Our blind spots can inhabit the next generation.
It is a deep desire in adult children raised by narcissistic parents to parent their own children in a different way. Next to the primary fear of “Am I Narcissistic Too?” is the burning quest to not repeat the patterns with our offspring. This is heart warming and hopeful. It is true that children deserve to have at least one person who is irrationally crazy about them!
Elan Golomb expresses a worrisome thought in her book,Trapped in the Mirror… “If the parent has a narcissistic bent, the pressure to copy is strong.” We do tend to parent as we have been parented, unless we gain further awareness and bring vision to our blind spots. What could be more important? Even if you do not have children, this awareness can be helpful because you might be a teacher, aunt, uncle, or friend to a child.
There are no perfect parents, and to expect that is somewhat delusional. It’s a big commitment to be a parent and one that carries an incredible responsibility. But, we can look at a different approach and be “quite good enough.” Parenting is a monumental task, the most rewarding and the most difficult you undertake. The beginning is your own recovery because without that, the blind lead the blind.
As I treat adult children raised by narcissistic parents and move forward with additional research, the eight principles of parenting identified in Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers, remain my guidepost for parental awareness.
In a nutshell, the eight principles are as follows:
• Be aware you can unconsciously pass along the legacy
• Parent with empathy
• Teach accountability
• Be aware of entitlement
• Teach values
• Value the personhood, not only the accomplishments
• Allow authenticity
• Create a parental hierarchy
Although this is a brief version, let’s take a look at each of the eight principles.
Don’t Pass On the Legacy:
Adult children raised by narcissistic parents have internalized that “not good enough” feeling. Without recovery, we model that message and are at risk to pass it on to our children if we do not embrace recovery. We don’t have to tell them…they see it in how we handle ourselves.
Parent with Empathy:
Empathy, the ability to identify with and understand other’s feelings, is the cornerstone for reversing narcissism. Learning to parent with empathy and compassion is crucial. It is a learned skill and is not automatic to most parents. It involves tuning into the emotional world and caring what that looks like regardless of the behaviors we see.
If a narcissist raised you, you know that narcissists are rarely accountable for their behavior. It is always someone else’s fault, and projection of feelings is the name of the game. We must teach our children to “own” their behavior then reward that honesty.
Be Aware of Entitlement:
We should believe that our kids are the greatest! But, it does not mean that others have to agree or that they should get special treatment. It does not mean they are better than others or deserve something special from the outside world. They do deserve “special” from us! This is where we teach the value of family and familial love.
Ahhh, refreshing! It is so important for each parent to review what their values are and what they want to teach their children. This takes some time and introspection and is worth doing! Then you can parent and teach along the guidelines of your value system and not just act and react to the behaviors. Each misbehavior or kind deed becomes a teaching moment.
Value the Personhood, not only the Accomplishments:
This is key. Tuning into who your child is, rather than what he or she does, is of utmost importance. It is important to reward accomplishments. But, be sure to look at who they are and their unique personality traits and acts of kindness. Following a value system and noticing those traits when exhibited, is essential in developing a moral child. Notice how they handle things and interact with other people. Note their cute way of responding and being. Emphasize their uniqueness. And, don’t expect them to fit into a conscripted mold because it makes you look good. Put THEM before what they DO or DON’T DO.
This means: LET THEM FEEL! Whatever feelings children have, make them ok. We don’t have to agree with them. Feelings don’t have brains. Feelings are feelings are feelings. The most important thing here is to teach them to express their feelings in appropriate ways.
Create a Parental Hierarchy:
This means that you are not a peer to your child. You are the parent, the teacher and the guidance guru. They do not have to like you or what you are saying all the time. You must be in control of the situation to make them feel safe. It also means that adult issues are kept adult issues and not discussed with children. When your child becomes a teenager, for instance, do not discuss your sexuality or relationships with them. They don’t want to hear it. You do get to be the boss. But, don’t over use that power and be sure to balance it with empathy about what they feel.
In summary, the true antithesis to narcissism is empathy. If you do not know how to do that, find resources to help you. Nothing could be more important in raising strong, moral, and self-assured children. Remember it starts with our own recovery. As the late Alice Miller so eloquently stated, “Traumata stored in the brain but denied by our conscious minds will always be visited on the next generation.”