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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 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.

buildingmycorestrength Mon 01-Apr-13 08:37:15

It feels to me like old-fashioned perfectionism, me.
I also try to protect myself against any possibility of failing my kids, and try to avoid raising their expectations too much, which is p robably not a healthy thing.

You want to replicate your happy memories, but I always remind myself that my kids have a better 'baseline' of happiness, so these events aren't going to be their only happy memories of childhood. Does that make sense? It is okay to do a bit of a half-arsed job, because actually, what matters more is day-to-day living and getting that right.
But then I think, childhood flies by so fast and you only get one chance, etc. I tie myself in knots and that isn't good either.

So, I just do what I can and then, learn for next time.

HerrenaHandbasket Mon 01-Apr-13 08:38:43

Just found this thread - what an excellent idea! Off to read through properly smile

crushedintherush Mon 01-Apr-13 10:32:56

thanks garlicbrunch, I'll take a look smile

I intend to have a look at the book about toxic parents too, that rhondajean recommends. Amazon are going to love me, aren't they?

My dh said that when he first met me, he thought there were basic things I should have known but didn't. He says I was unaware of what was going on around me and that I had tunnel vision. Said in a nice way, by the way.

Over the years since we met (23 this year), I've grown in confidence and knowledge, and even though I'm the same person as I was, I'm much better. I have gained qualifications and have a better type of job now than before. This is down to dh's unwavering support and love, so it just goes to show what parents can do for their children by showing them these wonderful attributes.

So thats like coming from a child (me) gaining love and support from a parent (dh), if thats another way of looking at it. Truly thankful to my dh.

I'm still a little sensitive to criticism (where does that come from, I wondersad), but it's something I'm working on.

crushedintherush Mon 01-Apr-13 10:35:30

....oops, I meant to say 'the sensitive to criticism' part is aimed at my mum, not dh.
I forgot I'm on the parents thread.

fertilityagogo Mon 01-Apr-13 10:40:30

Love this brave and helpful thread. Keep the ideas coming!

I am reading "parenting from the inside out" - quite science based but also helpful .

And not to sound trite but: by the very fact that we're on this thread, I think we are all better mums than we think we are!

meiisme Mon 01-Apr-13 23:35:15

This: Constructs are only window dressing. Today was an actual, tangible, happy family day!

This: You want to replicate your happy memories, but I always remind myself that my kids have a better 'baseline' of happiness, so these events aren't going to be their only happy memories of childhood.

And this: My dh said that when he first met me, he thought there were basic things I should have known but didn't. He says I was unaware of what was going on around me and that I had tunnel vision.

I've found Growing up again: parenting ourselves, parenting our children on googlebooks and am reading it now. And yes, it's the structure I'm struggling with, not so much the nurturing (sometimes that a bit, but I think I'm over the worst).

It's not only easter egg hunts I have problems with. I know that I'm a good mother when it comes to intention, but the day-to-day running of a house and taking care of children I find really difficult. I hate routine and pre-children spent a lot of time completely rejecting it, also in calm, quiet, staying at home periods. Now every day I'm battling myself to give them their vitamin drops, brush their teeth, wash their hair, get them (and myself...) to keep the house somewhat tidy, do something constructive with our time, keep them from hurting each other and me, get them to bed at a reasonable time, make decent meals... Don't get me wrong, most days I manage to make all (okay, not the vitamin drops and the washing of hair) happen, but each and every act is a hurdle. It's exhausting and to be honest somewhat discouraging that this where I still am, after a few years of parenthood.

And yes, as garlic said, I want to learn to do these things as a matter of course, but without bullying myself. Not just because I've had enough of that, but also because making myself do things fuels that obstinate teenager in me.

So I'm going to read Growing up again with interest, and after that the others recommended. How to talk to children and Playful parenting have been on my list for a long time.

Does anybody want to talk more about getting structure to work?

dothraki Tue 02-Apr-13 00:20:33

meisme - it sounds like you have got the structure there, and it is working its just that you don't feel confident. Thats ok. And alot of parenting is very boring and hard work -and you (not you - us) never quite know if we've got it right. I was skint when my dc's were little and I never knew if I had done enough. My eldest dd is now a mum of 2, and I feel very proud when she says - I loved it when we did - this and that when we were little - like going to the woods, splashing in the stream, film night giggling like mad over silly stuff.
Dd still laughs at me - she thinks I'm bonkers - dgs actually used to call me nanna bonkers - in a sweet loving way smile
I think every generation parents in a different way - that doesn't mean one generation is wrong.Its much harder if you've been parented badly. Recognising that - and deciding you are going to change things is something to be proud of. flowers meisme thats the second bunch from me smileand wine x

dothraki Tue 02-Apr-13 00:22:55

whoops I didn't actually say - I thought I was doing everything wrong blush

buildingmycorestrength Tue 02-Apr-13 13:56:12

Also, me. I think it IS resentment. I feel needy and not looked after, so why should I do something nice for the kids? But because I wasn't 'allowed' to be needy as a child, it is squashed down and hard to recognise and comes out in other ways.

