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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.

nenehooo Mon 19-Aug-13 08:32:04

Marking place - just starting to wonder whether DH's mother is toxic...

buildingmycorestrength Mon 19-Aug-13 08:17:07

Hi all, am just back from holiday and it was much needed. Time to remember that we all quite like each other, actually! I was careful to try to catch myself feeling like we 'should' do certain things as that is always a sign that I'm going weird and controlling.

Hope your summers are all going okay. I know the next couple of weeks are going to be hard but I'm going to rest after lunch every day and not try to do anything emotionally taxing for me. Just focus on kids and necessary housework for now. They go back to school in a couple of weeks so there'll be more space then.

LucyTheLittlestLioness Fri 02-Aug-13 14:19:32

meiisme I think I will buy that book. I know what you mean about not rushing things though, I am always wanting to rush things and be 'fixed' but I think a big part for me is properly realising that feelings cannot be 'fixed' in the quick way that I would like them to be smile

I have been trying to make sure I am giving each of my dc 5 minutes of individual attention each day. I think part of my problem is that having 3 dc I easily feel overwhelmed and withdraw when I have them all together. But with individual one on one time, which is getting more possible all the time as they get older, it's easier to engage properly with each of them and I try to let myself just go with the flow and enjoy being with them as individuals.

building I have similar issues not trusting my instincts. Sometimes I am not quite sure what my instincts even are. I think it's especially hard when dc are disagreeing over something I find it difficult to stick with the situation and understand and follow who is right or wrong in the situation. I guess this is partly to do with me struggling with how I deal with conflict generally. But at the same time, I don't think I should give myself too hard a time, as I imagine any parent would feel similarly confused sometimes about their children's disagreements.

A bit of a ramble, but chill the fuck out for me too I guess.

strongerandstronger Thu 01-Aug-13 23:03:53

Marking my place.

buildingmycorestrength Thu 01-Aug-13 21:10:03

Hi spanky. You are not alone. Have you read the 'regale me' thread in Relationships? Full of the wild and wacky things that narcissists do and say, most of which people wouldn't believe if you said it in real life.

And have you had a look at the 'stately homes' thread? That is a very safe place to deal with some feelings about dysfunctional families. They are very tricky!


spanky2 Thu 01-Aug-13 20:47:45

Reading through these posts I see some of my feelings are similar to other children of narcissists . What a relief.

spanky2 Thu 01-Aug-13 20:45:57

Alwaysonemissing your df sounds very similar to my dad. Unfortunately he has written an untrue email to my dh and has said he 'doesn't see any point in contacting me again '.sad

spanky2 Thu 01-Aug-13 20:33:49

When I shout I see my 'd'm. sad

TwasBrillig Thu 01-Aug-13 20:28:12

I recognise those instincts and they scare me. I lash out verbally at my husband sometimes, or withdraw from everyone. Its very all or nothing thinking and end of world type stuff.

Still resent what an impact an abusive childhood has on adult interactions and life. I think the instincts point is good -there's no normal to calibrate emotions, situations or reactions against.

spanky2 Thu 01-Aug-13 20:17:28

So glad this is here. I am struggling with the realisation that I was raised by a narcissistic mum and enabling father .

buildingmycorestrength Wed 31-Jul-13 10:16:30

Oh, and the 'chill the fuck out' comment came from a funny parenting blog I read. The author was discussing different schools of parenting and that she felt quote drawn to the CTFO method. grin. I definitely do need to chill out, like I have been prescribed MEDICALLY to CHILL OUT, so I just adopted her strong turn of phrase to make myself laugh and feel like I'm not the only one. grin

BUT, and this is a big but, I do not just 'trust myself' or 'go with my instincts'. I hate that advice. People from abusive backgrounds have very unhelpful, unhealthy instincts, like withdrawing, or lashing out, or being overly critical and demanding, or being overly lax and indulgent, or all those and more. Plus, I think parenting is to some extent technical, not just about love. But, I am learning to trust myself as I get better mental health and more experience as a parent, and now I can legitimately chill out more. But it is not good advice for all new parents, I think.

buildingmycorestrength Wed 31-Jul-13 10:08:35

Always, I'm no expert either, but she sounds tricky at the very least. The stately homes thread gives support for all kinds of dysfunctional families...worth a look? And it is not surprising if you have a different reaction to an daughter than a son. My dad was the narc, so it has coloured my view of all men, including my son. sad. I have to work hard to overcome it, not just in lightbulb moments in therapy but in daily life when he does something that reminds me of my dad, or when I'm tired, or stressed by work.

