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A narcissistic parent is a parent affected by narcissism or narcissistic personality disorder. Typically narcissistic parents are exclusively and possessively close to their children and may be especially envious of, and threatened by, their child's growing independence. The result may be what has been termed a pattern of narcissistic attachment, with the child considered to exist solely to fulfill the parents wishes and needs.
Narcissistic people with low self esteem feel the need to control how others regard them, fearing they will be blamed or rejected and personal inadequacies exposed. They are self absorbed, some to the point of grandiosity; and being preoccupied with protecting their self image, they tend to be inflexible, and lack the empathy necessary for child raising.
Narcissism tends to play out inter-generationally, with narcissistic parents producing either narcissistic or codependent children in turn. Whereas a self-confident parent - the good-enough parent – can allow a child its autonomous development, the narcissistic parent may instead use the child as a means to promote their own image. The father concerned with self-enhancement - with being mirrored and admired by a son - may leave the latter feeling a puppet to his father's emotional/intellectual demands.
To maintain their self esteem, and protect their vulnerable selves, narcissists need to control others' behavior – particularly that of their children seen as extensions of themselves. Thus narcissistic parents may speak of "carry[ing] the torch," "maintain[ing] the family image," or "make[ing] mum or dad proud" and may reproach their children for exhibiting "weakness," "being too dramatic," or not meeting the standard of "what is expected." As a result, children of narcissists learn to "play their part" and to "perform their special skill," especially in public or for others; but typically do not have many memories of having felt loved or appreciated for being themselves, rather associating their experience of love and appreciation with conforming to the demands of the narcissistic parent.
Destructive narcissistic parents have a pattern of consistently being the focus of attention, exaggerating, seeking compliments and putting their children down. Punishment in the form of blame, criticism or emotional blackmail, and attempts to induce guilt, may be used to ensure compliance with the parents' wishes and their need for narcissistic supply.
Children of a resistant, more stubborn temperament parent defend against being supportive of others in the house. They observe how the selfish parents get their needs met by others. They learn how manipulation and using guilt gets the parent what he or she wants. They develop a false self and use aggression and intimidation to get their way.
The sensitive, guilt-ridden children in the family learn to meet the parent’s needs for gratification and try to get love by accommodating the whims and wishes of the parent. The child’s normal feelings are ignored, denied and eventually repressed in attempts to gain the parent’s “love”. Guilt and shame keep the child locked into this developmental arrest. Their aggressive impulses and rage become split off and are not integrated with normal development. These children develop a false self as a defense mechanism and become codependent in relationships. The child's unconscious denial of their true self perpetuates a cycle of self-hatred, fearing any reminder of their authentic self.