When is enough enough with narcissistic parents?

Does anybody out there have a parent or in-law that acts like this? This came from an article I read about the spoilt brat / narcissist behavior. Please explain to me how you deal with this behavior and how much do you allow it to actually control your life before either just putting your foot down and saying enough and calling their bluff or backing away from the situation. I realize that they are our parents but when is enough just enough?

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Top Answer
Can you explain why over-pampering can create inferior feelings?
It’s odd that opposite actions can result in the same outcome? (pampering vs. neglect = inferiority)

People seem confused by my assertion that both extreme neglect and extreme pampering are both forms of abuse that can create low self-esteem, so I’m going to clear it up in this post. As far as the over pampering goes, it’s very counterintuitive but true. When people are over pampered, they end up with several major issues. The key is to understand that the high self-esteem they appear to display on the outside is not true self-esteem. It’s grandiosity, an illusion formed by overcompensation that they use to stave off feelings of inadequacy. It’s a lie, a front, but many people take it at face value and believe it to be real self-esteem.

One issue is that over pampered spoiled brats don’t have any faith in their ability to solve life problems, because they’ve never been taught to tolerate frustration and deprivation, because they’ve never been allowed to learn to figure things out for themselves and risk failing and falling on their faces. Their parents treated them like delicate flowers and always let them feel like they had a backup to bail them out of trouble at the drop of a dime. For these reasons they reach adulthood feeling they’ve never been truly tested by any real trials. They have an outer cockiness, but deep down they don’t trust their ability to live up to the legend they and their doting parents have created in the spoiled brats’ own minds. Sometimes they’re not consciously aware that they doubt their own abilities, but rather they feel it on an unconscious level.

To deal with this lack of confidence in their own abilities they create lots of ego-protecting strategies and defense mechanisms, and end up doing a lot of self-sabotaging. Self-sabotaging is a very subtle defense mechanism. The idea is that the spoiled brat, who is also a narcissist and emotional vampire, is afraid of finding out as an adult that he isn’t as special and gifted and a chosen one like mommy and daddy and maybe the grandparents always told him he was growing up. Or if it’s a girl, she isn’t a princess like Cinderella who is entitled to a Prince Charming just for being born with a vagina, looking pretty and dressing stylishly.

As the narcissist grows up and starts seeing that the mundane mediocre reality of their adult life nowhere near matches up the grandiose self-image they developed from growing up pampered and spoiled, that’s when the low self-esteem along with the accompanying overcompensation goes into overdrive and the strategies like self-sabotage, blaming others, and underachievement really explode. This gap between their lifelong delusions of grandeur and entitlement and their mediocre present reality is a form of known as cognitive dissonance
The Grandiosity Gap, which is a key concept I’ll discuss in another post. The spoiled brat narcissist’s warped logic now goes like this: “it’s less bruising to my ego to portray myself as lazy, afraid of success, having writer’s block, chronically choosing bad lovers, being kept down by outside forces like drugs and alcohol, derailed by heartbreak/racism/sexism/liberals/conservatives, than being an untalented imposter whose birthright actually turned out to little more than lifelong delusions of grandeur from damaging parents. The mindset behind this chronic underachievement is “I’d rather be believed to be supertalented but self-destructive or lazy or substance abusing or unlucky or a victim of an anti-IQ liberal conspiracy than be perceived as hardworking and giving it all yet still coming up short, which would prove once and for all what I’ve long suspected: that mommy and daddy lied to me, fed me a crock, and I’m not as special as I thought after all.” They’d rather lose on a technicality, because of unfairness, or even because they gave up than lose because they gave it their all and lose fair and square because they just weren’t good enough.

This reasoning doesn’t take place on a conscious level. They not only don’t want to be exposed to others as an untalented fraud, they don’t even want to be exposed as such to THEMSELVES. They’re not just bsing and lying to others, they’re also trying to fool themselves.

Another reason why pampering leads to low self-esteem is that the kid ends up growing up into a very entitled adult. They think that the special, ass-kissing and pedestalizing treatment they got from their parents and grandparents will continue into adulthood, and when it doesn’t they’re dismayed. Even if it does continue into adulthood from people outside their family like friends, lovers, and coworkers, they start to realize that the sycophants they tend to attract aren’t people worth respecting, and that people worth respecting have absolutely no tolerance for their high-drama, spoiled brat bull and won’t be their sycophants.

