We all know them. The narcissistic adults that think the world revolves around them or the selfish parent that is always ditching their children on their friends to go off to file their nails, lunch or other spurious yet, evidently, crucial engagement or the parent that puts agenda first at the weekend over family or their children. But what impact do such selfish and narcissistic attitudes have on the children as they are growing up and what interventions help in the longer term.
Typically, narcissistic parents have an over inflated sense of ego which disguises deep shame and hurt from when they were younger. However, children exposed to narcissism can be wounded by the parents as their emotional needs are not met. Narcissistic parents have unresolved needs for attention. The children of these parents then learn from watching their selfish parents that manipulation, aggression and intimidation get them what they want. Alternatively they become co-dependent in their relationships giving too much having strived to attain their parent’s love and gratitude by giving into their parent at every end and turn. The children lose their own identity and develop a false sense of self where their identities are formed out of default perception that feeling good is about being given to or giving to another.
These children are subjected daily to the perils of living with a person who has to get their own way at all costs, who doesn’t recognize both sides of the picture, who maybe has grandiose ideas and who cannot handle criticism. These parents are always right which leaves the children little room to grow and develop in a healthy all rounded manner. They lack empathy and fail to appreciate their hurtful and abusive behaviour patterns. They also lack the capacity to love unconditionally even though they crave unconditional love in their own life.
Breaking the cycle is tricky. Parents with severe narcissism do not recognize that they are so inflicted. They are afraid of exploring their feelings in fear of exposing their own shortcomings. Despite the indications that the solution lies in identifying and correcting the errors, understanding how defences work and why, the narcissistic parent generally do not want to change because they do not see any need to. However, some parents are able to challenge their behaviour sets and make the necessary adjustments.
Whilst a level of narcissism or selfishness then is perfectly normal and can be heralded in survival terms, being a parent is often about putting away selfish desires to better our children. A healthy balance then has to be struck and it is that balance that will help children on the pathway to positive outcomes.
In her blog post “8 ways to be a less selfish parent”, Natasha makes a few short, yet insightful, points that help any parent consider what they can do to ensure that their own pathway is not suffocating their children’s. She suggests the following:
1. Parents should be willing to waste more time
2. Parents should get over their pet peeves
3. They should treat their kids differently
4. Parents should be protective of their time with their kids.
5. Eliminate selfish rules
6. Embrace the mundane with a servant’s heart
7. Stop avoiding activities that turn into discipline sessions
8. Master Empathy
In this blog we talk a lot about respect, responsibility and love. We believe that to fully embrace these and to encourage a child’s autonomy is a good step on the path to striking a balance. It is about what finding what works for you. What ideas do you have?