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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 Fri 05-Apr-13 15:35:48

Meant 'prove yourself to your parents' not 'price yourself'! Weird idea.

garlicballs Fri 05-Apr-13 17:00:20

I need this thread back on my active list smile Am going through a shocking self-neglect phase (thank god I haven't got kids!) and reading all suggestions avidly.

crushedintherush Fri 05-Apr-13 20:40:20

midwife,building - same here with the moving round a lot, and not belonging anywhere. Those feelings of not belonging still remain. I can sit in a room full of people and still feel like I'm on my own, on the outside looking in.

Building - regarding the structure part, I like structure (boring fart that I am). I like to plan for the week ahead. I like doing housework, a tidy house, a sense of control, perhaps. As for neediness, I can relate, those needs not being met. The need for me to be me a fully functioning well rounded, NORMAL person, the need for me to have been a CHILD, fgs !! That all squashed down and manifesting themselves in different ways...just shit, isn't it?

garlicballs - yy to the self neglect part. I still bite my nails, I don't wear make up to work/outdoors, only a bit of foundation if any, can't be bothered to use my straighteners sometimes though my hair is screaming out for them. No pride. And as for the wine intake....phew, not good sad

crushedintherush Fri 05-Apr-13 21:21:29

yellowhouse - [big hugs] Please don't hate yourself. I don't think you are resentful, just struggling with everyday parent things, just that its harder without the guidance of a parental figure. I hear from relatives of mine, and posters on MN with narc parent(s), say they cannot see the wood from the trees as far as being a parent is concerned.

Have you looked at books recommended on this site? I've seen one I'm really interested in: growing up, parenting ourselves, parenting our children by Jean Illsley Clarke. I'm seriously thinking of buying that, as well as a couple of others, to try and recoup what I never had.

beabea81 Fri 05-Apr-13 21:35:53

Brilliant idea for a post. I have had counseling & CBT before where I started to recognise (very hard) & then deal with the fact that I had a Narc mother. Thought that all mums must be like mine until then!

I haven't read any relevant books yet, but I am about to order the Toxic Parents book from Amazon.

The best resource I've used for raising my 2 year old daughter so far has been my own experiences as a child, and the relationship I had / have with my own mother. Having my dd was like a lightbulb coming on for me, I was just so aware of not making the same mistakes my mum did with me, I guess I go out of my way to be different to how she was & that is my parenting approach!

I think what OP says about respecting your child as an individual is key, my mum has always treated me like an extension & reflection of her. With my dd I see her as an individual & respect her own rapidly developing 2 year old personality! So far I couldn't hope for a better relationship with my dd really, we are a little team & are v close, there is just that natural easy bond there, which I never had with my own mum as a kid, I was scared of her & have never lived up to her expectations. We play & have fun together, there are lots of giggles, which I never had, everything was always so serious.

I don't follow a parenting approach as such like UP, but I don't shout at my daughter unless I really have to, like if she's in danger or something. I try to explain everything to her & not just say no or stop without a good reason. If she gets hold of something she shouldn't have, I don't just grab it from her, I ask her to give it to me or put it back & explain why it's not good to have it. She may only be 2, but I respect her & don't treat her as inferior like my mum used to when I was a kid.


crushedintherush Fri 05-Apr-13 21:59:07

Beabea81- It shocks me that I see more and more about my mum coming to life, as it were, by different posters as the thread continues. I thought I covered every trait, then I see more, coming out of the woodwork, maybe in different dimensions:

Extension and reflection: Of my mum? Arrghh noooooo.
Never lived up to her expectations. 'Aw no, you should have done this/said that'. The feeling of deflation ever present.
Everything was always so serious' Got told off for laughing at a comedy sketch for christ's sake.
No natural easy bond. Enough said.

Finola1step Fri 05-Apr-13 22:50:55

Through counselling and reading books such as "The Emotionally Absent Mother" I have been able to pin point roughly when in my childhood my mum stepped back from me emotionally. I know it happened at about the age of 11 or 12. I know it happened because I was the "coper". She thought she had done her job. My two older sisters had lots of issues, but I was bumbling along ok.

It was only when I became a mum myself 5 years ago that I realised that her emotional withdrawal wasn't about letting me be independent. It was easier for her. There were so many risky situations I stumbled into throughout my teenage years, too many to dwell on here .

