it’s utterly impossible for a narcissist to be a good parent, there are a few particular circumstances under which it could theoretically happen.
My Theory: With a Little Friendly Competition, Maybe
Maybe we all have a little trauma in the cards. But I have not seen or heard about a narcissist who didn’t leave severe psychological scars on their children.
Minor traumas may be overblown, for sure. But just as often. the more significant, intense traumas – the kind that gives you that deep, dull ache in your heart when you recall them – are brushed under the rug like they’re nothing.
In general, my opinion has always been that it was, at best, highly unlikely that a narcissistic parent could do enough good in a child’s life to combat the bad.
And that, despite our best efforts, even some well-meaning parents cause some unintentional traumas along the way – or at least miss the opportunity to prevent them.
Most narcissistic parents have a shining moment here and there – or at least a few not-terrible memories are made along the way. There may even be certain parts of parenting in which they shine naturally.
For example, a client recently shared with me that her narcissistic ex had one good point in this area: he was the “fun” parent, and while this also meant he dragged the kids into activities they would end up hating (due to his gung ho, never slow down attitude), it was something that can be healthy and positive in a child’s life.
But, inevitably, such a parent will fail in other areas: genuine connection, structure, discipline, and proper attention, for example. So as sweet as the fun parent is, this is tempered with extreme emotions that can alienate the children and make them feel afraid, resentful, and unseen.
And that’s on the very mild end of the spectrum – it gets far worse.
So in the end, the best I believe it could get with a narcissist is not terrible, or tolerable. Their intermittent style of loving and validating alternating with ignoring, abusing, neglecting, and controlling their children simply doesn’t give their children a “normal” launch into life.
This is especially when that parent is controlling the other parent. You know, the one who should be the child’s advocate when the narcissist goes overboard.
The one who is most easily and often alienated by the narcissist? Yep.
After I thought about it for a while, I concluded that there might be one way a narcissist could be the perfect parent.
They would need to be competing in a Who’s the Best, Healthiest, Least Damaging, Most Selflessly Loving Parent contest. That contest would have to have some rock-solid guidelines and would need to offer regularly scheduled praise and adoration that came at the perfect time
Plus, it would need to have plenty of accountability and unscheduled home visits with secret kid interviews and assessments, to ensure a way to measure and track their progress. And, it would need to go for the whole life of the child or parent, whoever happens to live the longest.
Finally, it might help to give the narcissist something that helps keep their ego in check, depending on what their doctors (or budtenders) have to offer. But we also have to remember that narcissistic personality disorder is not a mental health disease; it is a personality disorder.
Technically, narcissistic personality disorder with malignant traits.
You cannot treat NPD with medicine, but some doctors choose to treat narcissists for co-morbid issues or even side effects of the drugs or treatments. In those cases, treating symptoms could in theory, be possible, but I still do not believe we could ever undo or even permanently stall their behaviors with medicine.
What Psychologists Say It Would Take to Make a Narcissist a Good Parent
The more I thought about it, I decided it would be a good idea to get the opinions of our team’s medical and educational psychologists, just to be safe and offer a full-spectrum answer. Here’s what they had to say when I asked them if there’s any chance that narcissists can be good parents.
Dr. Robin Bryman: Under Specific Circumstances, Maybe
“I believe a narcissist can absolutely be a good parent if the moon and stars are aligned,” Dr. Robin Bryman said, smiling.
“What I mean is that if the narcissist is intelligent, doesn’t have an addiction that impacts their lives, and they set their lives up in a way that their kids succeed, it is possible,” she added, noting that as long as the parent feels successful in their life, it’s not completely impossible.
“They’d need to have a beautiful, handsome, and/or successful spouse or partner, and they would have to be at the top of what they consider a successful life.”
“In this type of situation, the addiction, especially if it’s about control and power, can inadvertently allow a narcissist to effectively parent,” she said.
And since a narcissist often views their children as extensions of themselves, they will want that extension to be as well-adjusted as possible.
Dr. Zamecia McCorvey: Maybe, for Devoted Golden Child
When I asked Dr. Zamecia McCorvey if she believed a narcissist could be a decent parent, she was immediately taken aback.
“I automatically thought Hell No!,” Dr. McCorvey Said, “Considering my life experience being raised by parents who I believe were narcissistic.”
She said that being raised this way has seriously impacted aspects of her life, both growing up and even now, well into adulthood.
“However, as I think past my experience and rely on my understanding of narcissism, I’d say it really depends,” she said.
“They can be a great parent, depending on what role their child plays within the family dynamic,” she continued. “If the child is the golden child and does not deviate from the narcissistic parent’s control are reign, they will experience a better parent than a child who is not easily controlled by the narcissistic parent, or is the scapegoat.”
