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Counter Parenting - Reducing the Damage, Part Four

Counter parenting is when you find yourself needing to spend incredible amounts of energy undoing the damage done by a narcissistic parent. Before you can make healthy steps with your child, you first have to do some repair work. Some of this repair work is simple and minor, while other parts are extensive and perhaps life-long.

Damage - The child’s emotional development can be severely stunted.

Your child’s emotional development can be severely stunted by narcissistic parenting. Because of this, your child might not develop the skills necessary for building healthy emotional connections. Unfortunately this can carry well into their adulthood years and greatly affect their future relationships.

Narcissism can too easily carry from one generation to the next. When I married my husband, I had no idea what narcissism even was. I did not see it in him or his father. After having 2 kids with him and being married for many years, I knew that something was wrong. There seemed to be a massive block in the way of our relationship. Since then I have now learned what that block is - covert narcissism. And there is a trend of it in his family.

Seeing this trend of narcissism and beginning to see signs of it in my own boys nearly panicked me.  I began researching as much as I possibly could, desperately seeking ways to break this cycle. In this searching, I found some extremely useful information, and it needs to be available to ALL parents.

Childhood emotional injuries

Traumatic injury, especially in childhood, can cause one to stop growing emotionally. It can leave the individual trapped in the emotional stage of that age group. In this situation, they still grow physically and mentally, but not emotionally. For example, if a severe emotional trauma happens to an individual in their early teenage years and they do not receive help processing it, then that person never develops past the emotional capacity of a young teenager. This is when you find yourself dealing with a full-grown adult yet feeling like you are dealing with a teenager in their reactions to you.

Childhood injuries vary in type and severity. It can be the death of a loved one, moving cities leaving close friends behind, or even emotional or physical abuse by a parent. When these traumas are more than the child can handle, one of the possible reactions is for that child to shut their hearts off. This can certainly lead to a lack of empathy for others. If they remain emotionally stuck, this leads to greater potential of developing narcissism or other personality disorders.

How do we help them heal?

Find some allies

Helping them to heal is NO SMALL TASK! You have possibly heard the saying, “It takes a community to raise a child.” This statement is extremely true. But the community has two different aspects - one for you and one for your child.

When dealing with narcissistic parenting, you are going to need a support group for yourself. This path is going to be extremely frustrating, and you need at least a few friends or family to whom you can vent. These need to be people who “get it.” Explaining narcissism to someone is NOT easy. You either sound like a lunatic or a petty crybaby.

This is no different for your child. When they try to talk about this to a friend, the friend most likely won’t understand. If at all possible, help your child to have some extremely valuable adult connections in their lives. These connections can be teachers, sports’ coaches, church leaders, grandparents or other family members, and even the parents of their friends. Choose 1 or 2 that you truly trust and that your child seems to really connect with. Give that adult a small amount of info of what is going on in your home. Help them to understand. You are not asking anything of them, other than that they love and support your child. Kids of narcissistic parents need allies in life, even though they may not realize it yet. Also don’t rule out a good counselor or therapist, even at a young age.

Learn the Healing Process

First and foremost, you must begin your own process of healing. If you are still a basket of raw, injured emotions, then there is no way that you are going to actually be able to help your children.

The Healing Process

  • Identify an injury in your past or current
  • Identify the feelings inside you from this injury
  • Feel these feelings - sadness, anger, confusion, shame
  • Spend a few minutes with those feelings
  • Acknowledge that these feelings are not you, but rather just a reaction that you are experiencing
  • Accept these feelings for what they are
  • Give yourself permission to learn from the feelings
  • See yourself as a stronger person because of these feelings and what they have taught you
  • Let the feelings go with awareness and gratitude

You need to learn this process and practice it yourself first. You need to feel the benefits first-hand. Copy these steps down. Pull it out everyday. If you are or were in a narcissistic relationship, then you will have no problem remembering past injuries. There are plenty to choose from. Pick one and get started. As you become more experienced with this process, you will find yourself doing it more automatically, even right as an injury occurs. GREAT! That is a really good place to be.

Teach the Process to Your Child

As you become more acquainted with the process, begin introducing it to your child. These steps can even be done with very young children. You might even encourage them to draw their feelings in pictures. Be sure to include a look at how these feelings are making them stronger. Older kids might not be inclined to draw. You can turn to journaling or even simply talking about it.

We all know that the older kids get, the more closed off to their parents they tend to become. So start this at a young age with your kids. If you are just now reading this and they are already teenagers, it isn’t too late. It will take a bit more pushing though. They may be resistant and get frustrated, but that’s okay. Let them express that frustration. It is still better for them to put voice even to that feeling than to bottle everything up inside.

You Are NOT Special

This may sound harsh, but you are not special and neither are your kids. We all are injured by others in life. Your injuries don’t make you any more special than anyone else. At the same time, their injuries don’t make them any more special than you. Every feeling you have ever felt has been experienced by billions of people before. THIS IS NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN!

People have been hurting each other for thousands of generations. If you think that no one else understands your pain, YOU ARE WRONG! Thousands of people understand your pain. Maybe you haven’t met any of them, but I assure you that they are out there. Perhaps people you even know right now, but no one is talking about their pain.

Lots of people carry large amounts of pain. Don’t treat yourself or your kids as “special.” Their wounds do not give them the right to treat others badly, and the earlier they realize this the better off their world will be. Pain is NO excuse to start hurting others, but too many people use it that way. So despite all the advice given when I was a kid, DO NOT teach your kids that they are special.

They may be special in your eyes, and that’s fine. Even Grandma’s and Grandpa’s can think they are special. But to the world, they are no different than anyone else, and ultimately they must know this.


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This overwhelming effect of narcissism is simply not okay. We must join together and stand up for ourselves. This abuse, this insensitive treatment, this entitlement, this complete disregard for other people's feelings....This Is NOT Okay!!