Could narcissists really be jealous of their own children?
So often, my clients are people who are or were in relationships with toxic narcissists. They get in touch with me because they need help either getting out of or getting over a toxic relationship – and often to help them to let go of one and find themselves again.
One of the most common issues I find with these clients is that they often also have a narcisistic parent who really shaped parts of them – and one who was often jealous of them – even in childhood. Then there are the parents who are struggling with their narcissistic spouse or co-parent (or step parent) due in part to that person’s jealousy of the kids involved in the relationship – whether or not the kids are their own.
And ultimately, one question these people ask me – whether it’s from the adult child of a narcissist perspective or from the perspective of someone who is forced to co-parent with a narcissist is the same: why are narcissists jealous of children?
So, I’m going to break this video into two sections – first the narcissistic mother and then the narcissistic father.
Let’s start with your everyday, average Narc Mom.
I’m gonna begin with a quick story.
The other day, my 8-year-old daughter was wearing a tank top and I was suddenly aware that there are signs of future development in her chest area. I thought immediately of the story one client had told me – her father had sexualized her and her mother had been insanely jealous – so much so that she never took her daughter to get a bra, even when she desperately needed one. To make a long story short, this was a pretty traumatic omission for my client. So, that day, I took my daughter shopping and bought her a little starter bra wardrobe – mostly little pullover bras with a little padding to help her feel comfortable. She probably doesn’t even need bras just yet – it is only noticeable in thin tanktops – but I felt like it was something I needed to do. I told my client about it, and let her know how her experience had inspiredd me. Even better, my daughter loved the experience and it was really good for our bonding.
Now, in my case, the relationship with my daughter was strengthened by the “bra” experience. In the case of a narcissistic mother, the relationship can take a bit of a downturn when the narcissistic mother sees her daughter beginning to develop feminine qualitites.
I think when the narcissist is a mother, her jealousy is partially related to the fact that her daughter is growing into a woman and this reminds narc mom that she’s getting older and that her daughter will soon be the one people are staring at – if she’s not already.
This makes her feel insignificant and this feeling of inadequacy is intensified when she is concerned that her husband (father or stepfather) feels warmly toward the daughter, loves her or even shares interests with her that are separate from the narc mom’s.
In some cases, the father or stepfather will do things that makes the narc mom believe that he is sexualizing his daughter or stepdaughter – as in the case of the client I mentioned – and she will retaliate against her own daughter in the same way that a jealous wife would retailate against someone who was actively flirting with her man and trying to steal him away.
In response, the codependent father will often pull away from his daughter and focus his affections on the narc mom and or any male children in the household – further isolating and alienating the daughter of the narcissist.
When it comes to narc moms and sons, there can be a couple of different scenarios – either the son is also a narcissist and therefore the “golden child” who can do no wrong, or he’s constantly berated for not being good enough, no matter how good he actually is. The narc mom uses guilt and tears to control and manipulate him, if she’s not outright ordering him around.
Often the narc mom continues controlling both sons and daughters in various ways well into adulthood – unless they recognize the deal and decide to go no-contact. But we all know that isn’t always the case.
If you’re an adult child of a narcissistic mother, you know what I’m talking about. And if you’re co-parenting with a narc mom, you also have a pretty good idea – but your perspective might also include guilt for not knowing how to stop her from abusing your kids.
As Karyl McBride PhD says, “Envy allows the insecure mother to feel temporarily better about herself. When she envies and then criticizes and devalues the daughter, she diminishes the threat to her own fragile self-esteem. Envy is a powerful tool in the narcissist’s repertoire, and you will see this in the mother’s interactions with other people as well. But, when directed at the daughter, it creates a feeling of helplessness and painful self-doubt.”
Now let’s talk about fathers who are narcissistic.
They tend to see their kids as both extensions of themselves and as people they need to compete with.
Kids under a certain age are sort of similar to the narcissist – they are the center of their own worlds and they have no ability to empathize.
