One of the most common tactics that narcissistic parents use to manipulate their children is love bombing.
To love bomb their child, narcissistic parents will buy their child gifts, give them money, spend more time with them than usual, pay closer attention to their child’s hobbies, speak well about their child in front of others, and victimize themselves to give their child an opportunity to “help” them.
This article is going to guide you through the different ways that narcissistic parents love bomb their children so you can grasp a better understanding of the role love bombing plays in narcissistic family systems.
They Buy Their Child Gifts or Give Them Money
The core values that narcissists have are very superficial and materialistic.
Instead of valuing honesty, emotional closeness, respect, love, etc., they value money, their appearance, social status, and so on.
When a narcissistic parent love bombs you, it is very common for their actions to reflect their superficial and materialistic core values.
For example, buying you things or giving you money.
Narcissists aren’t capable of expressing the thoughts, feelings, and emotions that go into healthy parenting.
They can’t sit down with their child and find healthy ways to validate and reassure the child’s thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs.
In fact, they can’t even do it for themselves.
Narcissists have many painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions that they can’t manage because of low emotional intelligence.
Instead, they use the narcissistic supply that they get from their surrounding environment to suppress their thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
So for them, superficial and materialistic forms of validation, admiration, and reassurance is the “correct” way to manage thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
It is for this reason that it is very common for narcissistic parents to try to love bomb their child by buying them things or giving them money.
If you are interested in learning more about the painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions that narcissists have, our article “How Are Narcissists Made?“ has a ton of helpful information.
They Spend More Time With Their Child Than Normal
Sadly, it is very common for narcissists to not value the thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs of their children.
They can do a really good job at pretending that they do, but it is never actually the case.
Because of this, narcissistic parents are often emotionally unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent.
If their child does something that they value or that brings them narcissistic supply, they will give the child a lot of attention.
But the moment that the child stops doing something that they value or that brings them narcissistic supply, they will become unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent.
Because of this dynamic, narcissistic parents know that giving their child attention is very powerful.
It is very common for them to exploit their child’s need for attention when love bombing them by simply spending more time with them.
For example, imagine that a narcissistic father had a kid who always asked him to teach him how to ride a bike.
For months this kid has been begging his narcissistic father to teach him to ride a bike but the father always had something more important to do.
One day, the narcissistic father decides that he wants to love bomb his kid so he takes him out into the street and teaches him how to ride a bike.
The attention that he is giving his child is incredibly powerful because of how emotionally unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent he normally is.
They Pay Closer Attention to Their Child’s Interests
One of the most powerful manipulation tactics that narcissists use is something called mirroring.
In this context, mirroring refers to a narcissist’s ability to absorb information about another person’s identity and use that information to create a falsified identity that the person being mirrored can relate with.
One of the ways that a narcissistic parent can love bomb their child is by using the information they gather from mirroring to identify their child’s interests and then exploiting those interests.
For example, imagine that a narcissist has a child who is really into baseball.
This narcissistic parent could love bomb their child by taking the child to a baseball game.
While at the game, the narcissistic parent is talking about all the different players, the different positions, they are cheering for the team that the child supports, and so on.
Do you see what is happening here?
The narcissistic parent is love bombing their child by exploiting the child’s love for baseball.
When this parent pretends to be really into baseball, they are mirroring their child. They have created a falsified identity (a baseball fanatic) that the child can relate to.
At its core, love bombing is an elite form of mirroring. When love bombing, the narcissist is creating a falsified identity that allows them to be exactly who the person they are love bombing needs/wants them to be.
They Speak Well About Their Child in Front of Others
Narcissists do not care about the thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs of others, they only care about how much narcissistic supply others can give them.
Sadly, this is also true when it comes to their children.
That’s right. Narcissists view their children as sources of narcissistic supply.
For example, it is very common for narcissists to have a golden child.
A golden child is a child who the narcissist views as an extension of themselves.
For example, imagine that you have a narcissistic parent who has played sports his/her entire life.
