Many people think of their parents as their number one supporter, their go-to person for answers to their problems, or simply a source of unconditional love. But in some cases, parents may not be the selfless people we typically assume them to be.

Narcissism, or Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), is a common issue many people face today. This mental disorder causes the sufferer to experience an inflated sense of importance, while simultaneously craving the attention and approval of others due to an overwhelmingly crippling low self-esteem. Generally, narcissistic people tend to lack empathy, and are largely motivated by their own self-interest.

How to detect narcissism in a parent

At first, narcissism may not be so easy to detect. Understanding the signs of narcissism may help you to identify tendencies in your own parent:

Immature behavior

Parents who suffer from NPD tend to display extremely selfish behavior that borders on immature. In these cases, a parent may resort to childlike tendencies when in an argument with you to avoid taking the blame for an issue.

Lack of support

Narcissistic parents tend to falter when it comes to supporting their own children. Whether they are seeking emotional support, support with an issue at school or with friends, or anything else that requires parental guidance, parents with NPD are incapable of being there for their children.

Constant guilt tripping

We’ve all put on the occasional guilt trip, but narcissistic parents are notorious for their constant guilt tripping. After a disagreement with a narcissistic parent, or when the parent has asked too much of their child, they will often resort to guilt-tripping to get what they want.

Manipulative & possessive

Narcissistic parents are particularly manipulative, often putting their children in uncomfortable situations or making them feel worse about themselves. People with NPD tend to want to feel completely in charge of situations, and feel as though they are the most important. While they are known for tearing their children down, though, they are also possessive, and will attempt to prevent their children from living their own lives and making independent decisions.

 How to deal with your narcissistic parent

If your parent has displayed one or more of these tendencies, there is a chance they are narcissistic. However, they do not need to display these exact traits to have NPD. Narcissism presents in different ways for various people, but largely narcissistic individuals tend to be widely selfish and controlling.

Handling a narcissistic parent can be difficult and exhausting. It may take time to understand how to best handle situations where your parent is behaving in a narcissistic manner. Here are some things you can do to manage these situations and deal with a narcissistic parent effectively:

Understand it is not your fault

A parent’s narcissism is never your fault – chances are, they were displaying these tendencies before they had children. Even when your parent insist that you are the cause of their behavior, it is important to understand you are not. Narcissistic people will tend to pin the blame on others in an effort to absolve themselves of guilt and criticism. In these situations, be sure to remove yourself from the blame.

Work to self-validate

Many people are used to getting validation from their parents, but those with narcissistic parents may not receive that same type of validation. In these situations, you will want to learn how to self-validate. Recognizing your accomplishments and how great a person you have become will help you to feel strong enough to handle more difficult situations with your narcissistic parent, and also build your self confidence to know your worth regardless of what your parent may say.

Recognize where manipulation is happening

It may not always be simple to recognize when your parent is trying to manipulate you through narcissistic tendencies. It is natural to want to trust your parents and take their words to be true, but when dealing with a narcissistic person, there may be an underlying agenda behind what they say. Narcissistic people are known to gaslight, and this extends to narcissistic parents. When your parent is attempting to manipulate or gaslight you into doing something, or feeling a certain way, try your best to not internalize what they are saying and recognize the true reality of the situation.

Diffuse situations where possible

Narcissists tend to bring a situation to a very emotional, high-stakes point that can cause a lot of tension and strong emotions in the household. Where possible, try to diffuse the situation and bring down the emotions to a place where you can have a real conversation.

Seek support from others

Dealing with a narcissistic parent can be incredibly confusing, exhausting, and frustrating. It can take a toll on your emotions and energy levels over time, and cause you to feel alone. To help you during these difficult times, you will want to seek out support from your friends and other family members. They will help to validate your emotions and support you in the rough moments with your parent.

Handling a narcissistic parent is often difficult and confusing. It is important to remember that you are not at fault for their behavior – this is a life-long condition that impacted their behavior long before you. Be sure to focus on maintaining your own strength and confidence to be able to handle situations with your narcissistic parent without letting it impact your own self efficacy. Remember that it is okay to ask for help and support when you need it, and that leaning on friends and other family for support is a great way to get through tough times.