Narcissistic parents can have a really negative impact on their children.

As children are growing into adulthood, our parents are there to provide role models to enable us to develop into well-functioning human beings.

The problem occurs when these very parents have problems of their own.

Being a child of a narcissistic mother or father often means that the love and support you expect from your parents is absent. Narcissists have little interest or empathy in anyone but themselves, and for a child, this can be extremely damaging.

We look to our parents for our sense of identity, our self-esteem, our very self-worth. Our parents build our confidence and allow us to go out into the world as a well-balanced person. If we have routinely been ignored, put down or insulted by narcissistic parents during the most important developing period of our lives, the long-lasting damage can be traumatic.

It is important to recognise the signs that you had narcissistic parents and then begin to unravel what this meant to you growing up.

This is difficult in the first place, as your parents would long ago have instilled a sense of doubt and insecurity about yourself. But you will know that you have had these feelings about your parents for a long time, and this is probably not the first article you have read about the subject.

Before you read about the tell-tale signs that you were raised by narcissistic parents, you should understand that there are two kinds of narcissists:

  • Engulfing Narcissists

Engulfing narcissists see you as extensions of themselves, so any achievements you attain will automatically be theirs by default.

  • Ignoring Narcissists

Ignoring narcissists have no interest in their children’s lives and take little care of them growing up, focusing on themselves instead.

Here are ten signs that you were raised by narcissistic parents:

1. They emotionally blackmail you

Narcissistic parents frequently play the guilt card which makes it hard for you to live an independent life. They will often fall back on ‘I can’t cope without you’, ‘If you go I won’t be here when you get back’ and other forms of emotional blackmail.

2. They ‘guilt-trip’ you

Narcissists want complete control and they do this by a number of behavioural traits. One is to use guilt-tripping, for example, they will often tell you how much they have given up for you, it may be a promising career, a partner, another child etc.

3. They withdraw love if you don’t do what they say

Love from parents is unconditional, right? Wrong if they are narcissistic parents. If you don’t do what your parents want they will immediately withdraw all love and support. Instead, they’ll give you the silent treatment or punish you.

4. You are constantly in competition with them

Anything you have done, your parents have done it better, got the tee-shirts, seen the movie. If you ever attained something special they will endeavour to take it from you, whether this is a person, an achievement or an object.

5.   Your accomplishments are owned by your parents

If you accomplish anything your parents will jump on them and own them. It will be their success, not yours. They will say that you get it from them, whether it be athletic prowess, writing ability, whatever. The centre of attention will never be yours.

6.   You were lied to constantly as a child

Growing up you never knew what was real and what was made up as your parents lied to control and manipulate you, even as a small child. You were there for their entertainment, their pleasure, and their goals.

7.   They showed no empathy as parents

Ever sit down and have a really good heart to heart with your parents? Most of us have at some point, but not the children of narcissists. Talking to them about feelings was like chatting to a blank canvas or brick wall, they just were not interested unless the topic was about them.

8.   You were constantly insulted

If your parents were the types to berate and insult you on a constant basis, it is highly likely that they were narcissists. This is a textbook trick to control and manipulate you.

9.   They gaslighted you

Another textbook trick by narcissists is gaslighting, which takes its name from an old Hollywood film in which the husband tries to drive his wife crazy by turning down the gas lights in their house, without her knowledge. The term is now used to describe any behaviour that is deliberately used to make you doubt your sanity.

10. They blow up out of proportion to any criticism

Narcissists are at their most dangerous when confronted with the truth. It is at this moment that they can turn into ‘killers’. If your parents turn from a mild-mannered mom or dad one minute, then a bug-eyed raving lunatic the next, run for cover.

Do you think that you might have been raised by narcissistic parents? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

Copyright © 2012-2024 Learning Mind. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint, contact us.

power of misfits book banner desktop

Like what you are reading? Subscribe to our newsletter to make sure you don’t miss new thought-provoking articles!

This Post Has 20 Comments

  1. Jeanine Galvan

    Dad was a ladies man pretty boy with a small ego and a bigger id. Mom an insecure 1st daughter of violent alcoholic parents and to top it off she is bi-polar too…I learned by her behavior how NOT to treat people. I’ve been in therapy off and on for the last 40 yrs. Progress is a process…:) peace

  2. moda

    Raised by one. Married by one and was gaslighted by him. Unfortunately, along with their father, I’m afraid I might have displayed some of these symptoms to my own children. But it wasn’t due to narcissism, it was due to the result of what narcissism did to me. And now they’re no longer children. Thank goodness for the internet as a resource these days, so that people have a learning tool readily available to them and can hopefully break the cycle.

  3. Gillian

    My mum certainly used the guilt trip and dint care about us at all played my sisters and me of against one another I am 69 yrs old and can honestly say my mum never cuddled us kissed us or showed any affection at all

    1. Amy

      Im so sorry Gillian, I look at my kids and to think that there has been children grow up without being loved kissed or cuddled makes me want to cry, because in this world a childs parents are a calm harbor in which they can go and power up….im sorry you did have that, thats so sad, I hope it made you love your kids twice as much, it did me <3

  4. Robin

    I was raised by parents who never planned to BE parents and should not have had any. They cared about themselves, what they needed, what they wanted. They insulted us and otherwise showed little interest in our happiness and emotional growth. I am just now realizing where my insecurity came from. It has been a lifelong uphill battle for me.

