The narcissistic parent
Wendy Hay, a Johannesburg-based psychologist at the Bella Vida Centre, explains why this parenting style can seriously impair children
A narcissistic parents can only see the child as an extension of him/herself. The child is so tied up with the parent’s need for constant mirroring that they never develop a sense of “true self”, where their potential lies and where they can develop a belief that they’re truly lovable for their own unique qualities. These parents might be successful in a superficial sense, but in parenting, they keep the child trapped.
The narcissistic parent is possibly the most difficult to deal with. Their own emotional development is often stunted and a lack of self-awareness places the burden of understanding on the child. The child senses their chronic disappointment and develops the feeling that they’re never good enough. As a result these youngsters often become adults with a feeling of emptiness. They’ve spent their childhoods trying to achieve the impossible: mirroring a parent’s image.
Narcissistic parents can be divided into two groups:
1. The neglectful narcissist. This parent simply lacks the capacity to care. He or she may be abusing drugs or alcohol (though this isn’t always the case). Children are seen as appendages and pick up the feeling that they’re just “a nuisance”. The level of neglect often compels the child to take over the parenting role.
2. The controlling narcissist. This parent rules through manipulation, emotional and often financial, to keep the child “good”. The child’s made to feel guilty if he/she doesn’t conform completely to the parent’s wishes. Conflict can be intense and negotiation and discussion aren’t possible.
To read the full version of this story go to page 117 of the July issue of DESTINY