It isn't nice to admit it. It isn't looked on well in some circles, being honest about it. But for me, the only way past it ... is through it.

If I notice I am resentful, I figure it out. I ask myself, what do I need first? Maybe it is a cuppa, maybe it is a little cry (again) about not having supportive parents, maybe it is telling myself to just bloody get on with it and stop wallowing, but once I get it out I can often get on with nice things for the kids.

It isn't fair that I have to work so hard to be an average parent, but there you go. I do. And I'd rather put the work in than not.

buildingmycorestrength Tue 02-Apr-13 13:57:11

And the structure is very hard for me. More thoughts on that later.

buildingmycorestrength Thu 04-Apr-13 22:00:03

I am coming back to the structure question, although I do feel a little bit like my confession about resentment means I am persona non grata due to no replies! Paranoia...?

Anyway, I sort of think that the difficulty with structure is partly because my mum was a bit...absent...emotionally and in many ways didn't really engage with us or give us guidance on how to do things. (My dad is the narc, btw.) So, as I've heard others say on the 'regale me' thread, she would say, 'Put some washing on' but I didn't know how to use the machine. Lots and lots of things about daily life were just never explained. In addition, we moved around a LOT as a child, which meant that structure was always being changed anyway.

Also, because there was a certain amount of (benign?) neglect or at least lack of discipline from my mum, we made up our own ways of doing things. She told me recently that when I was five she just got sick of all the mess in my room and left it up to me to tidy. I have a six year old and the thought of that is shocking to me. Aren't you supposed to help your children learn how to do this stuff, not just leave them to it?

Also, I discovered through therapy that one of the features of being traumatised (I had PTSD after a difficult birth) is 'foreshortened future'. When I was properly PTSD, I could not see my way to the end of the day. I could not organise my way to lunch, let along organise a playdate next week. The basic problem is now knowing whether you will still be around to have lunch...the mind just doesn't quite believe it. So it seems likely that somewhat traumatic events from my childhood affected my ability to plan and organise. Therapy helped with that as a sort of side-effect.

Finally, something a bit complicated to do with unmet needs ... you try to meet your needs in other ways, including through avoiding the boring bits of life. So, I certainly have had times when I have felt entitled to avoid the boring structures and housework because I'm so miserable/hardworking/put upon as a parent. I just want to duck out and do the fun stuff (like my dad did). Recognising that dynamic within me has helped a lot - now I can say to myself, as my mother never really did, 'I know you don't want to but you have to.'

Does any of this sound familiar or is this just my story here?

buildingmycorestrength Thu 04-Apr-13 22:00:32

I'm keeping this thread in relationships, by the way, because it just feels safer to me...hope that makes sense.

crushedintherush Thu 04-Apr-13 23:08:54

no building you are not persona non grata. Sorry your post got missedsad

The part about being needy as a child being squashed, I can relate to that.

I will get back to you tomorrow around tea smile

rhondajean Thu 04-Apr-13 23:16:03

Building - that last bit about avoiding the boring bits really rings a bell.

I'll come back too, I'm not really up to coping with anything heavy/serious just now but I'm still with you.

Finola1step Thu 04-Apr-13 23:43:27

Hi OP. not strictly about moving on from Narc parents, but I have recently been reading "The emotionally absent mother: a guide to self healing and getting the love you missed" by Jasmin Lee Cori. It's not earth shatteringly great but it does have some useful elements.

buildingmycorestrength Fri 05-Apr-13 08:42:01

Aw, hi guys! Thanks for 'strokes'.

'The Emotionally Absent Mother' sounds like the right book for me. She tries but in her own words she 'tuned herself down' to cope with being married to my dad, so she isn't as responsive.

buildingmycorestrength Fri 05-Apr-13 08:43:08

Oh, and I also remembered in the night (out of guilt, I'm sure) that I did have to set the table and occasionally dust. So not a feral childhood. grin.

Midwife99 Fri 05-Apr-13 08:49:05

I totally agree - I had an emotionally absent martyr mother & narc father & any neediness on my part was squashed. We moved alot too, destroying friendships & any feeling of belonging anywhere.

I am a very organised & hard working mother but find it very difficult to play with my children or be a fun mum. sad

yellowhousewithareddoor Fri 05-Apr-13 08:54:25

Really really familiar. Both my parents are narc or have those tendencies (or were just plain neglectful). I had a horrid childhood.

I'm currently struggling a lot and don't know how to articulate it, but I think the posts above have. For some reason I find the having to cook dinner everyday, dress everyone, get to pre school etc really really draining. I'm exhausted and unhappy most of the time and can't really work out why. My husband is away a lot which doesn't help, but surely I should be able to keep things ticking over at home. I'm bored a lot. I wonder if its all linked back to childhood and lack of parenting then.

