Parenting is hard work. There is so much to do-always-and it is not any easier now that parents are expected to home school their children. The stress of the added responsibility can be daunting for some, and it does not help when you are parenting with a narcissistic parent. What exactly is a narcissistic parent?
Here is a video overview:
What is a Narcissistic Parent?
According to the Mayo Clinic, a person with a Narcissistic Personality Disorder, is a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of extreme confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that is vulnerable to the slightest criticism. That is the hard part when dealing with narcissism. You could learn to live with the parent’s inflated sense of self-worth, but the smallest criticism shuts down all communication. And while you might not care so much about the other parent right now, you have to parent with this person and the choices you make have to be good for your child. When you tear down, purposely or not, the other parent’s fragile self-esteem, you need to make sure that your child isn’t harmed in the process.
How Do I Protect My Child?
In severe cases involving a narcissistic parent, you will need to take your case to the court and ask the court to suspend parenting time until the other parent gets some help. In Illinois, you would have to prove that your ex presents a serious endangerment to your child in order to get parenting time stopped. It is a high burden and could take a long time to prove. If the case is not that serious, then you will need some coping skills. You also do not want to be the parent who handles the situation wrong and when you are in court, the judge can see that your behavior is just as bad as the other parent’s. How you react will have an impact on your case.
The Impatient or Angry Parent
-arcissists can become angry or impatient when things do not go their way. Because everything is about them, it is hard to manage when something actually demonstrates that it isn’t about them. Yelling at the other parent “This isn’t about you, it is about our child’s wants/needs,” is not going to solve anything. Knowing that you alone cannot change the behavior is the first step.
You will recognize this behavior quickly since your first thought will be getting angry yourself. When you recognize the behavior-impatient and/or anger-take a deep breath. There is no need to engage. My business partner has the best response to a situation like this. She says, “Perhaps you are right.” I did not think it would really work until I was fighting with my husband one day. She took me into her office and said, “tell him ‘Perhaps you are right.’”
What can someone do with that? Yell back, “No I’m not!”
The other person stands there, kind of confused and dazed. They start their next sentence and then realize; she has agreed with me. It stops them in their tracks. What can you possibly argue? Perhaps you are right. You did not say they were right, just perhaps they are.
Take Some Time
In today’s day and age, everything has to be done right now, right away. This can be a detriment when dealing with a narcissistic parent and actually escalates the problem. Once you’ve gotten angry, just stop. Go pour yourself a glass of wine and turn off your phone. Wait until the morning to answer.
Also, keep your communications short. If you don’t, you’ll notice that by the end of every phone call, you’ve achieved nothing, and you are aggravated. The phone call (or email) went that way because they are looking to fight, and not to resolve anything. You’ll say something that is essentially not a big deal, but they’ll take it the wrong way. And then you start defending yourself and the whole thing slips down a slippery slope. Why do it? Don’t engage. It takes two to fight, so send the information you need to send and refuse to engage. The shorter your communication, the better.
Also, don’t let the other parent divert the conversation you want to have. You might call to tell the other parent that you are running 5 minutes late, then before you know it, the discussion veers into another subject. First, you were talking about running late, and then you are discussing how you cheated and how you’ve ruined the family.
Don’t let it happen!
The minute it turns into something else besides why you called, hang up. The minute the conversation turns to something about you and the marriage personally, hang up. Just hang up, you’ll be so happy you did, and now you are in control, not the other parent.
Don’t Talk Badly About the Other Parent in Front of Your Children or Where the Children Can Hear You
Parents want to include their kids in conversations that have nothing to do with them. Do everyone a favor and get yourself a therapist or best friend because you shouldn’t be talking to your kids about the other parent. You will need to vent, that is for sure. Just don’t do it with your child. If your child says something to you that you know is incorrect, “Mommy, why did you break up with daddy? Now we don’t get to see daddy for Christmas,” then tell them that your marriage is none of their business. Don’t start “educating them” about the truth. If your child persists with comments like this, you’ll need to get a petition before the court to stop the other parent from discussing your case or your marriage with your child. Complain to the court, or the child’s attorney, but don’t engage in conversations with your child. Otherwise, you are engaging in the same type of bad behavior you are complaining about.