I love my mum and I know she loves me. She just isn't really that interested in me (apart from her grandchildren of course, who she adores). It does hurt a bit when I see teenage girls and their mums out shopping/ having lunch etc. We never did this. I didn't go without. I was given an allowance for clothes etc from about 13 and just went out shopping by myself or with my mates.

There were never discussions about school, college, A level choices, Uni applications etc. I pretty much moved out at 17 without a backward glance. She never asked about my friends, boyfriends. All she wanted to know was if I would be home for dinner that evening.

I am now 38, with two beautiful children and a great husband who I have been with for over 15 years. I am successful in my career and have been in my current job for nearly ten years. I find it sad that my mum probably could tell you very little about my life (apart from the children) because she just isn't really interested. We see each other regularly, speak sometimes on the phone but its all pretty routine stuff. She is more like a Great Aunt to me than a mum.

All of this I have learnt to accept. I can accept it because I know why she is like the way she is. My mum was terribly abused as a very young child by her own mother. She then was in a children's home (WW2, grandad was in the army). She eventually went back to her dad. He remarried and my mum had a strong sense of gratitude towards her step mother, despite the relationship being quite cold. Mum never had contact with her birth mother again.

I find it so sad that there was no counselling for my mum, no self help books etc. no closure with her biological mother. She just got on with it. We were always clean, well fed, nicely dressed etc. To mum, that was good mothering. I know that the way in which I parent my children with my husband is very different.

For us, yes of course the basics are important. But so is the nurturing. If you have managed to read this (my longest ever post), I thank you. I have only ever discussed such issues in counselling, with my husband or with my sister. I hope my story shows that the cycle of deficient parenting can and will be broken. I work on this everyday and look forward to nurturing my children throughout their childhood and teenage years well into adulthood.

Thank you so much for starting this thread.

meiisme Sat 06-Apr-13 09:09:29

This is a bit like reading the Stately Homes threads for the first time and falling from one revelation into the next.

I like doing housework, a tidy house, a sense of control, perhaps. I think this is quite key, at least to me. On GB's thread someone said that it looks like part of the reason why she stays with her H is that she doesn't like to be in control or be fully responsible for herself and her actions.

Realising I did this was a turning point for me getting away from my controlling and abusive ex. And turning it over the last couple of days, I think it's a big part of the rejecting structure and housework as well. Running a house and caring for children efficiently requires you to be in control, to be on top of the situation instead of floating along in it. This is too adult, and at the same time too much like that kid who needed to run around after her mum, cleaning up the mess of her narcissistic and drunk actions to make sense of the chaos for herself, her younger siblings and the outside world, that needed to believe everything was alright.

buildingmycorestrength Sat 06-Apr-13 11:13:31

I actually LOVE having a tidy house and crave, crave, crave order in my environment. I just can't quite seem to achieve it. But that is kind of life with kids, to a certain extent. I try not to be a neat freak at the expense of my relationships, and I try not to be a slob at the expense of my sanity. 'What do normal people do?' grin.

I hear the point about not actually wanting to be the grown up. I heard a phrase which seems apt: 'the parentified child'. I f you've had to 'take care' of a home situation as a child, emotionally, or practically, you don't like it when the real situation comes up in adult life.

Finola1step Sat 06-Apr-13 11:18:37

Reading the stately homes thread has been useful in many ways. My situation is less "but we took you to stately homes. What more could you want?" and more "but you were fed, clean, dressed, had a warm bed at night. What more could you want?"

It took a very long time for me to identify the gaps in parenting in my childhood. A very long time to think that it is ok to have wanted more as a child. It is as a parent that I know that it takes more than the basics. There are at times when providing the basics are hard. There are times when I can just about do the basics (like this week while having the flu). But when it is consistently only the basics that there is the problem being built up. I have had to accept that I will never be my mum's priority. I never was as a child. Being able to accept the situation has been incredibly liberating over the past few months.

Back to the OP. Self help books and counselling are the way to go in my opinion. You can move on from narc / dysfunctional parents. The cycle can be broken.

crushedintherush Sat 06-Apr-13 13:24:52

meiisme - 'This is too adult, and too much like that that kid who needed to run round after her mum, cleaning up the mess...' :/.