I also compensate boredom, unhappiness with overeating. I seem this last year to have had no control over this and really hate myself for it.

Where do I go from here?

yellowhousewithareddoor Fri 05-Apr-13 08:58:03

I certainly feel 'needy' in that all I want half the time is someone to sit me down with a cup of tea and ask me how I am and really listen. My husbands not great in that department (he's amazing practically though and puts us wi I a lot -working long hours and returning to a messy house and frazzled wife) . I'd love a parent figure. Its what I'd love most but I'm not going to be able to meet that need. I feel I need to 'get over ' it all but that's so hard and since having children I'm more resentful than ever.

I've got toxic parents and am halfway through. Finding it scarily accurate.

I wish I didn't have to struggle just to get the basics done.

Midwife99 Fri 05-Apr-13 09:19:04

I've dealt with my parents & I know I'm a "good" mother. Just wish I could be more fun though!

thebestpossibletaste Fri 05-Apr-13 09:21:47

Thanks for the book recommendations, will take a look.

meiisme Fri 05-Apr-13 09:27:51

Oh, building, sorry for not replying. I didn't want to hog the thread, but forgot that responding to others is actually not that. A bit caught up in myself blush.

Your feelings of resentment resonate a lot with me, also - and I never thought about that, thanks smile - when it comes to structure. I do try to get out of the housework a lot, somehow upset that I have to do it, and only want to do the fun stuff. I've always had conflicts with housemates and my recent exP about me not doing my share, because I somehow feel I shouldn't be doing it. It makes no sense but is a very strong feeling.

Don't know where it comes from though. I wasn't forced to do a lot of chores as a kid. Actually the opposite: my mother took power from being the martyr/omni present queen bee who did everything around the house without us being allowed to chip in. Doing a chore was always about helping her, never about just doing your bit or learning to do something. So yes to having to figuring it all out yourself. I also have a thing about tidying up that I think comes from my dad getting angry about my mess, stuffing all of my toys etc in bin bags and telling me to sort it out, me then tipping over the bags to start tidying and going in a total panic standing in the midst of it. Or at least that's how my mum tells the story. I don't remember cos I was 3 shock.

Iwishiwasasleep Fri 05-Apr-13 14:32:05

Thank you so much for this thread building thanks

So much of everyone's experiences are true for me. Having a narc, martyr of a mother and an alcoholic (who had stopped drinking but it was always a problem in the background) workaholic, bipolar father I didn't really have parents. They were always more wrapped up in themselves than their DC.

My siblings were much older than me so I really fended for myself. This did teach me independence but I left home not knowing how to cook, use a washing machine or anything useful. I had to learn everything myself. Parenting has been hard. Really trying not to repeat my mothers actions.

I'm off to amazon.

buildingmycorestrength Fri 05-Apr-13 15:20:46

I only really recognised myself as being somewhat entitled when I read "Reinventing Your Life", a schema psychology book that helps you understand the unconscious scripts that are governing your life. Terrible title (what were they thinking?) but genuinely transformative for me.

I also find it hard to be a 'fun' parent, but Playful Parenting helped a bit with that, as did managing my own expectations. It is OK to be a fun parent twice a week. Or once a week. Honestly. It can be just a tickle fight after bath. You do not have to be a constant children's entertainer. That is unrealistic and exhausting, and children don't need you to be that. Pull it out of the bag every so often, but make sure it comes from a real love and enjoyment if you can. Being a parent is really tiring and it is no wonder we don't have fun all the time. Maybe I'm giving myself an out since I have had some kind of awful fatigue condition for the last year, but my kids are doing okay despite it.

For me, I spend a lot of time questioning my motives and over analysing stuff. So I don't buy my kids a lot of toys, for instance. Am I an awful parent to not get them the latest game? Will I spoil them if I do? Am I destroying their lives? Is that because I am trying to make their lives miserable like mine? wink Maybe partially, but also because I live in the real world where there is not infinite money or storage.

So I ask myself, 'What do normal people do?' when I notice myself getting weird about something. Sometimes I answer that question with two or three friends in mind who seem well-balanced. It really helps me to just realise that there are lots of good answers to parenting questions....something that can sometimes be overlooked when you are desperately trying to be perfect to meet unconscious expectations of yourself or price yourself to your parents for their (always withheld) approval. Normal people buy their kids new toys sometimes, but not all the time. It is up to me to figure out what sometimes means for our kids.

Also, I work part-time at a job that I mostly enjoy. This helps because it means we can have a cleaner. Working adds structure to my week and means I have support for some of the boring stuff. Otherwise the house would just be drowning in mess. Times when we have not had a cleaner or I have not been working have been worse for me and thus everyone. I have gone round the houses with the inevitable guilt about working but it just is good for me. Sorry if that is not possible for everyone.confused

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