Understanding your Narcissistic Parent

I know.

Why should you understand them right?

They never understood you!

But knowledge is power.

Understanding the motivations and hidden meanings behind narcissistic behaviour can help you cope.

But not only that.

Understanding can help you manage your relationship, minimise stress and take your life back.

Sounds too easy?

Well the bad news is that it probably isn’t completely straightforward. Nor is it likely that you will be able to make an instant difference. But it is worth developing the skills so that you can protect yourself and negotiate better outcomes.

Managing a relationship with a narcissistic parent is a change and learning process that can take a while to implement.


This is a biggie.

Your narcissistic parent will not want you to implement boundaries, or even have any.

You will most likely be insulting them by saying no. They will express personal hurt and dismay when you refuse to listen to their tales of victimisation and for not being at their beck and call 24/7.

  • Try starting small.

  • It’s important to be clear and honest.

You might say “I know you want me to come with you to the supermarket, but I have to pick up the kids.”

If they keep nagging or trying to manipulate you: “I have told you what is happening. I am not going to change my mind.’

You might consider validating their emotions by saying “I understand it’s disappointing, but I have other demands on my time.”

Underneath their bluster, manipulation and bullying, your narcissistic parent will actually be quite fragile.

They want to know that you care about them and part of that is being able to call on you when they need you.

As they age, they will become more needy and less able to cover up their fragility. For people with severe narcissism, a sense of entitlement can mask their feelings of not being worth anyone’s attention. They expect you to be there for them, even at the expense of your other commitments.

But you don’t have to.

You may still be angry at the losses you experienced as part of their manipulative and neglectful parenting, but they may never be able to acknowledge your pain or their mistakes.

That is just the way they are.

Expecting them to validate your resentment and grief is only going to lead to pain - for you and them.

You may need to accept that they are never going to be the parent you wanted and needed as a child, as painful as that is.

You will need to validate your own sadness.

If you have siblings who are on your side, so much the better, but remember that not every family member will have the same view of your parent as you do.

Growing up with narcissistic parents is hard.

Dealing with their difficult behaviour as an adult can just remind you of the pain you experienced as a child due to their lack of empathy and acceptance.

Some adult children choose to go “cold turkey” and end what has always been a manipulative and one-sided relationship. But that is a choice that not everyone can make.