I was doing my son's occupational therapy exercises with him this morning, the whole point of which is to give his sensory system the input it craves. I found myself thinking at one point, 'Oh, he's enjoying that too much, better stop.' But I caught myself. I know that trick my brain plays. I pushed through my brain's discomfort at seeing him happy, and made him laugh some more.

It is horrible, having these automatic patterns that come back over and over. sad All I can do is be aware, recognize them, distance myself from these patterns and get past them, do my best to not be a dysfunctional parent, over and over again. blush

I also find that although I love my career, I end up using it as an escape from the kids and have to be very careful to re-engage with them properly. Changing gears from work to mum is hard for me (and probably lots of people). I try not to work too much or let it take over my life. Sensitive issues here.

Sorry if I don't respond quickly. These are very hard issues to talk about and I'm not well...and it is the summer hold which as we all know are quite taxing! smile

meiisme Wed 31-Jul-13 01:55:22

Always, I'm not an expert on narcs, but to me she sounds like she fits the bill. How it is all about her, how she expects people to be like her and how she uses people around her to get her needs met.

Building, yes, finding that balance is really hard. I waver between trying to control their behaviour by the minute and letting them do what they want (as long as there's no life threatening risks involved). But I'm working towards a middle ground where we're in it together and my job is to be there for them and support them through difficult situations.

Somebody gave me a picture this week of me and one of my sons with angry faces and a kind of cloud above us, and suggested that I see behavioural problems as outside of us/in that cloud, rather than seeing the problem as him or me. It's meant to take the pressure off.

Not feeling welcome as a family sounds familiar as well but am too tired to write something coherent about it now.

"But I also need to chill the fuck out about it", is how I often talk to myself as well, but the pressure and self blame in that sentence is so obvious.

Another late night, after an evening of throwing money at the camping trip we're going on Friday. It's a test of all sorts of parenting skills, and I am going to "chill the fuck out about it" now.

AlwaysOneMissing Mon 29-Jul-13 08:30:13

Sorry, I just suddenly thought how rude of me to just jump in and interrupt!

I have seen myself in so many of these posts it has opened my eyes. I have a difficult relationship with my DM and could never put my finger on why. Now I am starting to think maybe she has some narc traits.

When my DD was born I struggled to bond with her as I became suddenly terrified that she wouldn't like me and that I didn't know how to be a good parent to her (despite already having an older DS and never feeling that way about him). I dread her feeling about me the way I feel about my DM. I am constantly second guessing myself and analysing everything I say or do to DC as I have no confidence in my learned parenting skills.

My DM wasn't all bad and in some ways she was caring towards us, and wanted the best for us.
But she can also be nasty, criticising mine and my DH and DC physical appearance, taking no interest in our day to day lives, manipulating situations, telling little lies to benefit herself, telling people things I tell her in confidence.
She has no friends as she won't trust anyone.
Very nasty about her inlaws, holding grudges over innocent things they said decades ago, yet she was still always sending my DF cap in hand to ask them for money if we were a bit short when I was younger (then feels very unfairly treated and bad mouths them for years if they dare say no!).

She can be short and snappy with my DC, recently telling my 1 yo DD nastily to 'go away' if she can't be bothered interacting with her.
Makes constant digs and criticisms about the clothes I wear, the cleanliness of my house (ten times cleaner than hers!!), what I spend my money on. I have actually caught myself deciding to not put make up when I was about to see her incase she said a derogatory remark about it, then thought 'what am I doing? I'm 30 yrs old, I can wear make up if I choose!'
And I'm realising that my lovely DF is an enabler who although does stand up to her at times, will frequently say 'don't tell your DM I told you that' or 'I'm unhappy about something your DM has said/done but I won't mention it to her, it's not worth the agro'.
When we were children we would frequently attend social events (family parties etc) and be told by our DF to lie to people and tell them DM is poorly, when actually she had just refused to come as she was in some mood with my DF and was generally antisocial (and gave him HELL every time he wanted to socialise).