Very profound.

Am I still doing that? The need to be in control, the need for structure still, to plan ahead, to know where I am. Yet the sense of pride I get when having cleaned the house is enormous. I'd rather hope its my current (happy) circumstances that is the cause of the pride, than still 'running round after mum'.

Speaking of pride, Garlicballs mentioned earlier about self neglect. Self neglect is one of the symptoms of not being taught to have pride in oneself. I might have a clean house and crave structure, but still bite my nails, wear minimal makeup if any, and hair in dire need of being straightened. Proud of my house and my current circumstances, but not proud of me. Another gaping hole in parenting.

Finola1step - The 'coper' sisters had lots of issues, but I was bumbling along ok'. I can relate to that because there wasn't any other choice, as my needs were not met. I gave up and got on with it.
'Aw, crushed, aren't you the good one, never complaining. You carry on being independent, that'll be great'.

crushedintherush Sat 06-Apr-13 13:42:42

'Proud of my house and my current circumstances, *but not proud of me'.

*meant to say, but not proud of my physical appearance.

Why can't it all come together? There are things missing....

crushedintherush Sat 06-Apr-13 13:44:47

Sorry, and I even got that wrong, self neglect isn't just physical, it's emotional as well. Not having a good day:/

yellowhousewithareddoor Sat 06-Apr-13 21:26:00

Crap day here and don'tknow where to start to improve life.

buildingmycorestrength Sat 06-Apr-13 23:05:52

yellow I wonder if seeing your GP might help? They can be very very helpful. Honestly.

crushedintherush Sat 06-Apr-13 23:44:27

Yellow, I second buildings advice, please see your gp.

Remember we're here for you, you're not on your own thanks

Finola1step Sun 07-Apr-13 00:11:39

Hi Yellow. The turning point came for me last October. I was having a really rough time (house move, work problems) as well as the mundane stuff. To top it off, my health wasn't great and I had a cancer scare (which turned out all ok but put the bloody frightners on me).

I couldn't tell my mum. I just knew she wouldn't be able (or possible willing) to give me the support I needed and deserved. So I didn't tell her. If she didn't know then she couldn't disappoint me.

My GP was really good. I sobbed in his office one day when he told me about the biopsy I would need. He listened. Signed me off work. Didn't prescribe anti ds although he did diagnose depression and anxiety. We agreed on counselling and time.

Nearly six months later I see things quite different. I am actually quite enjoying the enlightenment that this journey provides. It is bloody painful at times. But finally talking to my GP about how fucking hard I was finding keeping it all together, was the best thing I could have done.

And mum? Well once I knew that it wasn't cancer, I did tell her a bit about what had been going on with my health and even used the cancer word. Her response ... "Oh ok". She then started talking about plans for Xmas. I finished my coffee and left, relieved that I hadn't turned to her for support. A bit angry too. I have significantly lowered my expectations of her over the past six months.

Please see your GP yellow and keep posting. Night night.

Finola1step Sun 07-Apr-13 00:29:35

Hi Crushed. Just read your comment about being "the coper". I still have moments were I think it wasn't all that bad. And in truth, in comparison to my mum's childhood, mine was ok.

But it is only recently that I have been able to say to myself that I am not being ungrateful. It wasn't ok that I was just left to get on with it, even though they (my dad as well) thought I would be ok. Because ok isn't good enough. Many times I was not ok. I think I will struggle with this. Despite everything I know and have said... a bit of me stills thinks I am being ungrateful. A favourite phrase in my family was "you put up or you shut up!" It still gets me that one.

yellowhousewithareddoor Sun 07-Apr-13 08:05:01

I think part of it yesterday was realising that if my parents weren't going to 'be there' for me when I was in intensive care, or offer to help when I came out its not going to happen is it?

I keep setting myself up for disappointment and then when I see them or call them get upset again. They really do think they're normal parents I think and that I'm the one expecting too much or with issues.

Yesterday I was just overwhelmed yet again that I don't have anyone I can lean on when its tough.

crushedintherush Sun 07-Apr-13 14:02:13

Finola - You're right, it wasn't ok to be left to get on with it. You are not being ungrateful. Funny,she used that word if I ever (dared to) question her. After all, she fed and clothed me, right?

