Have you ever questioned whether or not a narcissist can truly fulfill the role of a good parent?

If so, so are many others. We held a support group for people co-parenting with narcissists, and this topic came up.

So, I did some research, and here’s everything I learned.

As a general rule, narcissists can’t be good parents because:

  • They lack empathy.
  • Their need for control stifles the child’s growth.
  • They set unrealistic expectations.
  • They offer conditional love based on performance.
  • They constantly seek attention, overshadowing the child’s needs.
  • Their emotional volatility creates an unstable environment.
  • They lack genuine interest in the child’s individuality.
  • They use manipulation and guilt as control tools.

In this article, I will guide you through these eight reasons to help you understand why narcissists typically don’t make for good parents.

If you have or currently are experiencing narcissistic abuse, visit Unfilteredd’s Institute of Healing from Narcissistic Abuse for help.

1) They Lack Empathy

One reason a narcissist can’t be a good parent is because they often lack empathy.1 

This means they have difficulty understanding or caring about how others feel.

Imagine a child scraping their knee and looking to their parent for comfort. 

A narcissistic parent might dismiss the child’s pain or get upset over the inconvenience rather than offer the hug or kind words the child needs. 

A narcissistic parent dismissing their child's pain because they lack empathy.

This lack of emotional support can make it tough for kids to feel loved and secure. 

It’s like when you’re telling a friend about something sad, and instead of listening, they change the subject to something about themselves

Kids need to feel that their feelings are important, but with a narcissistic parent, they might learn that their emotions don’t matter, which can hurt their ability to form healthy relationships later on.2

2) Their Need for Control Can Stifle Growth

Another reason is that narcissists often need to control everything around them, including their children.3 

This control can come from wanting to ensure the child only does things that make the parent look good. 

It’s like a coach who only lets the team play one way, even if trying different strategies could help them win more games. 

A child under a narcissistic parent might not be allowed to explore their interests or make mistakes because the parent is more focused on how the child’s actions reflect on them. 

This can stifle the child’s growth, making it hard for them to learn who they are, what they like, and how to make decisions for themselves.4 

Instead of growing into independent individuals, they might constantly worry about pleasing their narcissistic parent or be unsure of their abilities when they’re on their own.

Suggested Reading: 3 Reasons Narcissists Are So Controlling

3) They Set Unrealistic Expectations

A narcissist can struggle to be a good parent because they often set unrealistic expectations for their children.5 

They might push their kids to be the best in every area – academics, sports, arts – regardless of the child’s interest or well-being. 

It’s like expecting someone who loves drawing to win a marathon without considering whether they like running. 

This pressure to meet high standards is not about helping the child grow; it’s about feeding the narcissist’s need for admiration and validation through their child’s achievements. 

Kids in this situation can end up feeling like they’re never good enough unless they’re perfect, leading to anxiety, low self-esteem, and a fear of failure. 

A child of a narcissistic parent feeling not good enough.

They might also miss out on the joy of learning and exploration as their focus narrows down to only those areas where they’re expected to excel.

4) They Offer Conditional Love Based on Performance

Narcissistic parents might offer love and affection conditionally based on how well the child meets their expectations or reflects positively on them.

It’s similar to saying, “I’ll be proud of you and show you love if you score the winning goal or get straight A’s.” 

This conditional love teaches children that their value and the affection they receive from their parents depend on their achievements or on how well they can serve their parents’ egos.6 

Such an environment can lead to children developing a transactional view of love and relationships, where they believe they must always earn the affection and love of others by performing well.

This perspective can hinder their ability to form healthy, unconditional relationships in the future, where love is given freely and not based on meeting certain criteria.

If you need help with anything related to narcissistic abuse, visit Unfilteredd’s Institute of Healing from Narcissistic Abuse today.

5) Their Constant Need for Attention Diverts Focus from the Child

Narcissists have a constant need for attention and admiration, which can significantly impact their ability to be attentive and responsive parents. 

In situations where the focus should be on the child, such as during school events, sports games, or even at home during family time, a narcissistic parent may shift the attention to themselves, overshadowing their child’s needs and achievements. 

A narcissistic parent failing to be attentive because of their need for attention.

It’s like when someone tells a story about their day and another person interrupts to talk about something completely unrelated to themselves, making the original storyteller feel ignored and unimportant. 

Children need to feel seen and heard by their parents to develop a strong sense of self-worth, but when a parent’s need for attention takes precedence, the child may feel neglected and undervalued, believing that their achievements and experiences are not worth noticing.7

6) Their Emotional Volatility Creates an Unstable Environment

The emotional volatility often exhibited by narcissists can create a highly unstable and unpredictable home environment, which is detrimental to a child’s emotional security.8 

Narcissistic parents may have sudden outbursts of anger, periods of cold withdrawal, or unpredictable mood swings based on their own needs or reactions to external validation rather than the child’s behavior or emotional needs. 

