Becoming parents don’t usually change narcissists or make them better people. If their children grow up to be better people than they are, it won’t sit right with them.

Children of narcissists grow up under a lot of psychological manipulation, exploitation, and emotional abuse, usually ending up with low self-esteem, inferiority complex, emotional trauma, depression, anxiety, and self-hatred [1]. Narcissists love to force their kids to do the things they couldn’t do in their youth, such as modeling, basketball acting, dancing, football, etc. As children, they could get beaten, forced to take different classes and follow hectic routines, yelled at, starved for weight maintenance and pushed to the very brink of their limits just to please their parents.

As adults, they’ll get insulted, manipulated, embarrassed, shamed, and guilt-tripped into doing whatever their parents ask of them.

Here are five major manipulation tactics these narcissistic parents use to anchor the lives of their adult kids, with real-life examples and coping tips [2].

Gaslighting

Gaslighting is a form of emotional manipulation where the culprit makes the victim doubt their own sanity, even with things as obvious as night and day. They usually do this to get you to believe whatever they want and cover up their own malignant inadequacies. Narcissists are amazing gaslighters. They’ll go to any extent to disprove an obvious fact, making you question your sanity and sense of reasoning.

Your parents invite you to a work dinner with them, and like the obedient child you are, you move things around to make out time for the event. At the dinner, you excuse yourself to go get a drink and upon returning, you overhear your dad describing you to his colleagues in a most derogatory manner. “She’s the least hardworking of my kids. She’s never been really smart or clever, just one darned lucky lass to barely scale through the important stage of life…”

You are heartbroken and crushed. At home, when you confront him about this, he’ll deny with all the forces of truth in the universe that he said anything of the sort. He’ll deny it so much, you’ll begin to wonder if you were hallucinating or sleepwalking.

Gaslighting pushes a person into living in a permanent state of self-doubt and confusion. Be sure to always make strong mental notes of every situation you encounter with your parents. Write them down if you have to. Put your foot down and let them know how aware you are of the fact that they’re lying. Don’t try to argue too much because they’ll never stop. Move on with your activities and push the incident to the back of your mind. Take pride in the fact that you didn’t let them hassle your senses this time.

They’ll try to compare you to your peers

One of the oldest tricks in the book. If narcissistic parents want their adult child to achieve something, they’ll resort to making petty comparisons with the aim of making their kids feel like they are behind in some non-existent race of life.

You go over to your parents’ house on Sunday afternoon to have lunch. As you walk through the door, your mom begins with a sneer, “Jordan’s mom just sent me an invitation to Jordan’s wedding coming up in two weeks. She’s had such a great time planning this for months now. Her 28-year-old is getting married at such a perfect time in her life. I, unfortunately, have a 35-year-old who doesn’t think I deserve to plan a wedding…”

Seriously?

The best thing to do is to enjoy this tactic as stand-up comedy. Laugh it off and proceed to get yourself settled in for lunch. Life is not a race, and everyone mustn’t accomplish goals at the same time. Do everything at your own time and pace. The world (and your parents) will have to adjust.  

Emotional blackmail

This is the easiest plan to fall into when they want something and you are not co-operating.

Upon your engagement, your father may want you to hold your wedding in a location you have no liking for. You are working with a budget and the venue is extremely expensive. Unfortunately, Jordan had her wedding there, and her father reportedly paid for the location. Despite knowing that he can’t afford it, your dad still wants you to use the same location. A narcissist can’t settle for anything less than the best, even if it’s above their means. Upon your refusal, he’ll launch into a major blackmail tirade, reminding you of how much he spent sending you to youth camping trips, college, and even the food you’ve eaten all your life.

Here’s what you’re going to say to him; “Dad, I didn’t beg to be born, that’s why I won’t apologize for the expenses you incurred feeding and training me. It became your responsibility when you chose to have me.” He’ll have a major fit with that one. Go ahead and do what you know is best for you. When you say ‘no’, make sure it means ‘no’.

Guilt-tripping with Fear, Obligation, and Guilt (FOG)

All other factors swept aside, it’s amazing how these pro narcissists would channel these three emotions into one paragraph of sentences. It usually has a strong effect on their child, and that’s exactly how they want it.

Your mother calls you to come home for a very important discussion. You wonder what’s so important that’s she can’t talk about over the phone, but you go anyway. She launches into her attack immediately you cross the threshold: “Look at me. At the ripe old age of 65, I’m still living in this cramped two-bedroom apartment. I deserve better. The years are flying by really quickly. Am I going to die a poor, miserable old woman? Don’t I deserve a bit of luxury? It’s your job to give me a better life, and so far, you’ve failed massively at it. You’ve turned me into a laughing stock amongst my friends…”

Your parents have no right to say such words to you. It’s not your fault that things may be going slowly at that point in your life. Don’t feel pressured enough to spiral into self-hate, frustration or depression. These mental conditions won’t get you anywhere. Focus on yourself, your goals, your plans, and your hustle. Don’t let yourself be derailed by guilt trips and mean words.

Shaming

This is one of the most hurtful things parents can do to their children, no matter what the situation is. Making you feel less of yourself because your choices and decisions didn’t align with theirs is totally wrong.

Your father is addressing everyone at a family gathering, and in the presence of all your cousins, aunts, uncles, and relatives, he makes derogatory comments about your career choices and how you’re basically wasting your life chasing vague dreams. If they can do this to you as an adult, they’ve most likely been doing it since you were a kid.

It’s time to break free from the shackles and let them know you are doing what you love. If they wanted a doctor, but you chose to be a country singer, they are going to have to deal with it or not deal at all. Your happiness should be of paramount concern to them. As parents, they should put your wishes first. Let them know that their shaming has no effect on you. You’re stronger than a few derogatory words.

References:

  1. What Happens To The Children Of Extreme Narcissists? Marcia Sirota. Huffington Post. February 23, 2017.
  2. 5 Manipulation Tactics Narcissistic Parents Use To Control Their Adult Children. Shahida Arabi. Psych Central. April 20, 2019.
  3. Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Staff Writer. Mayo Clinic.
  4. 11 Warning Signs of Gaslighting. Stephanie Sarkis. Psychology Today. January 22, 2017.
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