A narcissist’s need for flying monkeys originates from a deeply rooted fear of rejection. You see, a narcissist’s crown jewel is their falsified identity. They devote their existence to maintaining this identity that they believe is much more worthy of society’s acceptance than their true identity which is insecure, vulnerable, and inadequate.

A narcissist’s fear of rejection is often triggered by the possibility of someone who has seen their true identity behind closed doors being in a position to expose it to society. When this fear is combined with a lack of empathy, their need for a tangible representation of the destruction they cause, and their emotional immaturity, a narcissist will stop at nothing to protect their own interests. 

A narcissist will use their own children as flying monkeys because every single relationship they have, even the ones with their children, are purely transactional. The abuse that narcissists will manipulate their children into participating has a horrifyingly negative impact on their well-being.

It is important to know that children who are manipulated into being flying monkeys are simply victims of narcissistic abuse as well. The narcissist has tricked them into believing that you’re the enemy, and the narcissist is the one trying to protect them.

A narcissistic father in blue track pants manipulating his child into turning against his mother

It can be a really hurtful and confusing moment for you and your child so we’ve conducted a study among 200 survivors of narcissistic abuse who’ve also had to tread through the murky waters of co-parenting and parallel-parenting with a narcissist to find the likelihood of a narcissist using children as flying monkeys and to gather some of the best tips they gave for to help readers deal with a child who is also a flying monkey.

If you didn’t know already, a flying monkey is a person that is manipulated into participating in a smear campaign against their victim and a narcissist is desperately dependent on them.

In our articles Why Do Narcissists Need Flying Monkeys and What Do Flying Monkeys Do For the Narcissist we allow readers to have a really unique perspective of the flying monkey phenomenon so be sure to check those articles out at some point.


“Did the narcissist in your life manipulate your children into becoming flying monkeys?”

The Type of Narcissist Our Participant Were Co-Parenting WithYesNo

This was a very interesting study for two reasons. 

First, the percentages among the different types of narcissistic personalities were really similar. It was a really important reminder that there are so many different overlaps among the different types of narcissistic personalities that it would be illogical to have rigid definitions for each one in particular.


When you strictly follow the definitions of each type of narcissist, it leaves a lot of room for someone to make rationalizations, justifications, and normalizations for the abuser’s behavior.

I was so desperate to make things back to the way they were during the love bombing phase that I would use anything I could find to justify staying in the relationship. My relationship coach had told me that my husband was a grandiose narcissist but because my husband was often very depressed and shy, I ignored all of the red flags because it didn’t fit with the definition of a grandiose narcissist. Now I know that covert narcissism and grandiose narcissism are interchangeable so I can see much more clearly now.” Andrea, Survivor of 13 Years of Narcissistic Abuse

Second, when you take a closer look at the percentages, it actually becomes quite predictable. 

Going by the rigid definitions of the different types of narcissistic personalities, malignant narcissists are definitely the most manipulative, jealous, and dangerous type of narcissist so it makes sense that they have the highest percentage (76%)  for participants who answered yes.

Communal narcissists are very, very concerned with their public appearance. In fact, a handful of our participants have told us that the communal narcissist in their lives wanted to hide the divorce out of fear that their reputation would be muddled in the community. So, using their own children to save face seems like an expected behavior from them.

And finally, researchers have suggested that if a grandiose narcissist were to experience hardship after hardship for an extended period of time, they’d morph into a covert narcissist. If a covert narcissist were to experience success for an extended period of time, they’d display the characteristics of a grandiose narcissist. So, it makes sense that their percentages (72% grandiose and 68% covert) are so close together. 

5 Tips For Dealing With Children Who Are Flying Monkeys

To sum everything up from the study above, there isn’t that big of a difference among the data points so it is really important to remember that narcissists have the same underlying personality traits meaning that they are ALL capable of manipulating your children into becoming flying monkeys.

Twelve of the most common personality traits associated with narcissism

With that being said, here are the five most helpful tips we got from the participants that you can use to handle children who are flying monkeys the right way.

At the end of this article will be a link to Unfilteredd’s Official Podcast where you can join Brie Robertson, survivor of 17 years of narcissistic abuse, to learn how she dealt with her narcissistic ex turning her daughter into a flying monkey if you’d like even more insight on this topic.

The Gray Rock Method Versus The Yellow Rock Method

I mentioned before that you shouldn’t tell your children that their parent is a narcissist and all of the horrible things that they’ve done to you because it is something they have to learn on their own, well that advice applies to your demeanor towards the narcissist in your life as well, specifically when using the gray rock method.

If you didn’t know, the gray rock method is a technique where one refuses to have a significant conversation with the narcissist in their life. They will not explain themselves. They will not allow themselves to be baited into an argument. They will not react when the narcissist says or does something antagonistic. They’ll just remain indifferent in the face of narcissistic abuse.

The objective is to be so boring that the narcissist is unable to get the narcissistic supply that they need from their victim, so they’ll move on and bother someone else. It is a FANTASTIC technique, but the only problem is that from the outside looking in, it makes the victim look narcissistic themselves because they’re refusing to speak to the narcissist.

A narcissist enabler gaslighting a victim of narcissistic abuse back into the narcissistic abuse cycle.

Normally, you should NEVER care about what others think when you are using the gray rock method. You are protecting yourself from a monster that others are refusing to acknowledge. However, when it comes to children who have been manipulated into a flying monkey role, you should care about how they see you.

A much more effective alternative under these circumstances is a technique coined by Tina Swithin called the yellow rock method. It holds the same principals as the gray rock method, you don’t want to give the narcissist ANY narcissistic supply so you’ll remain indifferent to their abuse.

However, you won’t be as cold as a gray rock. You’ll be more lively like a yellow rock.