Maybe, says Dr. Judy Rosenberg, but there’s a catch. We know that there are plenty of malignant, toxic narcissistic parents who completely neglect their kids’ needs, ignore them, control them, physically or sexually abuse them, or otherwise make them miserable.
But there are also many narcissists who appear to be great parents. They take care of their kids’ physical needs and ensure they’ve got the latest and greatest in fashion, gadgets, and everything else. They have beautiful, expensive homes that are perfectly decorated and always spotless.
But even those who do take care of the physical needs may barely even know their children, and the rest are sort of like live-in bullies until the kids move out – and even then, often continue to abuse and control their adult children.
“A narcissist can be a good parent if they are ethical and moral and fulfill their obligations to their children,” Dr. Judy said. “But they will never be a great parent because they just don’t have the wherewithal to show empathy.”
That trademark lack of empathy would effectively leave the child feeling unseen, at the very least. If we were talking about a malignant narcissist, the effects on the child would be more profound.
But, Dr. Judy said, “If they choose an empathic partner it can buffer the effects.”
So, if a narcissist chose a good partner with decent empathy skills, any potential damage to the child’s psyche could be mitigated.
While Dr. Judy’s thoughts are clearly sound, I’d add that, since we know that narcissists are notorious for emotionally and psychologically abusing anyone who gets close enough to see behind their false self (the mask they show the world), we can safely assume that this abuse would also, directly or indirectly, affect the child.
Start Getting Help with Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Today
This affiliation is part of an effort to provide more effective and useful solutions for healing from narcissistic abuse.
Who is Dr. Judy Rosenberg?
Dr. Judy Rosenberg is the founder of the Psychological Healing Center and the Be The Cause® Mind Map System to help “Heal Human Disconnect,” the cause of most psychopathology. By helping people identify their problem and dismantle it, Dr. Judy helps her patients to paradigm shift from the problem into the solution. She completed her undergraduate work in psychology at UCLA and her graduate work at CGI (California Graduate Institute).
Dr. Judy is currently in private practice in Sherman Oaks and Beverly Hills, CA, and continues to help people with various psychological issues. You may also know her from YouTube as Dr. Judy WTF?!, as she has a weekly call-in radio show titled Dr. Judy WTF (What The Freud?!). Her focus there is on healing the “hole in the soul” that results from Human Disconnect.
She is a consultant to the media and has appeared on several television shows and is often interviewed by high-profile publications. Her recent appearances include Huffington Post, MTV, E Entertainment, KCAL News, CBS News, CNN, and Animal Planet. She has been in private practice as a clinical psychologist since 1996.
What is QueenBeeing?
QueenBeeing is an online, comprehensive Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support System created by certified life coach Angie Atkinson and continuously supported by our team of fellow survivors, certified life coaches, and mental health professionals. QueenBeeing also features a strong, vibrant, supportive community for survivors of Narcissistic Abuse that offers support in the form of support groups, counseling, coaching, and a number of courses and tools available for low or no cost.
In addition to the mission of empowering survivors of narcissistic abuse to become thrivers and to create the lives they want, QueenBeeing.com has launched a movement to spread awareness and to help survivors create change in their own families and social circles to prevent enabling and creating toxic people in this world.
Start Getting Help with Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Today
When you first recognize that you’ve been dealing with narcissistic abuse in a toxic relationship, you’re likely to feel two things. First, you’ll feel a bit validated when you recognize that maybe you aren’t as mentally ill as you previously suspected. Then, you might feel a little bit shocked, angry, or confused when you realize that you’ve been living with an abuser and that everything you knew to be true might have been a lie.
Are you trying to end a relationship with a narcissist?
No matter how they fit into your life, it can feel nearly impossible to move on when you’ve been in a relationship with someone who has narcissistic traits.
It’s difficult to understand that the person you thought you knew so well may not have been the person they seemed, and depending on the depth of your relationship, you might be rethinking everything you believed to be true.
Your Guide to Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Online
If you’re here, we assume you have recently been the victim of narcissistic abuse, and it can be hard to know where to start when you’re looking for a guide to narcissistic abuse recovery online.
This guide will help you create your own personal narcissistic abuse recovery, including pointing you toward the information you need to understand and how to find the right kind of support, whether it’s a community, coach, or therapist.
Before we get into some of the resources available, let’s take a look at what narcissism actually is and how people experience narcissistic abuse.
They may also exhibit an absence of conscience, a psychological need for power, and an inflated sense of self-importance and entitlement. In general, we’re talking about someone with a high opinion of him/herself who is a toxic, verbally (and sometimes physically) abusive person.
What is narcissistic abuse?