This narcissistic parent has two children.
One child is really into sports and the other child isn’t.
The narcissist is going to view the child who is really into sports as an extension of themselves and make them their golden child.
The most important role that a golden child has is giving their narcissistic parent narcissistic supply, that is how they stay the golden child.
The most common way that this happens is doing something that the narcissist can use to get the validation, admiration, and reassurance of others.
For example, imagine that the golden child from the example above became a professional athlete.
This would be a huge source of narcissistic supply for the narcissistic parent because he/she could then go and gloat about his/her child’s success or even live vicariously through the child.
Now, where this can turn into love bombing is when the narcissist starts speaking really well about the child in front of others.
You see, even though the narcissist favors their golden child, they still are emotionally unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent.
They may be the golden child but the narcissistic parent doesn’t care about their thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs.
They only care about the narcissistic supply that they are getting.
If a narcissistic parent decided that they wanted to love bomb their child, they simply speak well about them in front of others.
Why would this work?
By speaking well about the child in front of others, the narcissistic parent is exploiting the one connection that they have with their child, which is the child’s talents.
Since this is the only type of attention that the child receives from their narcissistic parent, this love bombing can make them feel really good about themselves.
For a split second, it can make them feel like their narcissistic parent is emotionally available, responsive, and consistent.
Now, there are five different types of children that narcissists create: the golden child, the scapegoat, the helper child, the invisible child, and the truth teller.
This type of love bombing could happen to any one of them, not just the golden child.
The point is that the narcissistic parent’s willingness to speak well about their child is the type of attention that the children of narcissists rarely experience.
When it happens, it can make them feel really good about themselves.
Our article “How Do Narcissists Treat Their Children?“ has a lot of helpful information about the different roles that children play in narcissistic family settings.
They Victimize Themselves to Give Their Child an Opportunity to “Help” Them
One of the most subtle forms of love bombing that narcissistic parents use is self-victimization.
Self-victimization is casting oneself in the role of a victim.
For example, a narcissist gets caught in a lie and to get out of it they victimize themselves by saying, “It is not my fault. I don’t know any better. I grew up in such an abusive household.”
When a narcissist victimizes themselves, it works really well on people who are overly empathic and people who feel the need to rescue others.
When someone is overly empathic, it means that they have a tendency to be too in tune with other people’s emotions and mirror them with the same intensity.
When someone feels the need to rescue others it means that they take on the responsibilities, burdens, and problems of others more than their own.
Narcissists love overly empathic people and rescuers. Our article “Who Do Narcissists Surround Themselves With?“ has a ton of information about the types of people narcissists love to have around them.
It is very common for the children of narcissists to be overly empathic or feel the need to rescue others.
In fact, there’s a name for it, the helper child.
The helper child is the child who helps the narcissist.
The reason that this is so common among the children of narcissists is because the abuse that they are experiencing forces them to rely on people-pleasing behaviors to stay safe.
For example, a helper child might become a helper child because they realize that they don’t get yelled at as much if they neglect their own thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs to cater to their narcissistic parent.
It is very common for narcissistic parents to exploit the goodhearted nature of their children by using self-victimization to love bomb them.
With comments like, “My life is such a mess. I feel so depressed. I need your help.” narcissistic parents are able to give their child an opportunity to “help” them.
This is love bombing.
The child’s identity revolves around people-pleasing behaviors. The narcissist is feeding into this identity by victimizing themselves and by doing so, they make the child feel like they have a purpose.
What Should You Take Away From This Article?
To love bomb their child, a narcissistic parent will
- Buy their child gifts or give them money.
- Spend more time with their child than usual.
- Pay closer attention to their child’s interests.
- Speak well about their child in front of others.
- Victimize themselves to give their child an opportunity to “help” them.
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.
Donaldson-Pressman, Stephanie, and Robert M. Pressman. The narcissistic family: Diagnosis and treatment. Jossey-Bass, 1997.
Strutzenberg, Claire. “Love-bombing: a narcissistic approach to relationship formation.” (2016).