And the narcissist often sees children as devious and cunning – just because they act like kids – where they only think of themselves and they aren’t concerned with others’ feelings – at least not when they’re little.
Most kids start showing empathy on some level by the time they’re three years old.
The narcissistic father is jealous of kids because they steal his supply – they cause their mother to focus on them so much she sometimes forgets he even “needs” that attention – and this makes him feel infuriated – and sometimes, children make him remember what could’ve been – and what he’s not.
He seems to be in shock – he argues with a three-year-old like he’s an adult and criticizes a 10-year-old like she’s his lowly servant who deserves nothing better.
So, the narcissistic father feels intense jealousy because the people he considers “his” – those who he feels belong to him and whose attention he deserves – are often stolen from him in the moment by his child – and god forbid if it’s a step-child – because if he doesn’t feel that the competitor for his attention is an extension of himself, he will ruthlessly batter that kid’s emotional health for all he’s worth, often leaving the kid completely lost and feeling alone in the world.
The narcissistic father hates his own children because they cause his favorite sources of narcissistic supply to ignore him, or to favor someoen over him.
The people he “owns” – those he feels he’s got an unwritten contract in which they all owe him attention all the time – he feels betrayed by them in a sense when they love his kids. He discards them over and over again in order to deal with his emotions – and he judges them so harshly that they grow up without the ability to even make their own choices, and like the narcissistic mother, they remain the voice in the kid’s head forever.
Daughters of narcissistic fathers often report not getting enough attention or getting what they needed rfrom their dads – and while their fathers might compliment them on their beauty as little children, they’d start cutting them down in sneaky ways as they got older – maybe talking about their weight, bad attitudes or treating them like they’re less intelligent than they actually are, for example. Essentially, they leave the daughter feeling like she’s just never enough, and she ends up feeling like no one is ever going to really be there for her – and she either becomes a commitment – phobic type or she loves so hard she leaves proverbial clawmarks in the throat of everyone she calls “hers.”
Daughters need to feel adored by their fathers and when they aren’t, they lose. A healthy father who loves his daughter can validate her and help her to realize that she has value – and then she learns that she is both special and that she deserves to be loved, just for being herself. Daughters of narc fathers don’t get that gift.
When it comes to sons of narcissistic fathers, they feel like they’ll never quite measure up. They will literally compete with their sons for attention and even in other ways – like beating them at every game, for example.
Sons respond one of two ways – either accept defeat and allow their narc dads to continue to be the king of their castles, or to work hard to beat him at his game, potentially becoming a narc himself. In either case, the son of a narc father can never feel really good about himself – he, like the daughters, will often feel “just not good enough.”
So, let’s sum it all up, shall we?
Narcissistic parents are jealous of their children for a few different reasons.
First, the children are always seen as extensions of themselvess and while this can lead to narcissistic supply when the child is used as an object for the narcissist to collect attention (such as the narc mom who puts her daughter in pageants), it can also lead to insane jelaousy when the children get attention the narc parent feels slighted. And this makes him or her feel like they’ve been betrayed.
Mothers are jealous of their daughters in strange ways – as sexual and intellectual competitors, almost like a live-in mean girl, while fathers are jealuos of their kids as competitors for attention specifically. And like girls need to be adored by their father for validation, boys need to see that their dad believes in them.
Of course, in both cases, the kids can seeem like mirrors to the faults and shortcomings of the narc parents.
So what do you think about all of this? What would you add? What have your experiences been? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below. Let’s discuss it.
Angela Atkinson is a Certified Life Coach and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic relationships since 2006, Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own.
Atkinson offers trauma-informed coaching and has certifications in life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves.
Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded QueenBeeing.com Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy. In her life coaching practice, Atkinson’s clients enjoy her personalized approach that allows and encourages them to become the best possible versions of themselves and to succeed in doing what they love most. She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online and NarcissismSupportCoach.com.