Experts in relationships say that if you want to see how a girl will grow up, you only have to look at her mother. But what if her mother is a narcissist and you have children together? What are the signs of a narcissistic grandmother and how do her actions shape a family dynamic? Can you ever mitigate the damage caused by her?
First, let’s look at the signs your grandmother is narcissistic.
19 Signs of a Narcissistic Grandmother
She likes to control your family
One obvious sign of a narcissistic grandmother is the element of control. She’ll be the one dictating where your children go to school, who they are allowed to play with, what clothes they wear, and what after-school clubs they attend. She’ll be the controlling voice in your family.
She’s a pathological liar
It might have taken you a while, but you’ve realised you cannot believe a word she says. She uses lies to manipulate and control you and your children. If you confront her, she’ll twist the truth even if it is obvious she’s lying. She may even accuse you of being a liar.
This is a gaslighting technique narcissists use to throw their victims off balance.
She has no boundaries
A grandmother with narcissistic traits will feel entitled to turn up at your house whenever she pleases. She’ll probably have a key or if she doesn’t she’ll walk in through the backdoor and insert herself into your day. It won’t matter if you are busy or want some private time.
She will also discuss your private family matters with whoever she chooses, then wonder why you get so upset.
She has a favourite son/daughter/grandchild
Narcissistic grandmothers tend to have a favourite within the family. It is usually a grandchild and she’ll dote on them, doling out praise whenever she can whilst ignoring any other of her grandkids. It will be a well-known family joke that she has a favourite, but she’ll deny it. She may also have a scapegoat child; one that she always belittles or blames.
She wants to be the favourite grandparent
By the time you get to be a grandparent, you should know all about sacrifice and putting others before your own needs. Not the narcissistic grandmother.
As everything has to be about her, she’ll want to be treated differently. She’s the most important person in the family, and in her eyes, it is she that deserves special attention and treatment, not the children.
But she says inappropriate things to your children
Sometimes you wonder whether your grandmother is the child. She says childish, critical, and hurtful things to your kids such as,
“Grandma won’t visit anymore if you wear those awful clothes,” or
“You are looking overweight, are you eating junk food?” or
“Don’t listen to your mother, she was a slut at your age.”
You find that you are constantly monitoring what she says.
Appearances are everything
Narcissists covet their outward appearances, so much so that any attempt to lift the mask can result in violence and aggression.
So one sign of a narcissistic grandmother is attention to detail of how the family is perceived by outsiders. She’ll want everything to look perfect so she can brag about you. It won’t matter if things are falling apart behind the scenes.
There’s always drama when she’s around
Raising children is difficult, but even more so when grandma is around. She always brings some kind of drama with her so that the focus is on her, no one else. This is a kind of attention-seeking behaviour she craves to make everything revolve around her.
I remember a friend telling me a story about a grandmother that went walkabout on her family on Christmas Day because she didn’t get a present from one of her grandchildren.
She won’t respect your parenting rules
One of the signs of a narcissistic grandmother is that she will deliberately flout your parenting rules. This is a controlling technique that undermines your confidence and puts her in charge. She’ll denigrate your efforts, telling you that she has raised children and doesn’t need your ‘advice’ when it comes to bringing up her grandkids.
She badmouths you behind your back
We expect our family members to support us and have our back. We don’t expect them to be gossiping or spreading rumours to other people. This is a sign of a narcissistic grandma. She’ll badmouth you to elevate her status and importance.
Everything is superficial and shallow
Take one look at her social media and it’s packed with loving pictures of her and the grandchildren. To the outside world, she seems to be the perfect grandma. But ask her for help in the real world and she’s not interested. She just wants the façade of perfection, not the hard graft of a family.
Your children don’t have a bond with her
Instead of looking at the narcissistic grandmother for signs, examine the behaviour of your children.
How do they act when she’s around? Do they rush to hug her when she arrives or do you have to persuade them to meet her? Are they quiet in her presence or reluctant to talk to her? No obvious bond is an obvious sign your grandmother is a narcissist.
She uses guilt like a weapon
The narcissistic grandmother wants everything to be on her terms. In real life, this is not possible. When she doesn’t get her way, she will use guilt to control your actions. This is just one of her manipulation tactics to lower your self-esteem so she gets what she needs from the situation.
Her reactions are over the top
Do you feel like you are forever walking on eggshells, afraid of your grandmother’s reaction? Does the thought of a change of plan or cancelled visit to her fill you with dread? Over-the-top reactions such as cutting you off from all contact or tearful guilt trips are typical signs that your grandmother is a narcissist.
She’s only a grandmother when it suits her
You can’t rely on the narcissistic grandma because her relationship with your children is only there to benefit her. So when it comes to showing off your children’s achievements, you can bet she’ll be there. But need her in an emergency, and she’s busy. This is one of the big telltale signs of a narcissistic grandmother.
She grooms your children
Grooming is a form of manipulation abusers use to gain the trust of their victims. Grooming includes sharing secrets, buying expensive gifts, and giving them their undivided attention. Once the child is groomed, it can be manipulated to suit the narcissistic grandmother.
For instance, the child will side with grandma in disputes, keep secrets from you, or disrespect your authority.
She neglects your children’s welfare
Don’t expect her to focus attention on the needs of your children. Her focus is entirely on herself. If you’ve asked her to babysit or watch over your kids, be prepared for accidents because she’s not paid attention. Or inappropriate parenting such as letting the kids stay up late because it suits her.
But she never takes responsibility for her actions
As well as neglecting your child’s welfare, if something does go wrong, she won’t take the blame or responsibility for it. And you can bet she’ll never apologise for her neglect. It will be your fault for asking her to step in and look after your kids in the first place.
She competes for your attention
What sort of adult views grandchildren as competition? But the narcissistic grandmother will show signs of irritation and boredom if she’s not the focus of your family. Somehow she’ll always turn attention back to her. For example, if your children have done well at school, she’ll recount how she was top of the class in her year.
Now you know the signs of a narcissistic grandma, what can you do to minimise her harmful impact?
Ways to Deal with a Narcissistic Grandmother
- Talk to your children about narcissism.
Let your kids know that grandma’s behaviour is not normal and explain how narcissism works.
- Set clear boundaries and rules
Let the grandmother know that there are rules to be followed and she must respect your boundaries.
- Ignore dramatic scenes
Narcissists need an audience to get the maximum benefit for their self-esteem. Treat your grandmother as you would a toddler having a tantrum.
- Don’t force your children to spend time with her
Children are good judges of character, so if they feel uncomfortable around grandma, allow them to distance themselves.
- If all else fails – cut off contact
No rule in life dictates who or how much time you should spend with any family member. If they are not good for your family then cut them out of it.
We spend a lot of time thinking about narcissistic parents and even children, but narcissistic grandparents can be just as detrimental to our family. Knowing the signs of a narcissistic grandmother can help us to mitigate the harmful effects of this selfish presence in our family.
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