What does this mean?

Instead of just completely shutting down in the presence of the narcissist, you’ll treat them as you would your boss.

“You’re going to be polite and kind but not overboard, not nauseating. Still no emotions. But you can get your point across without being seen as cold and callous.” – Tina Swithin, Founder of One Mom’s Battle and Author of the Series, “Divorcing a Narcissist”

This technique is also really important for those going through a divorce because your communication with your narcissistic co-parent will be scrutinized throughout the process. Even though it is ridiculous, court systems want to see a happy and united front. Coming off as cold and callous will do much more harm than good.

“If my ex husband sent me a scathing email and there was nothing truly related to the children but there were accusations about my parenting, I would write back and say your attempt to portray me in a negative light is noted however I do not agree with your interpretation of events.” – Tina Swithin, Founder of One Mom’s Battle and Author of the Series, “Divorcing a Narcissist”

Tina Swithin went on to explain that her response was so important because if she were to use the gray rock method, she wouldn’t have responded at all. But by using the yellow rock method instead, if and when her emails were scrutinized by the family court system, it would be much more difficult for her ex-husband to spin a narrative that portrays her in a bad light.

Be an Emotional Mirror for Your Children

One of your biggest priorities should be to ensure that your children have a space where they can express their thoughts, emotions, feelings, and concerns freely, even if they are being hostile towards you. It’s important to remember that these are not normal flying monkeys and they should be treated as such.

They are likely experiencing very, very high levels of manipulation and coercion so reflecting all of the qualities that their narcissistic parent lacks like empathy, responsibility, discipline, consistency, respect, self-awareness and so on is a very important step that you need to consistently take.

A woman in a blue sweatshirt trying to successfully co-parent with a narcissist

Avoid Being Defensive at All Costs

In a perfect world, you’d be able to tell your child the truth about their narcissistic parent. Unfortunately, the truth is that your children aren’t ready to process everything that follows that kind of information and don’t need to be forced to pick and choose which parent they should believe. Again, this doesn’t mean that you get to throw the narcissist under the bus. What is most important is that you ensure that you create a safe environment where your children will feel heard, valued, and respected.

She used to go on and on and on about having a better relationship with her dad than she did with me. She just didn’t feel a connection with me like she did with her dad, and she felt like I was being completely unfair. So instead of getting defensive, I would communicate my desire to strengthen our relationship, asked her how we could make our relationship better together and let her know that not having a good relationship with her made me really sad. – Brie, Survivor of 17 Years of Narcissistic Abuse

Seek Out a Medical Professional to Help Your Child

Seeking out a medical professional is a MUST for all children who grow up in an unhealthy/abusive household. Having a narcissistic parent comes with a long list of negative psychological impacts that could make your children gravitate towards abusive relationships in adulthood or even become an abuser themselves. It is so important their trauma doesn’t get neglected.

I put my son in counseling almost immediately so he could learn important skills like setting boundaries, and self-advocacy. My hope was that by going to counseling, he’d be able to develop the skills that he needed to defend himself against his narcissistic father and enable us to rebuild our connection and it worked. A few months into his sessions he summoned up the courage to tell me that he felt like nobody saw or cared about him. I apologized, hugged him, and he burst into tears because of how relieved he felt. – Jasmine, Survivor of 23 Years of Narcissistic Abuse

Seek Out a Medical Professional for Yourself

Narcissistic abuse forces you to neglect your own health, both physically and mentally. It is so important that you ensure that your trauma doesn’t go neglected either. It goes back to that saying, you can’t pour from an empty cup, take care of yourself first. You can’t take care of your children if you can’t take care of yourself so be sure to address your trauma before addressing your child’s trauma.

14 years of narcissistic abuse did a number on me. I was drinking more, staying inside as much as I could, distancing myself from everyone, and neglected all of my responsibilities as a parent. Going to therapy was the best decision I had made in 14 years. It taught me how to communicate with my children in a way that wasn’t aggressive towards their mother and rebuilt our relationship at the same time. I learned how to take care of myself while taking care of my children so I didn’t have to wait until I was completely healed before helping them in every way that I could logically. It saved my life because seeking out therapy saved my relationship with my children. – Johnathan, Survivor of 14 Years of Narcissistic Abuse

Another reason that seeking out a medical professional for yourself is such an important step to take is that over time, narcissistic abuse wears you down both physically and emotionally. So much so that it drastically changes your appearance, demeanor, and relationships you might have had.

This harsh truth is one of, if not the biggest, reasons that narcissists are able to manipulate those who’ve known you your ENTIRE life into turning against you with the snap of their fingers.

It is a really important thing to be aware of so be sure to check out How Do Narcissists Get Flying Monkeys for a clear understanding of their ability to be so manipulative!

What Should You Take Away From This Article?

There are two important takeaways from this study. First, using children as flying monkeys is a very common behavior among those with narcissistic personalities, so you need to be prepared for it. Second, children who are flying monkeys ARE NOT the same as regular flying monkeys.

Meaning that the advice we gave in our article, How to Deal With Flying Monkeys about using the gray rock method, holding onto your reality, and using radical acceptance will do nothing but harm your child even further. As hurtful as they can be, children who are flying monkeys need to be approached with empathy and compassion.

Some children will be able to see the truth as they get older, and others won’t. It is a risk you’re going to have to take if you want any chance at rebuilding the relationship you had with your child before the narcissist in your life ruined it.

Our interview with three ex flying monkeys combined with the fact that relationships for narcissists are purely transactional revealed that there will be a day that the narcissist will turn on ALL of their flying monkeys, their children included. So, be sure to approach the situation in a way that enables you to pick up the pieces when that day comes.

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      All of the Data For This Study


      This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for clinical care. Please consult a health care provider for guidance specific to your case.