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Parenting resources for those raised by narcissists

(157 Posts)
buildingmycorestrength Fri 29-Mar-13 20:17:12

Hi, I've been over on Herrena's 'regale me with hilarious/ridiculous things your narcissist has said or done' thread. I had a narc dad and when I became a parent I had a lot of problems dealing with...um...everything to do with children! I was frightened of my child, got angry easily, had no idea what was normal.

I think this pretty standard for people who grew up in dysfunctional families...and I turned to books for help. Like I always do .

I read some books that didn't help much at all. Unconditional parenting books were great in some ways because they focused so much on loving and caring, which were hard for me and didn't come naturally. BUT I had no common sense to temper them with partly because of not having much experience with children but also because of not really knowing about normal boundaries. I ended up with a three-year-old tyrant which didn't work at all. grin

Then I went to parenting classes, which were really incredibly helpful. Specifically I was on a course called 'Raising Children' which dealt with assertiveness, what children need, boundaries, and much more.

From there, I ended up watching the 123 Magic DVD. My husband and I watched this together, and I dithered a lot about it all, but can honestly say I think it saved our family. A very gentle discipline system that is practical, friendly, and works. The DVD is really funny too. I also have the book for backup.

I found two other books really helpful as well. Playful Parenting by Larry Cohen gave me really concrete strategies for playing and connecting with my kids (and how to deal with boring play). Buddhism for Mothers was also really helpful for general mindfulness practice. (I'm not a Buddhist, by the way, am actually a church goer- but loved this book.)

These three resources work really well together...123 Magic focuses on behaviour, Playful Parenting on connection, and Buddhism for Mothers on getting my own head right. I don't think I could be trusted to follow one book, because of not really knowing the common sense limits to what they are saying. So I usually take bits from several and sort of patch them together.

Full disclosure: I also had group therapy and individual therapy, both focused on CBT.

I'd be really interested to hear if others from dysfunctional families or with narcissistic parents in particular, have found their own helpful resources for parenting.

rhondajean sounds like the book has done you some good, if you're working on it with your ddsmile

buildingmycorestrength Sat 30-Mar-13 19:54:58

garlic I have heard the Listen book recommended soooo many times.

I might have to get it as mine regularly don't listen to me... smile.

buildingmycorestrength Sat 30-Mar-13 19:55:55

Oh, and how do I get a thread moved? Think it is a good idea.

building-I think you have to report your thread and follow instructions in order to do itsmile

meiisme Sat 30-Mar-13 21:42:53

Ohhh, thank you for this thread.

For me as well dealing with my own mess in therapy, supported by reading books like Toxic Parents and Homecoming and lots of MN threads on narcissism and toxic relations, was the first step to being a proper parent. Before I had such little grip on life that the practical, proactive tools of parenting books like The Incredible Years (lots of Supernanny type ideas) seemed completely out of my reach. That is much better now.

But I'm still struggling with the bit in between soul searching and day-to-day interaction. It often feels like living in two realities at once: one where I'm constantly preoccupied with all these deep changes taking place in me and my life, and another where I'm solely responsible for two little people and I need very much to be in the now, to handle the fall-out from not having fixed all this stuff before they were born (as if smile) as well as all the 'normal' stuff that I don't know much about anyway.

I mean questions like:
- How do I make sure I'm actually parenting rather than addressing my own problems?
- How do I respond to my children as an adult when I often feel like a child?
- How can I be in charge without using anger or anxiety to get my point across?
- How do I make sure my needs are met without disappearing myself?
- What do I do when I'm triggered by my child's behaviour, an MN thread, or some other thing that brings up old panic or detachment? How do I make sure it doesn't interfere with my interaction with my children, without simply ignoring it?
- How do I help my children overcome problems that are similar to what I'm still dealing with? Such as feeling awkward in groups or standing up for themselves.

A lot of this has to do with healthy boundaries. Where do I end and do my children begin? How do I know what I'm 'allowed' to ask from them and what I'm responsible for as the parent?

In the other thread, I think, someone suggested Alice Miller, I think, and her idea that healthy boundaries are the natural, personal boundaries of the parent. That it's not about thought up rules and aiming for certain outcomes, but about knowing what you as a person think/feel is okay and parenting directly from that. Which of course ties in neatly with the work you do in therapy when you discover who you are and what you want.

I'd be very happy with suggestions for books/techniques that deal with these kinds of issues.

meiisme Sat 30-Mar-13 21:46:10

Telling slip of the keyboard, should be 'How do I make sure their needs are met without disappearing myself?'

garlicbrunch Sat 30-Mar-13 22:03:02

Well, making sure your needs are met is pretty damn crucial too!

