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?
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
Narcissists 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.
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 and no matter how good or bad the parents are, your child has to 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 is going to 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 own feelings about the situation and to 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.
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-how, engage in therapy yourself so that you are making 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.