Am I a narcissistic parent? Am I passing narcissism on to my children?
What is the cornerstone of maternal or paternal narcissism? Do you worry you might be a narcissistic parent? Most of us with children hold the value that we would never consciously do anything to harm our children. When we do, even if unwitting, we carry guilt and heavy remorse. Adult children raised by narcissistic parents are particularly fearful that they will pass the legacy of distorted love onto their children and grandchildren. As many are entering recovery from narcissistic families and childhood wounds, the questions remain deep and serious. Let’s take a closer look and discuss what to do.
The antithesis of narcissism is empathy. If you have unconditional love for your children and can be an empathic parent, you are not a narcissist. Empathy is the ability to get into someone else’s shoes and validate what they are feeling. The art of empathy is being there on this same level to hear and nurture feelings but is different from sympathy. Sympathy often feels to others like we are putting ourselves above them and feeling sorry for them. This does not bring comfort to most. But, if I express sadness, frustration or any myriad of emotions, and you are able to be with me, hear me, acknowledge the feelings and not judge… you are exhibiting an empathic response. If you jump to solutions or tell me what to do, are judgmental or critical, tell me what you do to solve your problems, or feel sorry for me, this is not practicing empathy!
When raising children, creating an empathic environment is crucial for their development of self. Children need to know their feelings matter. It makes them feel real, noticed, seen, heard and visible. When feelings are attended to, the child then learns to trust their own feelings and can continue to grow up feeling empowered by their inner thoughts and emotions. This is in contrast to living in an adult world of crippling self-doubt because they were not heard in their early development.
Empathy does not mean you have to agree. Feelings are feelings are feelings. We can be critical of someone’s thoughts as thoughts can be distorted, but what we feel, we feel. Emotions need to be processed. So let’s say your child does not want to go to school today for some reason that you think is ridiculous. Your value system is about good education, you know you have to encourage the child to go to school, and you are tempted to jump into solutions, or demands. What to do? Empathy with others is not about agreeing, but it is about getting into their emotional realm so you can understand them. When you do this, each moment is a teaching and nurturing moment for a parent. When you probe further, let’s say this same child says they do not want to go to school because they are being “put down” or even bullied. If you jump to demands and solutions, you may miss important emotional information that you need to guide your child. This may sound obvious, but it happens a lot...
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