It often seems to me that the biggest failing of dysfunctional parents (and other child carers) is an incapacity to see children as children. I suppose one could say, an incomprehension of what childhood is. I don't know whether you'll be able to do anything with this?

Too many grown-ups treat DC as if they had adult, or near-adult, world experience and capabilities. The child's brain doesn't finish developing until around 21yo, when theory of mind should be fully formed. Before then, various styles of thinking are unavailable to a child - as, of course, are life experience and emotional maturity. Tragically, most dysfunctional adults' own development was arrested before completion. Consequently they, themselves, lack full capacity for theory of mind and remain unable to grasp the full extent of their child's difference from them.

Reading about the stages of mental development - from a neuropsychological point of view, rather than educational - was revelatory for me.

garlicbrunch Sat 30-Mar-13 22:06:24

Here's a nice photo about teaching boundaries smile
http://www.facebook.com/humansofnewyork/posts/444358888971550:0

garlicbrunch Sat 30-Mar-13 22:06:37
Sheshelob Sat 30-Mar-13 22:14:19

Garlic you hit the nail on the head. So so helpful.

Following with interest.

Apileofballyhoo Sat 30-Mar-13 22:24:50

Thanks for posting this OP smile

vanquish Sat 30-Mar-13 22:31:49

wow I am going to try those books. I am always worried about psychologically damaging my child like my parents did me, its a huge burden and I could do with some help. Most nights you think tomorrow I will be more patient - but before you know it, it's ground hog day again and you are back to "short temper and instant 0 - 60 shouting".
I have fixed lots of my own stuff, just need to tweak the parenting now.
Any other books to recommend ?

garlicbrunch Sat 30-Mar-13 22:55:19

Oh good, Shes! smile

meiisme Sun 31-Mar-13 02:28:37

It often seems to me that the biggest failing of dysfunctional parents (and other child carers) is an incapacity to see children as children. I suppose one could say, an incomprehension of what childhood is. I don't know whether you'll be able to do anything with this? and Tragically, most dysfunctional adults' own development was arrested before completion. Consequently they, themselves, lack full capacity for theory of mind and remain unable to grasp the full extent of their child's difference from them.

You're right, and I think I'm somewhere stuck in that. I need to think more about what it is exactly, because I do know they're separate people and they're not understanding the world like adults, and (unlike my parents) do not expect them to be perfectly behaved mini-adults, who after being lectured at length are naughty/difficult/obstinate/manipulative/nasty little bitches when they don't do what I would like them to do.

But... parenting is more than responding to children's behaviour with reasonable expectations. It's also about framing their experiences, so they end up with positive self talk and an honest yet positive understanding of the world. Showing them how to have relations with other people, how to stick up for themselves (I for one could never respond like the woman in the picture you posted, the words would simply not come into my head, even if I knew I didn't like what the woman did). And I think when it comes to these things, I still treat them like children, but from a child's persepctive myself. I don't have the adult view point that I need here.

And although I'm more adult through therapy, I still lack the practical skills that go with it. I might think more like an adult these days, but I haven't done the things that make people grow up naturally. Do you think this comes by itself from just working on the inner child stuff? Or do you need to do things as well, to transfer that inner change into practical skills? I genuinely don't know.

Just now, for example, I spent my evening on MN and watching a film, while I have a bag full of easter eggs waiting to be hidden. I've bought them because I think the children will like the hunt (they're both very young and these kinds of things are all new to them) and I will enjoy being the mother that sees them enjoy it, but I have to get my head around the fact that I actually have to hide the eggs to make the experience happen. It's almost as if I resent doing it, even though I enjoyed the anticipating when I bought the stuff.

Will do it now though wink.

BabyRuSh Sun 31-Mar-13 02:44:30

Thank you for this. I have to stop myself several times a day to prevent myself from saying the controlling phrases my narc dad said to me. My dads control freakness extended to my clothes, hair style, food, friends, and what musical instrument I should play (despite the fact I hated playing an instrument!) I am determined to recognise my dc for who they are and to allow them to find their own interests and personality.

vanquish Sun 31-Mar-13 09:11:34

meiisme - procrastination ! I recognise that in myself - a lot ! (lol)

garlicbrunch Sun 31-Mar-13 12:01:52

Meiisme, I love your Easter egg story and your self-insight! How did it go?