So they get frustrated that they can only get validation from people they can’t even bring themselves to respect and that the people they look up to and envy can’t be bothered to put up with their entitled, non-contributing drama queen bull, and this makes their self-esteem lower. Furthermore, even though they are looking down on their sycophants and claiming not to respect them, they find they can’t live without their attention and narcissistic supply, so they start to wonder “If I’m supposedly so much better than this person, if my self-esteem is supposedly so much higher, why do I need and appreciate their attention and validation so much? Why am I always trying so hard to impress this inferior being? Why does my mood rely on whether or not I get their attention or not? If this person is inferior, but he’s the only type of person who recognizes my greatness, and even worse I can’t function without their validation and get enraged when I don’t get it, doesn’t that make me inferior too?” This insatiable need as an adult to keep getting the type of pampering doting attention they received as children, even if it’s from “inferior” people, starts to erode their self-esteem also, although again, they’ll try to keep as much of this reasoning out of their conscious sphere of awareness as possible. Narcissists have much trouble consciously dealing with unpleasant low self-esteem feelings and often feel their whole identity will unravel if they consciously accept any inferiority feelings they have about themselves.

Yet another reason why pampering lowers a child’s self-esteem is that it’s not really love. Many of the people think pampering is a case of too much love, but there is no such thing as too much love. Love involves recognizing someone as a separate individual and respecting their boundaries and not using them to alter your own moods or live out your dreams, undo your failures, or fix your core issues for you. Pampering, like neglect or bullying, is a violation of boundaries and is treating the child like an extension of the parent. The child is not being loved for who he truly is, but for other reasons.

The parent may be pampering the child because seeing the child sad, uncomfortable, frustrated, throwing a tantrum or giving the silent treatment gives the parent uncomfortable feelings and the parent pampers to get rid of his own discomfort. They may be doing it because their parents treated them like crap growing up, so they want to “make up for it” with their kids by spoiling them, making it really about treating the kid as an extension of themselves through which to heal their own wounds rather than about appreciating the kid as a unique separate being. It can also be about thinking of the child as a miniature version of themselves and pampering the child because they like to pamper themselves, and just like they would never want to be seen looking shabby, they don’t want their kids looking shabby either, since in their minds the kids represent the parents to the world. It’s like saying an egocentric person is hooking up their new top of the line Mercedes-Benz with all the best accessories and improvements and keeping it in tip-top appearance because he loves the car. No, he’s doing it because the car is an object to him, an object that is a reflection on him, and thus the object must have the best things and appear impeccable in order that he also looks impeccable by association. This is the same mindset the narcissistic parent has when he or she spoils a child.

Spoiling is usually a form of conditional love. If the child performs in a way that makes the parent feel or look good, they get rewarded. If they act cute, mug, play precocious, do “tricks” for the parent, they get rewarded. If they go off-script in an authentic form of self-expression, the spoiling and positive attention stop. So they learn to perform as a false self to keep that spoiling going. This performing can carry on well into adulthood. “I have to get the kind of grades mommy and daddy want to get the type of pampering I like.” “I have to become either a doctor, lawyer, or engineer to pay back the pampering.” “I have to marry within my religion to stay the special prince or princess.” “I have to take over the family business.” “I have to follow the religious practices, at least publicly.”

If they try to go off-script in an attempt to find their authentic selves, they fear they’ll lose their parents’ attention. They learn at a young age they need to construct a false, idealized self to get love, and they learn to equate love with pampering. When you grow up feeling the real you, flaws and all, isn’t good enough, even if you learn that lesson in the form of pampering rather than through neglect, you get a low self-esteem, no matter how grandiose and larger than life your exterior is. And that only gets worse in adulthood when the pampering stops or doesn’t measure up to what your family trained you to expect, because now you learn that not only is the real you not good enough, but now even the false, idealized self you constructed can no longer get the job done.
In answer to the OP's (original poster) question "Never".