We were denied a childhood after all, weren't we? A fundamentally important part of our life missed. Do you think the transgression between childhood to adulthood has been hard for you?

I tried to think it wasn't that bad too. It wasn't bad. Well, as long as I kept my mouth shut, stifled (many) tears, kept the fears bottled up inside, crept around on egg shells not to make any noise. My sisters had issues too, so made a lot of noise, whereas I had to be the quiet one. And I hate noise like you wouldn't believe, phone on silent, tv and radio off on my day off, lying there enjoying the silence.

I appreciate Mum didn't have much of a childhood. She was the youngest of 6 children who shouldered the responsibility to look after her Mum as her siblings went to school or were dating. Her dad died when she was very little. So I became the responsible one, many years later. It got handed down to me. 'Because it happened to me, I'll make sure someone else suffers for it'. Thanks Mum sad

crushedintherush Sun 07-Apr-13 14:09:41

....and in the cold light of day, I am an extension of her, the life she had, running round after a parent while the other siblings 'got away' with having issues, or in her case, her siblings were older and getting on with their lives.
Its too similar not to be an extension. She chose me to be her extension, to have the life she had. Thanks again Mumsad

crushedintherush Sun 07-Apr-13 14:27:48

Yellowhouse - 'they really do think they are normal parents'

Which means they are not going to change. Ever. The only thing you can change is your attitude towards them.

Don't set yourself up for a disappointment. That's hard I know, because although you know what they are going to say/do, you just keep thinking, HOPING, that maybe they'll, just this once, give you the attention you richly deserve.

I know its hard, but try limiting your contact with them bit by bit, not necessarily altogether. And see your GP. They may suggest counselling like Finola's did.

And We're all still here with a friendly ear too smile

Finola1step Sun 07-Apr-13 16:45:16

It has taken me a very long time to see that my parents and sisters will never change. The family hierarchy is set in concrete. But I can change what I do, say, think, expect.

I have had to switch off a bit. Not completely, but focus on self preservation. I have my own family that needs me.

There is no point expecting any support from my mum. She very much sees it as "well I had to struggle bringing up kids, why shouldn't you?". Or the old favourite "well no one helped me out!".

Now I don't ask. I don't want her support because I would then have to be grateful for the little crumbs she throws my way. So the expectations have been well and truly lowered.

I'm just absolutely determined that I will not repeat the cycle with my own children. It's hard sometimes though when I hear myself saying the things my mum would have said! Thank goodness I am getting better at stopping actually saying them and biting my tongue.

yellowhousewithareddoor Sun 07-Apr-13 17:49:53

Oh finola they'd say that almost word for word! And then there's the odd day we all spend time together and its lovely.

I think I need to withdraw but its hard. I'm on my own a lot with the kids and when dad actually will grace us with his presence or allow a visit he's good with the kids. I think my mum is even lonely yet this week I've texted a few times and its beginning to feel like I'm begging for attention or to spend time together. Yet they can spend time with each other or my brother.

Handling it is hard isn't it too. If we go reduced contact does that mean just not initiating and being around when they initiate or just making no effort whatsoever? I hate that its such hard work, and something that should be so simple isn't. And then it goes back in a circle that I wonder what's wrong with me that they don't want to see me or ever ask how I am or visit grandkids etc.

I so hope I'm building a better relationship with my girls. I hope to be able to support them when they have kids too. I guess they might be so self assured that they don't need me and think I'm interfering instead!

buildingmycorestrength Sun 07-Apr-13 18:32:18

yellow My mum really isn't too bad (more of an enabler who has actually left my dad) but I've just had to give up hope that my dad will ever, ever change. My therapist got me to write down my hopes for my relationship with my parents and then ... burn them. I fed them into the fire one by one and cried buckets but it was necessary for me to move on. But I would just stress that I had professional help (on the NHS) to help me with this. I do recommend seeing your GP.

And I'm not no contact. I just have to set boundaries and manage my expectations very tightly...if I feel myself looking forward to a visit I have to take myself in hand and have a word! There are sometimes nice times, like you said, but I just can't expect much.

Read the 'regale me' thread if you haven't already (and sorry if you are already on there). It is eye-opening and bloody funny in places.

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