  5. Sheka

    My mother was young .I never knew how she played my sister’s against me.she was never happy I always thought everything was my fault she even made me play crazzy for a check.she didn’t care if I had to take medicine or not.she would always play the guilty trip.i couldn’t even talk to her without her maken my self esteem low . She broke me down I love her because she is my mother but wow I’m glad I’m grown and out of her house only problem is how do I supposed to deal with it???

  6. Sheka

    But I now realize you got to forgive and move forward

    1. Ion

      Unfortunately you cannot simple “forgive” a narcissist. Most narcissist have been manipulating the people around them for years. When you push out the narcissist, the narcissist will do anything and everything to get you to give them your forgiveness, and then the cycle of abuse continues. If you wish to continue to be a relationship with the narcissistic, You must learn to develop a “force field” of sorts, otherwise the cycle continues. The only other option is for them to realize they need professional help.

  7. Kiki

    My mom was and still is the engulfing narcissist and my dad is still the ignoring narcissist, everything is on his terms. Both insulted and gaslighted me. I’m 49 and it still happens. It has affected all of my intimate relationships and I have never felt normal…
    That was until I discovered all of this and made sense of it. They are both still jerks, but I no longer let them manipulate me. My sister and I are close and talk about the things they have said and done to us over the years. It helps to talk about ut.

    1. Kim

      I’d really like to connect with you. I am definitely hearing this and I’m one year younger than you. Please email me at [email protected]. The person is my father. He’s aging and it’s getting worse.

  8. Stickler Prickler

    Sadly I was raised by two narcissistic parents. My mom was an engulfing narcissist and my father was an ignoring narcissist but he occasionally would become an engulfing one as well. I really despise them both and would love to just have absolutely nothing to do with them.

  9. TK

    These type of parents commit murder of the soul that lasts a lifetime. Try and convince anyone of that that hasn’t experienced it for themselves. Sure, therapists know about it, and there is some sort of treatment, but how does a person ever really recover from it, a life stolen from them for no reason at all? Sometimes it also includes financial abuse and many times even the threat to the adult child’s life. Narcissists from what I have read can turn into psychopaths also and destroy their children. I hope in time this type of abuse will be taken more seriously.

  10. Lucy

    My mum was sexually abused by her dad (she never told me me, I found out years later) she never showed me any love or affection…..I used to talk to my dad about periods and stuff. I was possibly sexually abused by my older brother, my middle brother was abusing me too. It has taken me 47 years to understand that if I don’t deal with it now, my son only has to deal with it in the future.

  11. caley

    I see many if these traits in my parents and my partners. Sadly enough I’ve seen some of these traits in myself. I realized I was sick when I noticed my daughter was dieing on the inside quite similar in ways like myself. This is a mental illness yet no there is no excuse. The saddest is that most don’t realize it until it’s too late. These were people quite like myself helpless in the hands of those who were once helpless too. I understand and appreciate how the mind and heart can be so robbed to hurt a child let alone one of your own. Yes I wasn’t as extreme as others however I still wasn’t present emotionally. I never developed the understanding, knowing or how to cope with emotions or feelings. I used to think “yuck what are those? Make sure you don’t get any of them on me they might be contagious.” You can’t implement what you don’t know. Akin to telling someone to jump into the deepend of a pool without any previous experience or knowledge of how to actually swim. My abuses and neglect made me selfish, angry and even reckless. That’s self preservation, it’s human behavior especially when love is absent. Im not making excuses I’m being accountable. I can’t speak for the rest and their schemas as Ive experienced first hand how a narcissist can destroy another inside and out. How I wound up that way. Why I attracted men who would further abuse me. Thank God I have some measure of awareness about myself and perhaps a different understanding of others. I don’t tolerate behaviors anymore from another including myself. Im learning to not take anything personally, all I can do is my best with integrity and humility. My girls are watching. My daughter is strong, brave and emotionally intelligent above all, her life made her wise as the same for myself. We’re both healing, breaking cycles and creating a legacy of unconditional love, acceptance and compassion. Thank you for whriting this article and sharing your experiences. Many blessings of healing, love, prosperity and peace to you and all who find your articles.

  12. Jo

    I KNOW now that I was raised by a narcissist father who constantly played the guilt trip card. I could not wait to leave home and did so as soon as I had means to do so at 19. Miserable does not come near describing my childhood with him. Now he is 91. He had a fall a couple years ago and ended up in rehab and now is in assisted living. He continues to guilt trip me for not bringing him to live with me and taking care of him. I hate the guilt laid on me and yet I know I am not capable of providing the constant care he needs, and gets, at assisted living. Yes, it costs a lot, but he says he will live to be 100. This would not be possible without the daily care and activities provided by his assisted living community.

  13. Candice

    Yes, I was raised by narcissist parents most of all my mother, until now.. She’s super dooper toxic, and my youngest brother got all the traits from her, a mama’s boy….

  14. Judy Gimple

    Not a doubt in my mind that I had a Narcissist father. I pray I didn’t do or say anything to any of my children because of my upbringing.🥲

  15. Tamra

    I have hurt my whole life without understanding why. My mother is a narcissist. Still is. Only as an adult I became disabled & live with her. She hates me most the time. I didn’t know she is narcissistic until now. I didn’t have the tools of identification. I have become a selfish woman. Trying to grow out of the cage I’m in.

  16. Paula DeRoo

    OMG you just described my mother in 8 out of 10 of these examples! It’s no wonder I have ZERO self esteem and constantly look for outside approval. Now how do I heal from this?!

    1. Janey Davies, B.A. (Hons)

      Hi Paula, I would suggest finding a counselor that specializes in childhood trauma. I’ve seen many therapists over the years and have worked through my anger and sadness.
      Thanks for reading.

Leave a Reply