Personally, I care less why this has happened to them and more about how to deal with it. Whatever happened, happened. You can't change that. Mother has borderline personality disorder and narcissism and now as she ages increasing paranoia You have to deal with your own feelings - the fear, guilt and obligation you were brought up to feel in response to their manipulations. Your narcissistic parent (s) planted buttons in you for these emotions and know very well how to control/manipulate you. They want the word to revolve around them and their needs. I was brought up to believe that only mother's needs mattered - no one else in the family really mattered. I have had to learn to separate the FOG - fear, obligation and guilt - set off by her - from my honest true God given feelings. It took a lot of my energy in my younger years, You have to learn to draw boundaries and to detach emotionally if not physically. They play on things like - you don't visit me enough, you don't do enough things for me etc. My experience is that no matter what you do it is never enough, and they are never happy for long, yet they blame you for their unhappiness. Do not take that on. No one is responsible for some one else's happiness. They never recognise the role they play in your life - the stress they put on you, the health issues that are brought on or exacerbated by the stress. Follow your own feelings and deal with them, Look after you - put yourself first. There is no reason on God's green earth why your mother's whims and moods should come before your health and stress levels.

Here is some info on detaching. Work on it and on getting rid of the guilt. You have done nothing to deserve feeing guilty about. Google for more info. There are many sites with good suggestions. Also checkout codependency as we who were brought up by narcissistic parents tend to be codependent, and that is not a good thing, but can be overcome.

from website positivelypresent

The 4 Steps for Detaching from Loved Ones

Step 1. Choose a person you love, but about whom you feel some level of anxiety, anger, or sadness.

Step 2. Identify what this person must do to make you happy, but using this sentence: "If _________ would only __________, then I could feel ____________."

Step 3. Delete the first part of the sentence, so it reads: "I could feel _____________." Realize that this is the only honest truth in the sentence and know that you have the power to feel that way no matter what anyone else says or does.

Step 4. Shift your focus from controlling others to creating your own happiness.

For me I think the last step is the most important. If talking with mother 3 times a week is not good for you, then change it. You are not responsible for her feelings, you are only responsible for your feelings. Be good to you. Do something good for you today! If it helps, start with setting small boundaries - baby steps. So she will be mad. What's new? She was mad and self centered before you came along. You are just a convenient scapegoat. (((((hugs)))))
The place to put your foot down is at the very beginning and then don't back off. How much should be tolerated? None. And no bluffing. Give this type of person an inch and they'll take the proverbial mile.

However, reading between the lines, my impression is that you already are fed up and ready to back away. To be fair, though, if you haven't asserted yourself and you've let them walk all over you, you might want to set boundaries and try that approach before giving up. Perhaps you've been enabling the abuse.

Good luck and God bless.
I also have read a very good website :
www.daughtersofnarcissisticmothers.com
Plenty of helpful information on how to deal with this issue.

My mom has dementia, and is a narcissist, add the two together and you get a double whammy!

It's not easy, especially being the only family member who will still have anything to do with her, everyone else has walked. I will admit I have thought about it, but if I do, she will be alone, and she was a good mother, so I am sticking by her during this difficult time in her life even though she verbally attacks and hurts me on a regular basis.

When she mistreats me, I tell her I am leaving, I tell her why, and I come back the next day. I do not bring up the painful things she said before, I move on in a positive manner. I have to keep reminding myself she cannot help it, she is confused and frightened. I pray a lot. I thank God for strength. I cry, and I seek compassion in others with whom I share this terrible problem.

Good luck!
When your parent wants conrol of all the decision making in their lives, but expects you to assume all the responsibilities on those choices. When you are completely emotionally drained by a mother who has always been emotionally immature and just keeps wanting to suck you dry. When you look at your parent with such contempt and disgust for their lifetime negative behavior and all you feel is anger and hatred. When a parent attempts to make you the choosen one because it is easier and more convenient for them. When no matter what you do, your parent will never be happy and has no consideration for your feelings and only concern for themselves. When no matter how many boundaries you put up or distance yourself, your parent keeps attempting to dig their talons into your throat in their endless neediness. These elderly parents belong in a place that will keep them safe, but cared for by strangers who have no emotional attachment to these self-centered abusive behavioral individuals.
There are many books and websites that give a good explanation about NPD and advise on how to help yourself recover, if you are the adult child of a narcissist. I am 58 years old and my mother is 93, a malignant, engulfing narcissist with also histrionic personality disorder. I have an older brother who also has NPD and probably also has borderline personality disorder. As a note, the above diagnoses were done from afar (because these two relatives will never go to see a psychiatrist or a psychologist as they for sure "know better than these crooks") by several therapists that I and my family have visited.