It’s like walking on eggshells, never knowing what will trigger a negative reaction or cause a dramatic shift in the atmosphere. 

This unpredictability can lead to anxiety and stress in children, as they constantly try to adjust their behavior to avoid upsetting their parents instead of exploring their own identities and experiencing a normal range of emotions. 

Growing up in such an environment can hinder a child’s ability to regulate their own emotions and build resilience against life’s challenges.

Suggested Reading: How Are Narcissists Made?

7) They Lack Genuine Interest in the Child’s Individuality

Narcissists may lack genuine interest in their child’s unique thoughts, feelings, and interests if these aspects don’t align with their preferences or the image they wish to project.9

This lack of interest can manifest in dismissing the child’s hobbies, friends, or career aspirations simply because they do not serve the narcissist’s ego or expectations. 

A narcissistic parent dismissing their adult child's choices because it is not aligning with their expectations.

It’s similar to someone asking for your opinion only to ignore it because it doesn’t match theirs, making you feel undervalued and invisible. 

Children in such environments may grow up feeling misunderstood or that their true selves are not acceptable, leading to issues with self-esteem and identity. 

They learn to suppress their personality traits and interests to gain approval from their parent, potentially missing out on discovering who they truly are and what brings them joy.

8) They Use Manipulation and Guilt as Control Tools

Narcissistic parents often use manipulation and guilt to maintain control over their children, even as they grow into adulthood.10 

This could involve guilt-tripping the child for wanting to spend time with friends or pursue activities outside the family or manipulating them into feeling responsible for the parent’s emotional well-being. 

It’s like being told you’re the only good thing in someone’s life, placing an unfair burden on your shoulders to always make them happy at the expense of your happiness and independence. 

This manipulation can severely impact the child’s ability to make decisions for themselves, foster a sense of obligation always to put the parent’s needs first, and create a toxic dependency that hampers the child’s emotional development and autonomy. 

If you are ready to be more than a victim of narcissistic abuse, visit Unfilteredd’s Institute of Healing from Narcissistic Abuse today.


Thank you so much for reading; I hope you found this article insightful.

Now, I’d love to hear from you.

Have you or someone you know experienced narcissistic parenting?

If so, how did it affect the family dynamic?

Or perhaps you have questions about strategies for supporting children who have a narcissistic parent.

Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below.

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About the Author

Hey, I’m Elijah.

I experienced narcissistic abuse for three years. 

I create these articles to help you understand and validate your experiences.

Thank you for reading, and remember, healing is possible even when it feels impossible.

Unfilteredd has strict sourcing guidelines and only uses high-quality sources to support the facts within our content. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate, actionable, inclusive, and trustworthy by reading our editorial process.

  1. Melinda Smith, Lawrence Robinson. (2024. February, 5). Narcissistic Personality Disorder. HelpGuide.org. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-disorders/narcissistic-personality-disorder.htm ↩︎
  2. Goodstart Early Learning. (2018. February, 22). Why teaching children empathy is more important than ever. Goodstart Early Learning. https://www.goodstart.org.au/parenting/why-teaching-children-empathy-is-more-important-than-ever ↩︎
  3. Julie L. Hall. (2022. November, 21). 13 Ways Narcissistic Parents Sabotage Their Children. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/the-narcissist-in-your-life/202211/13-ways-narcissistic-parents-sabotage-their-children ↩︎
  4. International school parent. Helicopter Parenting: The Consequences. International school parent. https://www.internationalschoolparent.com/articles/helicopter-parenting-the-consequences/ ↩︎
  5. Nakpangi Thomas. (2023. June, 27). Narcissistic Parents: Traits, Signs, & How to Deal With One. Choosing Therapy. https://www.choosingtherapy.com/narcissistic-parent/ ↩︎
  6. Kaytee Gillis. (2024. January, 7). The Lasting Harm of Conditional Parental Love. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/invisible-bruises/202310/the-negative-effects-of-conditional-love ↩︎
  7. Brigham Young University. Nurturing Feelings of Self-Worth in Children. Brigham Young University. https://foreverfamilies.byu.edu/nurturing-feelings-of-self-worth-in-children ↩︎
  8. Mary Ann Little. (2024. January, 18). 10 Ways Narcissistic Parents Hurt Their Children. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/childhood-narcissism/202401/10-ways-narcissistic-parents-hurt-their-children ↩︎
  9. Coppola G, Musso P, Buonanno C, Semeraro C, Iacobellis B, Cassibba R, Levantini V, Masi G, Thomaes S, Muratori P. “The Apple of Daddy’s Eye: Parental Overvaluation Links the Narcissistic Traits of Father and Child.” Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Jul 30;17(15):5515. ↩︎
  10. Newport Institute. (2022. November, 1). How Having a Narcissistic Parent Impacts Young Adult Mental Health. Newport Institute. https://www.newportinstitute.com/resources/mental-health/narcissistic-parent/ ↩︎

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