Can a Narcissist be a Good Parent? (A comprehensive guide)

In this brief guide, we will discuss the question “can a narcissist be a good parent?”, as well as other problematic issues like how to save a child from a narcissistic father, and lastly, look at how having a narcissistic father or mother affects the personality of a child.

Can a Narcissist be a Good Parent?

There is no simple answer to “Can a narcissist be a good parent?” because personality types are complicated topics, and there may be many variables in this topic; if the narcissism being talked about in this case is just narcissistic traits in an otherwise normal person, the answer is yes, a narcissist can be a good parent, if it is narcissism like in narcissistic personality disorder, the answer is no, they cannot be good parents.

Parenthood on its own is hard, and it can be hard on both the child and the parent, and when the question of the parents’ or the children’s personality is thrown into the mix questions like can a narcissist is a good parent may come up.

There is a whole subreddit that is devoted to being raised by narcissists, which acts as something of a support group where people talk about having narcissistic parents and what it did to their psyche, and even how hard it is to have narcissistic parents even after people have grown up.

The posts on this forum are shocking, some times, and it is a sad glimpse into the world of a child that has narcissists as parents, and perhaps the saddest part is that there are around 635000 subscribers of this thread, and it is incredibly heartbreaking that so many people thought that narcissists could be good parents and had children.

To understand if narcissists can be good parents, one needs to first understand what narcissism is, and what the difference between healthy and abnormal narcissism may even be.

What is Narcissism?

Narcissism is a concept named after a greek figure Narcissus, who fell in love with his own reflection, and this explains what narcissism is, which is intense self-love that is unparalleled by love for anything else, and a pursuit of goals or achievements that are revolving around self.

Narcissism is also characterized by the tendency to talk about oneself far too much, expect only good things to happen to oneself, and getting annoyed or even angry when things don’t go the person’s way.

According to Freud narcissistic tendencies are a result of the loss of a beloved object when we are children and when this object is lost the person internalizes feelings of self-loathing and sadness, and their entire life is spent in the seeking of the feeling of fulfillment and wanting to avoid feeling bad about themselves.

There are other theories as well, that suggests that narcissism comes about as a result of deep insecurities and low self-esteem and that when people talk about themselves so much and think they deserve the world, they are actually doing it because they feel terrible about themselves subconsciously or are afraid that if they don’t do it, no one else will, and they will be irrelevant.

Healthy narcissism vs Unhealthy Narcissism

Healthy narcissism may contain traits of grandiosity and some self-aggrandizement, but the healthy narcissist is usually driven to achieve their goals, they may be more likely to push through problematic situations, and they may show altruism to the community as well, although that last part may be a result of wanting to seem like good people.

Heinz Kohut, another distinguished psychologist, gave these few points that may be found in healthy narcissism:

  • High Self-regard
  • Empathy for others and the ability to recognize their needs
  • Authentic self-concept and good self-worth
  • Self-respect and self-love.
  • Ability to receive criticism from others without lashing out
  • Confidence to set and pursue goals 
  • Emotional resilience.
  • Healthy pride 
  • The ability to admire and be admired.

As one might see, these makeup traits of a rather respectable person that might achieve great things and may make for good parents as well, as a healthy narcissist is perfectly capable of being cognizant of other people’s needs.

On the other hand, unhealthy narcissism is known as Narcissistic Personality Disorder, which is defined by the MayoClinic as the following:

“Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of extreme confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.”

These are the symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder by the same website:

  • “Have an exaggerated sense of self-importance
  • Have a sense of entitlement and require constant, excessive admiration
  • Expect to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it
  • Exaggerate achievements and talents
  • Be preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty, or the perfect mate
  • Believe they are superior and can only associate with equally special people
  • Monopolize conversations and belittle or look down on people they perceive as inferior
  • Expect special favors and unquestioning compliance with their expectations
  • Take advantage of others to get what they want
  • Have an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others
  • Be envious of others and believe others envy them
  • Behave in an arrogant or haughty manner, coming across as conceited, boastful, and pretentious
  • Insist on having the best of everything — for instance, the best car or office”

“At the same time, people with narcissistic personality disorder have trouble handling anything they perceive as criticism, and they can:”

  • “Become impatient or angry when they don’t receive special treatment
  • Have significant interpersonal problems and easily feel slighted
  • React with rage or contempt and try to belittle the other person to make themselves appear superior
  • Have difficulty regulating emotions and behavior.
  • Experience major problems dealing with stress and adapting to change
  • Feel depressed and moody because they fall short of perfection
  • Have secret feelings of insecurity, shame, vulnerability, and humiliation”

Traits of Children of Narcissistic Parents

It is sad but many narcissistic people might have children, and these children may have some of the toughest childhoods, and they may often suffer the wrath of their narcissistic parents.