When it comes to dealing with a narcissist, it is different for someone with a healthy upbringing than the child of the narcissist. My husband comes from a healthy family; he put up with a lot of bad behavior; when I would tell him what my mother said to me, he would say things like "oh, she couldn't possibly mean it this way, you are over-reacting, you are oversensitive". Growing up, I was the scapegoat and my brother the golden child. As the daughter of a narcissistic mother, I was taught since babyhood that anything that goes on inside our home is top secret and I should never tell a soul about it; that my sole purpose in life is to make my mother happy; that the role of a daughter is to stay with her mother and take care of her no matter what. I was also taught not to rely on my experiences as they were deniable. I will not say much more about this, as all the information about typical narcissistic behavior can be found online; I just wanted to point out that if you were raised by a narcissist, you are scarred and you have a distorted view of the world. This makes it extremely difficult for you to stand up for yourself, learn that maybe you should not avoid a confrontation (I still have nightmares about mother's rages), and set boundaries. Look at my husband: he endured bad behavior by my mother and brother for many years (35) and, of course, he couldn't explain why they behaved this way. Then we discovered about narcissism and the fact that they aren't going to change. As my mother grew older and my brother older and richer, their attacks became more pronounced and more malignant. My husband, being healthy, decided to go 'no contact' with them and I went to see a therapist. Now two years later, I am low contact with my mother and brother and it is very difficult.

I went through the process of being angry, mourn the mother I never had, and then started dealing with my several issues of low self esteem, guilt, a sense that I don't deserve to be happy etc. I also decided that I prefer low contact than no contact. I never share anything important with my mother and brother. I never tell them about my family's problems or successes. They haven't noticed! I call my mother on Skype 3-4 times/week and talk for about 1 hour each time. I also visit her for 1 week each summer; this is new as I used to visit her for 2 months in the summer!
It is very hard. My mother keeps telling me that I am a bad daughter seeing her only 1 week a year. She never even considers the possibility that I don't see her more because of her behavior. It used to be that she spent 6 months a year in my house in the states and I spent 2 months in the summer in her house in Greece (with my 3 children and my husband who spent his 2 week vacation with her). That is a total of 8 months a year in the same house for the first 25 years of my marriage. When she decided not to travel anymore, my husband and I offered her to help her get a green card and come and stay with us for good! She turned us down in the most insulting way; my therapist said she did so because she had a much greater narcissistic supply in her country and she didn't need us. My husband says that he would consider speaking to her again, if she made a small effort to own what she has done and said to him. So when she recently asked me why my husband is avoiding her, I tried to tell her. There was an awful rage over the phone! How is it possible that a fragile 93 year old can scream so loudly? I only mentioned one faux pas and she completely denied it.It never happened and how dare we accuse an old lady like that? So there is was.
I still want to keep the low contact relationship. I try to separate my relationship with my mother and brother from the rest of my life. I don't talk much with my brother and mostly our relationship has to do with our mother (who is a wealthy lady and has the best live-in care 24/7). No matter what I do, it is hard. I have to deal usually with lies, passive/aggressive behavior, mean words and putdowns, guilt trips and other things (like having a friend of mine call me and tell me to treat my mother better!). I dread the phone calls and I dread the visits. When I set boundaries and I follow through, I have to deal with either a rage or a drama (my brother might call and say our mother fainted after the phone call and fell down and hurt herself!). So, now I have found a new approach: if I sense she is in a bad mood, I find an excuse like I have a dentist appointment and I need to go. If she starts attacking me, I might say "oh, I hear the doorbell! I need to go right now!" If she is downright abusive, like: "I am ashamed of you!" then I just hung up and I don't call her for a few days; she then calls and leaves me messages of how much she adores me and misses me, so I call her again. All this is easier on the phone. I am now trying to think of possible scenarios for the week that I am spending with her in June and how I can survive/escape.

