“Children learn more from what you are than what you teach” — W.E.B. DuBois.
Well, each and every parent will definitely agree with this. In fact, a lot of things contribute to developing a child’s personality, out of which the relationship the child shares with the parents is of primary importance. So, what happens when a child has to grow up in the shadow of narcissistic parents? The following personality traits (or rather personality deficiencies) develop:
If you are narcissistic parent, you might not be openly abusing your child. But you may turn a deaf ear to his agonies, as you are overtly preoccupied with yourself. A child who is emotionally sensitive (consider yourself lucky if you have one) will definitely not leave home but will suffer from low self-esteem every passing day.
“Perhaps the fault is in me, that’s why my parents are so indifferent towards me. If I am better, they won’t ignore or criticize me.” This is what your child will think day in and day out for no fault of his own. If you don’t mend your ways as a parent, this “I’m just not good enough” feeling will be a part and parcel of your child’s entire life.
Insecurity in Relationships
Children of narcissistic parents primarily feel neglected and ignored, also failing to closely bond with their parents. As a result, when they grow up, they tend to doubt the ‘safety’ of their relationship with others. This insecurity will portray itself in adult children of narcissists in either of two forms. They may avoid getting into relationships and prefer being inside their own cocoon while shutting people away. Or they may get involved in an ‘anxious attachment’, aggressively pursuing love and demanding attention. What form the personality will shape into largely depends upon the treatment received from the narcissistic parent as a child.
An assertive independence
This assertive independence, developed as a result of narcissistic parenting, again manifests itself in two forms. If your child is of the more adventurous, extrovert type, he will keep himself away from any kind of emotional intimacy, nurturing a ‘blind’ distrust towards everybody, as he grows up. Again, a child who is temperamentally more sensitive will selflessly (and often exceedingly) care for others as an adult, as if he is under compulsion. The second category of adults enjoys the feeling of being loved and cared for, by meting out the same to other less fortunate people.
The ‘parent is everything’ syndrome
Narcissistic parents undoubtedly suffer from the ‘I am everything’ syndrome, which is transmitted into the child as the ‘parent is everything’ syndrome. This syndrome is all the more expressive in children who are empathetic by nature. Such children believe that it is their responsibility to keep their parents’ happiness at the forefront, at any cost. So, whether it is enhancing the parents’ self-esteem or helping the parent come out of a stressed situation, these children are always game for it. As adults, they treat their partners in a similar fashion (lucky partners!), always neglecting their own needs and desires. In short, narcissists raise children who always consider their requirements as a burden to others.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Now, this is something profound and occurs mostly in children whose parents are both narcissistic and abusive. These children become so traumatized that they develop a fearful approach towards life as if there’s danger in every corner. On entering adulthood, they continue suffering from emotional stress, abusive memories and chronic anxiety. Survival turns out to be their only aim in life, so much so that they become fully engrossed in their present ‘distress’, and hardly harbour any plans for the future. The best adjective to describe such people is ‘timid’. After all, when life itself becomes a daily threat for you, how is it possible for you to plan for the future?
Mirror, mirror on the wall
Likes breed likes- this might sound bit slang here, but it is true. The more aggressive or stubborn your child is, the more he will try to mirror your narcissism. That is to say, if you are working hard to become the centre of attention, your child is also doing the same. “I shall be the best. I will not let anyone take me for granted.” You are not the only one who thinks this way. Your child may also think in a similar fashion. Another narcissist in the making- a product of neglectful, narcissistic parenting!
How do you feel after reading this? It’s high time for narcissistic parents to mend their ways and be more caring and loving towards their child. After all, Narcissus could afford to be narcissistic because he had no children to raise (just imagine if he had any!). So, stop loving yourself excessively and shower some of that love on your child. He deserves it!