5 Tell-Tale Signs of a Narcissistic Parent & How You Can Cope

By Tatenda


Last Updated: July 9, 2022

Parents can be our heroes, but they're also humans who aren’t perfect.

Unfortunately, society has made it taboo for anyone to point out anything wrong with their parents. Just because they are your parents, you are expected to take everything they throw at you. 

Scrutinizing your parents’ personality and character paints you as an ungrateful child. Sometimes though, we need to put that mentality aside and call a spade a spade. 

Some parents have narcissistic tendencies and their parenting style has a huge impact on how the children are raised and the adults they become. 

It is with no doubt that our childhood experiences shape who we grow to become. As adults, some people have to go through years of therapy to deal with the issues that emanated from how they were raised.

In some cases, they even think it’s their fault when in reality, it’s because they were raised by narcissistic parents. 

Knowing the signs of a narcissistic parent will help you understand who you are today and how your past has shaped you. It will help you heal and not blame yourself for how you turned out as an adult.

Importantly, it also helps you evaluate your personality and parental style so that you create the best environment possible for your children. 

Now, buckle up and let’s go on this uncomfortable but much-needed ride of exploring signs of a narcissistic parent!



5 Signs of a Narcissistic Parent

1. They live through their child.

Most parents want their children to succeed and lead a fulfilling life. They will do the best they can to ensure that the child stays away from drugs and crime, gets a good education and builds a good career. 

However, narcissistic parents go a few steps beyond wanting the best for their children. They want to live through their children, using them to accomplish all the things they didn’t.

They want their child to have the same dreams and goals as them and they will instill their values in the child. As the child gets older, sets boundaries, and is capable of having values of their own, these parents will throw tantrums and diminish the child’s individuality. 


2. A narcissistic parent is manipulative.

Narcissistic parents want everything done their way and when they can’t have it, they resort to manipulation.  

Types of manipulation they use include: 

  • Shaming
  • Guilt-tripping
  • Manipulative reward/punishment
  • Emotional manipulation
  • Blaming
  • Negative comparison 

They make it a point that the child doesn’t deserve their love unless he/she does what they want and how they want it done. Phrases such as “it’s your fault …” and “if you don’t do … I will…” are a big part of their vocabulary. 


3. They are controlling 

Narcissistic parents want to be in charge of every move their child makes.

When the child chooses to do something different from what the parent wants, they get angry and make the child feel guilty for being anything else different from what their parents want. 

They view their child’s independence as a threat as that will mean they will not have control. This loss of control frustrates them. Consequently, they will try to control the child even from afar.


4. They are overly possessive and jealousy.

Due to their need to always be in control and have the final say in everything, when narcissistic parents notice that they are losing control of their children, they become jealous. When the child has a romantic partner, they feel like they are losing their child to the partner. 

What they are really scared of is losing control as their child will be starting a new life that isn’t directly attached to them. The TLC legendary show, I Love a Mama’s Boy accurately shows how this happens. 


5. They are unpredictable.

Narcissists are hot one minute and cold the next. They might seem to be in a good mood and happy, then all of a sudden they are full of anger.

Usually, they are in a good mood when they want something from you. They will come across as though you have the power to say yes or no. But the moment you choose the opposite of what they want? All hell breaks loose.  

When you’re around them you have to walk on eggshells as you have no idea where exactly they stand. 



I Think I Had/Have a Narcissistic Parent, What Should I Do? 

Confronting a narcissist doesn’t really help. In most cases, these people will not change. They will also most likely never acknowledge their mistakes or apologize. So, the best you can do is work on yourself rather than trying to change them.

Having a narcissistic parent can have you believe that everything that goes wrong is your fault. This is because you grew up being blamed for everything. Once you know your parent’s personality, the next step is to remind yourself that you’re not always the one to blame.

This is definitely not easy but over time and with support, it gets better. 

Often, people raised by narcissistic parents tend to also adopt unhealthy parenting styles. This is simply because they don’t know how healthy relationships are supposed to work. It is their responsibility to unlearn some things that they grew up with so that they can be the best parents their children deserve.

As people get older, some decide to detach themselves from their parents. This is because they notice that the pain associated with having a relationship with their parents is worse than that of never hearing from them again.

This is definitely a difficult decision to make but sometimes we feel bad after making a decision that is good for us and that is okay.

Lastly, you can also consider therapy. This will help you deal with everything that has happened in your past and set you on a journey to a happy and more fulfilling life. Remember, you have the power to shape your future!

Photo by Albert Rafael


4 comments on “5 Tell-Tale Signs of a Narcissistic Parent & How You Can Cope”

    1. We can't always help what happened to us as children Nerea, but we can grow from our experience and forge new paths if we don't want to repeat what our parents did. The important thing is to recognize unhealthy behavior and turn it around, with support for you and your children.

    1. Absolutely, Patti. The first step in any kind of personal development is being self-aware of our own behaviors. This is how we find strength to grow and break unhealthy habits and patterns.

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