Any advise? My thoughts are with all the children and adult children of narcissists. Hugs to all.
I started out not having the label for the way my mother has always been. I also made excuses for her self centered and sometimes cruel behavior. Since her stroke I have discovered that I and my sister have enabled her for years. She kept us at odds putting herself in the middle and center of attention. Well after this 90 yr old pulled a major move that totally exposed herself we no longer allow her to manipulate us.
Now it has been the dawning of a new day. She still tries to manipulate but I have taken charge and tell her no that is not the way it is going to be. This is what is going to happen. No one is mean to her. I just treat her the way I raised my children. She gets respect but no games allowed. It has not been easy to take that stand with my mother since I am so used to her demanding, ordering and snapping her fingers to have us all preform liked trained monkeys. My sister still can not adjust. Thank goodness she has the distance of another state between her and mom. It allows her to withdraw from the hurt. It also makes it easier for me to deal with mom since she lives with us. I'm not saying it is a piece of cake but I'm learning to take a deep breath and just walk away when the attitude turns ugly. I own that to the wonderful people on this site. Reading the different ways you all handle your difficult situations has given me new insight and healing. Hang in there my new friends!
This is a hard one. I don't think we have an answer yet. It is true that a parent can be spoiled. It is hard to know how to treat an adult who has had these tendency's.
Growing up I had to be very careful how I said things. It got progressively worse as my mother aged. It was like walking on egg shells. There could be no disagreeing or questioning of her. She was right and that was it. I always thought as I got older that if she did something for me I owed her. As she got older it was told to me that I owed her because she took care of me as a child. The Guilt trip was laid on me and I have felt that I was conditionally loved. Control was important for her and when I finally figured it out, with some help, it helped me cope a little bit better. I tried not to make the mistake with my children and husband. So how do I handle it? There has to be some boundaries set. Sometimes to keep me from going crazy I have had to say no and back off. I can't expect my mother to change at her age but I can change my behavior. I have this little saying that I keep on my fridge. "The circumstances of life, the events of life, and the people around me in life, do not make me the way I am, but reveal the way I am." Dr. Sam Peeples
I hope more people will write and give us some ideas about coping with this kind of parent. Each circumstance is unique. Seek counseling, it can help give you some tools for dealing with this without feeling bad.


GraceH, I actually love that there is not a limit to the message length. For example, check out HaveFaithinGod on 4-14-14 -- I have printed that out and am reading and re-reading it, have passed it to my husband and to my sister. This person shared what will take most of us a lifetime to even begin to explore. Her talent and insight could not have been captured in a one-paragraph email. Others who may have been reluctant (like me) jump in like off a diving board and aren't sure we are doing the right thing and can only ramble and ramble, and I am grateful to the people on this thread for allowing it and tolerating it. Because of the richness of the responses, I will come here diligently time and time again to read and re-read, like visiting Stations of the Cross. The messages, long or short, deserve respect. I feel the same as you -- how can I ever read all this and keep up. There were 10 people today I wanted to respond to. But I can't. So I'll just come back when I can and maybe resurrect my interaction if I ever can. But these folks have shared the best of themselves. Journalistic inverted pyramid not the goal, just expression, and I really, really appreciate reading all, I have found especially the long ones, the multi-responders, most helpful because you come to see them better unlike I can see myself. In those words, a lurker like me gets grounded. Perhaps pass over those that seem too long? Nothing wrong with that. I appreciate that you don't have time. I suspect the lengthies will remain for you whenever you might want/need or be inclined to read like a book. Bless them for sharing. They reaffirmed my existence!
Thanks for posting this question. I too am struggling with being a full-time caregiver for my 79 y/I narcissistic mother with dementia. My brother and I are grown adults. She still tried to control how we look, our social choices, our lifestyle choices and more. She has nothing but negative things to say about me. Her friends no longer call her. She blames us (mostly me) for her illness. Her know it all, domineering and controlling behavior laced with manipulation and guilt tactics is slowly killing me. She even tells her doctors they are wrong and has switches doctors each time one tells her something she does not want to hear. She even told a doctor at her last trip to the hospital that she knew more than him because she majored in biology in college! As her full time caregiver living in her home I am suffering emotionally & physically as a result. I keep hearing "just ignore" but it's sooooo hard. Thank you for starting this thread.

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