I write a series of blog posts based on narcissistic abuse on the individual level, but today’s post is about the family dynamic of narcissistic abuse. The research on narcissistic families is very fascinating. Some may think that all narcissists physically abuse or beat their children, but that is not true.
What is surprising is that narcissists do not physically abuse their children as a rule. Some narcissists do not lose control to this point for a variety of reasons, like the fact that bruises on their kids can lead to people questioning their perfect images as great parents.
But often narcissists can be manipulative, alienating, cold, dismissive, condescending and antagonistic towards their offspring so in essence the emotional abuse is ramped up. Emotional abuse leads to a lack of emotional safety and this can lead to immense emotional trauma and harm to children.
Here are some of the ways children that grow up in narcissistic parents are not emotionally safe….
They Ignore You Until You Make The Family Look Good
Here is an emotionally abusive that is common practice in narcissistic families, you are often ignored until you do something positive like make a touchdown at a football game or win a talent contest and then you are praised.
For example, young nine year old runs to his mother after returning home from school to show her he got a “A” on a History test he studied hard for. The narcissistic mother will brush off the accomplishment and reprimand the child for interrupting her day with such foolishness if she is the middle of doing a task.
Or, she may respond with a half hearted, “that’s nice”, especially if the child is known to get good grades in school. This same child mentions that they also will be receiving award for being the top History student in the class and the local blog will be covering them in a story, ad this same mother will cut the task short to call all her friends to brag about how smart her child is.
This can lead to children becoming “over-achievers” or the type of person that will chase achievements in order to get validation, acknowledgement, or praise due to them ot receiving this type of validation as children.
They Criticize And Belittle You As Opposed To Building Your Esteem
Narcissistic families are notorious for heaping on tremendous emotional abuse disguised as “teasing”, and if you dare to object, they will gaslight you by calling you names like, “sensitive”. This often happens at an age when children understand that they will encounter teasing as part of growing up. But what if you are teased at school only to come home to the same “teasing”. It can be torment because you never escape the put downs and that can harm anyone’s self esteem.
Where healthy families create safe emotional environments where children develop healthy self images and esteem, narcissistic families foster environments where the spirit is crushed. If you are the child they pick to be the “scape-goat”, or the “black sheep”, which would be the one that the family uses to vent all their frustrations on and this type of abuse can impede the development of healthy self esteem and set the child up to be targeted by narcissists later and continuously throughout life.
This can lead to children becoming “people pleasers” or the type or they type of people who when criticized and emotionally abused they will be slow to leave the relationship due to being already conditioned to being a object of frustration.
You Are Overly Praised For Doing Basically Nothing
There is a flip side to the previous point, the opposite of being put down is you are overly praised or even praise for nothing in the dysfunction of the narcissistic family. Where as in the previous example of the child receiving the award for History has actually achieved something, in narcissistic families children can be praised just for participating or showing minimal effort.
For example, a child may participate in a contest where there are first, second, and third place winners who receive trophies , and everybody else who simply participated just get certificates even if they just show up. The narcissistic parents will make a very big deal as if this were a grand accomplishment. There is nothing wrong with encouragement, but some forms of praise are abusive.
These tactics actually create other narcissists because being praised for minimal things, or overindulged on a constant basis is unreasonable. So when you teach a child to expect a parade for cleaning their rooms, or going to be after the fifth prompt, you set them up to expect everyone to do this to them. It’s a shock to their nervous system when they are not overindulged by people outside of their families, and can lead to all kinds of distress later in life.
When Your Feelings Are Safe….
Children that grow up supported, loved, heard and validated become adults with healthy boundaries and healthy personalities. Healthy families do not ignore children who cry out for attention but they instead give positive attention when needed. The purpose of this post is to give another view of how narcissists get away with abusing others. Children cannot escape this type of covert abuse and can often not explain it or understand it. Do you see any traits that remind you of your family? Feel free to drop a comment.
What are your thoughts?
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