Narcissistic abuse is a pervasive, covert type of abuse that involves the exploitation and psychological abuse of one partner in a toxic relationship.
Narcissistic abuse involves subtle manipulation, pervasive control tactics, gaslighting, and emotional and psychological abuse. This kind of abuse can affect a personal connection, such as marriage, partnership, friendship, or family relationships.
When you’re dealing with a narcissist in the family, they will often abuse everyone in the household and even affect the extended family members. Even professional relationships and acquaintanceships can be affected by narcissistic abuse.
What’s the first step in narcissistic abuse recovery?
It’s hard to know where to start when you want to heal from narcissistic abuse. You may have heard a friend use the term “narcissism,” but not know exactly what it meant or how it could apply to your situation.
Maybe you don’t know anyone who has been through what you have, and that makes it harder for you to know how to move on and find healing.
The first step is getting as much information as possible so that you can make an informed decision about your next steps.
How long does narcissistic abuse recovery take?
We know firsthand how hard it is to recover from an abusive relationship with a narcissist. It can take years, and some days it feels like you’ll never be free of the devastating impact they had on your life. We want you to know that it’s not true – you will get over this.
We’re here to help make sure that happens as quickly and easily as possible.
Narcissistic abuse isn’t your fault.
This is very important – you need to understand that what happened isn’t your fault, ok? It doesn’t matter if it was a relationship or an abusive experience at work or an ongoing situation with a toxic friend or relative – it’s not your fault.
That doesn’t mean you’re perfect, of course. Everyone makes mistakes, and it’s possible that you’ve made a few yourself.
But that doesn’t make you an intrinsically bad person.
Chances are if you found yourself in a toxic relationship with a narcissist, your flaws are highlighted and magnified by your abuser – but the qualities that led you to tolerate them were most likely born in childhood, thanks to some sort of trauma.
The narcissist in your life may have also been a victim of similar childhood trauma, but they just manifested their damage a little differently than you did.
Finding your way through the fog of narcissistic abuse can be a confusing and isolating experience, but you don’t have to go it alone. We’re here to help.
What are the effects of narcissistic abuse on victims?
While narcissistic abuse can result in profound emotional and psychological harm, as well as long-term physical effects, the covert nature can make it difficult to spot and even more challenging to manage.
Worse, if you find yourself involved in this kind of relationship, your self-confidence and self-worth are often so low by the time you realize it, you can’t or won’t leave. Learn more about the effects of narcissistic abuse.
Why are narcissists so likely to abuse the people close to them?
Not all abuse involves narcissists, but in a large percentage of abuse cases, a narcissist is involved. Malignant narcissists have little to no empathy for the people around them and who act from that perspective.
That is: they don’t care how you or anyone else feels, and you can tell because of the way they treat the people around them.
Many narcissistic abusers might be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder – if they actually go to a psychologist for diagnosis, but this rarely happens as narcissists don’t feel that there’s anything with them. They may be overtly narcissistic, or they may be more of a covert narcissist.
What are the stages of narcissistic abuse recovery?
Whether you know it or not, being here and reading this page could mean you’re already in narcissistic abuse recovery. Most people these days learn they’re dealing with a narcissist by Googling their behavior. Or maybe they took an online “Am I dealing with a narcissist?” test.
Either way, for most people, the first step in narcissistic abuse recovery is looking at the warning signs of a narcissist. The second step is learning about the effects that being in a relationship with a narcissist had on you, and what you can do about them.
As survivors ourselves, our goal is to help victims of narcissistic abuse find the support they need and deserve in this difficult time. We’ve built a powerful narcissistic abuse recovery system just for you, and we’re here to help you build and navigate your own path to recovery.
Small group coaching program here – this costs $60/month, but the support is tremendous. In addition to ongoing chat support throughout the week, you will have access to three live Zoom sessions each week with one of our coaches. It’s a powerful and game-changing group experience with plenty of one-on-one attention when/if you want it.
The Golden Child of a Narcissist is Often a Victim Too!
When we think of the golden child, we often think of the one in the family that never got the abuse from a narcissistic parent. As a person used as the scapegoat, it may be difficult to see the effects abuse had on a golden child sibling.
Of course, there are many situations where unfortunately the golden child becomes a narcissist themselves, but there is another thing that happens for many who grew up in homes with a narcissistic parent and in particular a narcissistic mother. Those people who are empathic and caring stuck in the role of the golden child who then suffered because of it.
The pressure to be perfect, watching siblings be scapegoated or ignored, feeling guilt for being the chosen one are only a few examples of the effects of this form of narcissistic manipulation of children. Other issues like difficulty in adult relationships because of expectations created by a narcissistic parent can really make a challenging belief system not easily healed in people who grew up the golden child.