Do you think this comes by itself from just working on the inner child stuff? Or do you need to do things as well, to transfer that inner change into practical skills?
Ime you need to do physical practice as well as thought exercises - it's all about creating new neural pathways, and etching them in by doing them.

This would be a good time to confess I'm going through an extended phase of paralysis/procrastination myself! It's got to be about working with yourself, rather than trying to bully yourself (had enough of that, thank you.) Easter egg hunts, now, I could do: I loved setting them up for my younger sibs, so my inner child finds it great fun - I don't need a new pathway for it. Housework and paperwork are my current downfalls ... following this post, I've thought of a different mental approach ... thank you, thread grin Wish me luck!

dothraki Sun 31-Mar-13 12:27:13

meisme flowers

buildingmycorestrength Sun 31-Mar-13 12:34:19

Am trying to marshal my thoughts on this...I do it. ALL THE TIME. My husband has to be the tooth fairy as I do not seem to be able to do it. Lots of thoughts but a bit emotional about it. Will come back to it later.

JacqueslePeacock Sun 31-Mar-13 16:57:26

Has anyone tried the book Growing Up Again: Parenting Ourselves, Parenting Our Children? link here My therapist recommended it for overcoming the feeling that I never learnt appropriate models for how to parent from my narcissistic mother. It has been very useful for me and might be helpful for others.

You'll have to excuse me dipping in and out of here and the 'regale me' thread.

Wow, yy to children never being allowed to be children. I don't know how to have fun. Really. No laughter in the childhood home, there wasn't allowed to be. Shhhhhhhh.

I tend to hide in a corner somewhere, freeze, or make excuses when the opportunity for fun arises. My friends seem to have noticed and suggest quiet meals/nights out, but it mustn't be fun for them. I feel I'm holding them back. We do have a laugh, but the fun element frightens me as if I'm scared I'll be laughed at. I wouldn't know what to do.

garlicbrunch Sun 31-Mar-13 21:30:13

Crushed, I've just had a look at the reviews for the book Jacques recommended. I also found some teaching resources based on it. It includes advice on steps to take, should you be aware that you missed out on some crucial parts of your own development.

I'm sorry you missed out on the laughter & silliness of childhood - such a pity! I doubt your friends feel you're holding them back, by the way, but it will be nice for you to get some chances to run around giggling smile

Someone I knew took circus classes for similar reasons (I've only seen them in London). I don't know whether he learned to let his hair down, but he loved the course and took a second one.

meiisme Sun 31-Mar-13 21:58:23

Thanks dothraki for the thanks, my first blush, and vanquish, garlicbrunch and building for recognising what I'm talking about. It really helps, I find, to dissect these issues, but I haven't met anyone in RL who is interested in discussing the interactions of parenthood in such detail.

The easter egg hunt went "good enough". I put some eggs in plain view, so the DC figured out themselves they were supposed to go on a hunt instead of me explaining (which would make me feel very self conscious), and hid others, so they had the surprise of finding hidden treasures as well. They were both quite excited and the whole living room is now covered in chocolate.

I didn't manage to create the complete Easter experience as I know it from my childhood, though. And the same is true of the other celebrations I've organised since I'm parenting alone: Christmas, New Year's, my birthday, Mother's Day and their birthday (I have twins).

When I think about these celebrations, that I used to love as a child, it does feel as if they fall out of the sky, while I just sit and watch, and try to not ruin the picture perfectness of it all. So my next step will be figuring out ways to create the experience together with the DC, while taking the responsibility as their mum to make them happen and to insert some magic in it.

garlicbrunch Sun 31-Mar-13 22:26:49

Your Easter surprise sounds brilliant! Really, give yourself a huge 'stroke'! Well done for 'good enough', too ... although I'd venture that today was far better than that smile

What you're saying about the landmark occasions sounds very much like a psychological construct. You have this whole scene set up in your head, which is how it 'should' be. Nothing else is quite right. In fact, you've just created your own landmark special event for your family. Bloody excellent: not only are you forming landmark memories especially for your own family but, even more importantly, this is a reality not a 'construct'. Constructs are only window dressing. Today was an actual, tangible, happy family day!

If you still can't believe it, try going over it verbally with your DC tomorrow or write it down as a little story (with pictures?) This narrative replaces the construct.

God, I hope that made some sense.

HoleyGhost Mon 01-Apr-13 08:29:25

Meiisme - have you read ' playful parenting'?

It transformed my life, made me more fun and much more connected with my dc.

I found 'how to talk' helped me understand responsibility better - what is mine and when to take my beak out. I intend to read 'Buddhism for mothers' next.

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