It has been theorized that narcissistic parents see their children as an extension of themselves, and anything the child does that they don’t like, or if the child shows normal weakness that children may show, they may react in very explosive ways and scar the child forever.

The narcissistic parent may also assume or feel that the child exists solely to fulfil their wishes and their needs, as they feel this way about most things in their life, and they may have no concern for the needs of the child, leaving them to be dependent on the parent that does not care, and at the same time responsible for the complicated needs of a narcissistic adult that they don’t have the capacity to meet.

Due to these reasons the narcissistic parent might lash out or act out against their children fairly often, causing some deep-seated emotional trauma, which may significantly alter the traits of the children of narcissistic parents forever.

  • Here are some commonly seen and predicted traits of the children of narcissistic parents:
  • The child of narcissistic parents might feel disempowered in the world in general and have no faith in their abilities.
  • These children, due to their narcissistic parents’ stifling behavior, may lack in imagination and level of curiosity.
  • The locus of control in such children may be extremely external.
  • The children of narcissistic parents may also have high extrinsic needs of acceptance and affection, and they may often engage in unhealthy behaviors to meet these needs.
  • The children of narcissistic parents may also be people-pleasers due to their entire life pf trying to pleas their parents.
  • The children of narcissistic parents may also have traits of a heightened level of control.
  • These children may also be overly compliant and feel the need to listen to all the arbitrary rules and regulations that are enforced upon them.
  • There may be a pattern of learned helplessness in the children raised by narcissistic parents.
  • They may lack self-confidence and have frequent identity crises.

How to protect a child from a narcissistic father?

Here are some things you may do to protect a child from a narcissistic father:

  • Try to limit their exposure to the father as much as you can.
  • Reaffirm their self-concept often, tell them they are good at something, and worthy of love.
  • Engage in lots of physical affection.
  • Attempt humor with them, make them laugh often.
  • Try to make sure they have creative and imaginative outlets.
  • Make sure they have good friends and a large social circle.
  • Make sure they hang out with other family members who treat them well.
  • Try to keep up with their life as best as you can.
  • If they ever get upset about their father, let them vent to you and listen keenly.

Conclusion

In this brief guide, we discussed the question “can a narcissist be a good parent?”, as well as other problematic issues like how to save a child from a narcissistic father, and lastly, look at how having a narcissistic father or mother affects the personality of a child. Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or comments you may have about this subject.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Can a Narcissist be a good parent?

What effect does a narcissistic parent have on a child?

The effect that a narcissistic parent may have on a child is monumental, and they may change their personality forever.

A narcissistic parent is simply not capable of loving the child for who they are, and this leads the child to constantly compete for affection in front of someone who loves themselves far more than they will ever love anyone else, including their children.

The narcissistic parents are likely to raise children who are disempowered, afraid to lose loved ones, and feel like they don’t have any power or control in the world.

Can a narcissist love their child?

No, a narcissist cannot love their child, as their self-identity is too complicated for them to be able to let anyone else into their inner world.

According to psychologist Perpetua Neo, “Narcissists, psychopaths, and sociopaths do not have a sense of empathy. They do not and will not develop a sense of empathy, so they can never really love anyone. This doesn’t change when they have children.”

Can you co-parent with a narcissist?

If you try very, very hard, and have a lot of patience, you can co-parents with a narcissist, but chances are you will be solely responsible to ensure that your child does not grow up with mental health issues.

A narcissist is unlikely to cooperate, and it may make the situation much worse for all parties involved, especially the children, but if you somehow convince them that it is in their favor to cooperate, or if you can just get them to wash their hands off the children and take custody yourself, that is probably best for your and your child’s mental health.

Citations

https://www.joleenalouislaw.com/blog/narcissistic-parent

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-legacy-distorted-love/201802/the-real-effect-narcissistic-parenting-children

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2017/01/05/a-generation-of-narcissists-is-becoming-parents-what-now/

Divya is currently a Clinical Psychology Trainee in a Master of Philosophy program and holds a Master’s in clinical psychology. She has a special interest in Personality studies and disorders, having researched the subject before, and Neuropsychology; with an additional interest being Mood disorders. She likes to write about Psychiatric issues, having worked in multiple specialty setups during her time as a clinical psychology student, and in her free time she likes to cook and read.

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