Sorry, this turned into a mammoth post blush

Does it sound to any of you like these are narc traits?

buildingmycorestrength Mon 29-Jul-13 07:39:49

Always no hijacking has occurred! It is fine to come here and share.

I had a difficult weekend, talking with a friend about children's normal annoying kiddy behaviour not being welcome in various situations. It really hit me hard that I don't feel like our family is welcome places for various reasons....and at least part of it stems from my own childhood, feeling like nothing I did was good enough, like I don't matter, and feeling like things are my fault all the time. Crying was involved.

I know behaviour, discipline and so on is a strongly emotive issue and of course kids need to be taught manners and behaviour etc. But I also need to chill the fuck out about it (without letting the kids run totally wild and wreck stuff). A fine balance.

brew needed now.

meiisme Mon 29-Jul-13 00:43:24

GettingStrong, I use money my M sends every year to pay for therapy and it feels good to use her last bargaining tool (in her eyes) to undo the damage of her upbringing.

I agree with Wellwobbly that ultimately dealing with your childhood pain is key to being a better parent and I've found Homecoming a great book to get an understanding of what reparenting my inner child means. It's to-the-point, often funny and not woo at all.

I haven't done many of the exercises yet, though. Until now I've used therapy to stabilise my life and myself, and to learn how to be in control of the day-to-day. I need that solid base before I dare to deal directly with old pain. So I recommend reading it and discussing with your therapist how to use it, but not feel pressured to do more than you can confidently handle at the moment. There is no need to rush (as people tell me again and again). Mindfulness has my interest as well, and my children's psychologist wants to use it as part of our work together.

Building flowers, just because I like you.

Always, do you want to share some of that light bulb?

AlwaysOneMissing Sun 28-Jul-13 09:51:01

Sorry to hi-jack op, thanks for starting this great idea for a thread.

AlwaysOneMissing Sun 28-Jul-13 09:49:57

This thread has been so helpful to me so I wanted to de-lurk to say thank you to everyone who has posted. flowers

Reading this has been a light bulb moment for me.

GettingStrong Thu 25-Jul-13 22:07:57

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

buildingmycorestrength Thu 25-Jul-13 09:55:38

me thank you so much for thoughts about housework. thanks I really have to watch my attitude to cleanliness and mess and appreciate your insights.

meiisme Wed 24-Jul-13 23:09:04

Gettingstrong, I recognised a lot of myself in your threads too, even though I couldn't really express it.

One thing that struck me in those threads was the idea of 'being in the panopticon': feeling as if you are always observed and judged on your behaviour by this all-seeing power, also when you're alone, and becoming your own jailer so to speak. A big step for me is to make my house a panopticon-free zone, because it makes me a much more responsive and less resentful mother when parenting is between just me and DC, instead of me and this power (i.e. my parents, social worker, abusive ex, Supernanny, attachment parenting fundamentalists, my own morals grinding to a rigid halt - so many voices to ignore!). To let go of the perfectionism and psychological constructs people were talking about in the beginning of this thread, and parent/housekeep based on my strengths, weaknesses, needs, likes and wants. It scared me a lot in the beginning, as if I was doing something very naughty, but writing this I realise I've actually come quite far by doing simple things like putting my personal trinkets all over the house, allowing the house to be as messy as I think is okay, do the chores that make me feel better instead of those that are urgent, being very strict on only letting people I like in, use the house to do things I liked as a child and spend as much time as I feel comfortable with staying in and doing nothing. It is becoming a place where I can let my defenses down, which is not only good to relax from all the guilt and anxiety about what I let my ex do to my children, but also puts focus on what my parenting issues are. Hence the being closer to dealing with the resentment.

Anyway grin.

Wellwobbly, I do work really hard at not withdrawing, but also have a big problem with being connected and being authentic, since I'm still in the early stages of 'being', if that kind of therapy talk makes sense. And there is the additional problem that my DC, especially one of them, are working through attachment and anxiety issues of their own now their angry and controlling dad is out of the picture, and I need to be safe for them to do so. So I do deliberately show my anger instead of withdrawing, but I feel there is a limit to how far I can take it, because anger, understandably, scares the hell out of them. One of my parenting issues is not talking enough, so at the moment I'm working on telling them what I'm feeling before the emotion gets the better of me - which for the moment feels like a comfortable and effective middle ground.