Set Healthy Boundaries
The Narcissist likes to mess with your time with the children. I see this type of behavior mostly from the parent who has the children most of the time. The parent with the most parenting time often texts and calls the children excessively when they are in your care. To stop it, sometimes you have to take your child’s phone away, which isn’t going to be a popular decision with your child. But it has to be stopped and controlled. This is a problem the court can control, but typical orders allow the child to communicate with the other parent as much as they want. If you’ve got a teenager who spends all of their time on the phone texting his mother during your time, you clearly have a problem. If court orders don’t help and you aren’t able to effectively communicate with your child about it, you should be looking to have some therapy time set up between you and your child.
It Is One Thing When the Behavior is Exhibited Towards You, But What About When it Starts Toward My Child?
Your child will not be immune to this behavior and one of the first things you can do is be mindful of the behavior so you can add that type of behavior to your parenting agreement. You will want to add that there is no yelling or screaming toward the child. The first time you hear about it, you can take action then. Everyone’s agreement has language that says you cannot disparage the other parent in front of the child. The first time you hear it, take action. A narcissist wants control and things spin out of control when they don’t have it. Don’t let their behavior keep you from acting because their rage makes you uncomfortable. Your child’s mental and physical well being is at issue. You might need to file a petition with the court, and the court will likely appoint an attorney for the child.
That attorney will speak to your child. The attorney will read the messages between you and your ex. It is important that your messages are calm and rational. That attorney will see the rage and be able to gauge the appropriateness of the responses. When you are calm and in control, you take away the narcissistic parent’s ability to control the situation. At that point, the narcissistic parent will either need to seek help to deal with their range of emotions or they will likely lose parenting time.
Seek Therapeutic Help For Your Child
Your child only has two parents; no matter how good or bad the parents are, your child must learn how to deal with them. I’m not saying that your child has to learn how to deal with a parent that belittles them so that the parent feels superior, but your child will need to learn how to deal with the parent. You will be there and possibly the child’s attorney, but your child will need a professional to discuss their feelings about the situation and understand it better.
The hard part of having a child with a narcissistic parent is that the child mimics the behavior. When you are frustrated, how do you handle it? You do not want the child acting like the narcissistic parent, and if that is what the child sees and there is no correction, it is likely that your child will start adopting some of those behavior traits. You will need to intervene early. Therapy is a good way to educate your child about acceptable behavior traits and how to deal with other behaviors that are not desirable.
Don’t Take the Bait
When a narcissist cannot get you to respond (since you’ve been taking my advice) to their excessive voicemails or emails, they’ll try and get you to respond through their actions. I had a case where the mom was really into healthy food and bought all organic foods for her children. The children weren’t allowed sugar or a lot of bread-type products. Dad, of course, knew this; every parenting time he had, he would load them up with junk food. This infuriates you, and the fight starts. See the problem for what it is, and don’t take the bait.
There really isn’t anything you can do about this type of behavior anyway. You won’t be allowed to dictate what the children eat in his home. Nor can you control how he lets the children stay up late when you want them sleeping by 8:00. There are going to be differences in the parenting styles and these issues are hard to address in court. You have to let this stuff roll off your back because the court isn’t going to do anything about it unless your child has a medical condition that doesn’t allow for the child to be fed that type of food. If the behavior isn’t risking their lives, let it go, and don’t take the bait to engage with him. It is exactly what he wants.
Co-Parenting with a Narcissistic Parent is not Easy
Co-Parenting with a narcissistic parent is not easy, but it is up to you to take control of the situation. Your child’s health depends on it. There are ways to keep the parent in your child’s life without risking your child’s health. Take control of the situation and if you do not know enough, engage in therapy yourself to make wise decisions. When things become too much for your child, however, you do need to file the appropriate motion in court. Consult with us today and we will guide you through dealing with a narcissistic parent.