By creating this system she can manipulate the entire family, as people fall into line under her directives. If you are told you are one thing as a child enough times you will believe it, especially when it comes from mom.
Breaking free from this as an adult can sometimes mean understanding all the roles narcissists use within the family structure because each role plays a part in supporting the narcissist’s delusion of self.
Revealing these truths to yourself hopefully will give you some understanding to know it is NOT you, it is what you were programmed to believe that is the issue. It is not YOUR fault, it is the manipulation of your innocence that was done to you by a narcissistic parent.
Additional Resources for Healing From Narcissistic Abuse
Comprehensive Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Glossary: This is a comprehensive guide to words and phrases (related to narcissism, NPD and related conditions, narcissistic abuse, and narcissistic abuse recovery) that are commonly used in articles, videos, and narcissistic abuse recovery support groups. Defined here as specifically how they relate to narcissism, narcissistic abuse, and narcissistic abuse recovery, these terms have been developed by psychologists, coaches, therapists, and survivors of narcissistic abuse who need a way to understand and overcome the abuse.
FAQ Help: Whenever you need help with something related to this site or you want to know how to find something, join a group or otherwise deal with an issue you’re having, visit our new FAQ Help page.
Self-Care for Survivors: This is a page that covers everything you need to know about self-care, from how to build your own self-care kit to how to sign up for self-care support, and more.
New Resources Page: This is a one-stop overview of narcissism, NPD, and narcissistic abuse recovery, offering a long list of resources that will be helpful for you.
Stalking Resources Center: If your narcissist is a stalker, the information and resources on this page will help you get and stay safe.
The QueenBeeing SPANily, Official – We consider this to be the best narcissistic abuse recovery support group on the web. Offers several subgroups and features a vigilant, compassionate admin team full of trained coaches and survivors, supporting more than 12k members. SPAN is an acronym created by Angie Atkinson that stands for Support for People Affected by Narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships.
Other Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups– We also have separate groups for each stage in your narcissistic abuse recovery, as well as some for those who have moved past recovery and are evolving into the next stage of their own life. Survivors have unique and individual needs, even when they’ve moved on – so we’re still here for you.
One-on-One Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Coaching – If you prefer to get more personalized support in your recovery, you might like to schedule a session with one of our coaches to plan and execute your own narcissistic abuse recovery plan.
Find a Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Therapist – If you’re looking for a therapist for narcissistic abuse recovery, either because you cannot afford coaching and want to use your health insurance or because you have additional issues you need to address that do not fall within the realm of coaching, you will want to find the right therapist for you – and as far as we’re concerned, that therapist must understand what you’ve been through. This page offers assistance to help you do exactly that.
People very often ask how they can be sure a person they are in a relationship with is a narcissist. The struggle to not only understand but to accept what they see and feel can cause so much confusion to survivors of narcissistic abuse. One thing that is asked for is a checklist of abuse, a way to check and see if what is being experienced is really abuse and not the fault of the survivor.
Toxic Relationship? Ask Yourself These Questions
Are you struggling to understand what is going on in your relationship?
Have you questioned things then later second-guessed if it was you that was at fault?
Breaking Trauma Bonds and Healing
In this video, I talk about 40 ways you might experience narcissistic abuse. The things described in this video are meant to help you understand and be aware of signs of toxic abuse in relationships. The more you understand about narcissism the easier it is to accept a narcissist is a narcissist and will abuse. Acceptance helps you to break those horrible trauma bonds that tie you to an abusive person. Know the signs, ask questions, get informed!
Additional Resources for People in Toxic Relationships
Do you think you may be dealing with something a bit more extreme than a narcissist? Have you asked, what is the difference between a narcissist and a sociopath? There is a very dark world that includes the sociopath and the malignant narcissist. Knowing the signs of sociopathic grooming and behavior might save you from future abuse. The sociopath and malignant narcissist are highly abusive. If you have experienced one in your life the chilling effects are likely to have stuck with you. Some of the signs of both sociopathy and malignant narcissists can be seen in the following video. Let me know what you think and if you have anything to add that might help others spot a sociopath.
Understanding narcissism and how the narcissist manipulates and abuses will hopefully help to get you started with healing. I truly hope that understanding things allows you to see it is not your fault. Manipulation by a toxic person is difficult to understand when trying to relate to why they might abuse, seeing them for what they are and how they treat others is an acceptance that can help you greatly with recovery. My hope is that the videos we share give you the sense and peace of mind that you are not alone!
Narcissistic Abuse Recovery by QueenBeeing.com offers free video coaching each week along with videos and help on recovery from toxic relationships. Featuring certified life coach Lise Colucci and supported by QueenBeeing founder and certified life coach Angie Atkinson.