Buildingmycorestrenght, I love your ideas. Very practical and doable. I'm so often frustrated with courses or books that tell me what to aspire to, but don't give these kind of everyday actions. I am at the end of the draining first few years: DC are starting full-time nursery in September and I will finally have some time to recharge and be proactive. I'm seeing this last month (!!) as the last leg before the finish, and am limiting my plans to a couple of weeks away and simple stuff around the house. But I think I can manage the 5 minute thing, and will set myself that task. It's sad to think that 5 minutes of undivided attention a day feels like a really long time, considering I spent 5 days out of 7 with them full-time, but yes... baby steps.

TwasBrillig Tue 23-Jul-13 21:46:51

Building that is such a helpful post. Thankyou for posting it. Especially the rest bit resonates with me, and knowing that's ok and not beating myself up about it.

meiisme Tue 23-Jul-13 21:31:43

Thanks building flowers, that is very encouraging. My resources for the day are out-introspected and am still trying to get a child to stay in bed, so will come back tomorrow.

buildingmycorestrength Tue 23-Jul-13 18:45:22

Oh and hello GettingStrong - kind of glad to see you here, if that isn't too weird a sentiment.

I have been to CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) for my illness recently, to help me cope and manage, and one of the things he prescribed was relaxation (not just rest) and enjoying myself! So I listen to self-hypnosis on YouTube for free - there are some amazing resources there to help you relax, stop procrastinating, be more organised, etc. I wonder if there is one for being more fun...

Also, to enjoying myself, he said to take something that I would love to spend lots of time doing but don't feel I'm allowed, and just spend 5 minutes a day doing it. So I am playing through my kids' piano books - 5 minutes. Feels brilliantly naughty and selfish but I'VE BEEN TOLD TO DO IT! Hurrah!

So if someone said you have to find 5 minutes to do something you enjoy with your child, or 1 minute, what would that be? Lego? Tickling? Painting nails? Playdough? Colouring? Things like baking sound like they will be fun but are actually really hard and stressful, so I try to be realistic now. I'll do them under certain circumstances. But 5 minutes for any of those things seems...possible. Not too much. Baby steps, everyone. flowers

buildingmycorestrength Tue 23-Jul-13 17:32:17

Hi all - a little time but might be brief.

On withdrawing - I tried Oliver James's Love Bombing (just google it) with my son as I think we didn't bond well - it helped but was very hard as it used up all my resources emotionally! I had to really really be careful while we did it.

Now, I don't really try to do 'special time' very often, but try to do little 'treats' sometimes (instead of feeling like we shouldn't, or like it isn't good for children). Things like going to the park unexpectedly, or going to Pizza Hut after swimming (once every three months or so) or bringing them home a Lego minifigure for no reason. Those things were really hard for me a couple of years ago. Lots of parents don't do those things, for whatever reason, but for me, I needed to overcome my idelogical objections to things like that and my own fears of 'spoiling' my kids because ...well, you know why. I have to let us be happy.

Also, for play sometimes now I just dump a box of Lego out and start building, without expecting anything of myself or them. They gravitate towards it, we all have something to focus on, the emotional pressure is low, but we are bonding and interacting. I use a couple of 'Playful parenting' still.

Another trick I use is resting. I have to rest a lot because of illness, and actually the kids (8 and 6) are fine watching a movie while I rest now. So I plan a day where we have a morning or afternoon at home, and a big rest after lunch usually, and the other half of the day doing something. When we are out there is less emotional pressure but I can be 'present' for them and be pleased with their discoveries, push them on the swing, and so on.

Finally, I have got a couple of CBT for kids type books, which takes the pressure off of me to solve their emotional problems. They are really helpful. But mine are now 8 and 6 - when they were 3 and 1, life was very hard because I jsut felt like I was failing them all the time. I really had to work through some stuff about that - just because they throw a tantrum or cry, doesn't mean I am failing. They are older and more patient now, we can discuss things, and that is easier for me.

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