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Question about narcissistic mothers

(27 Posts)
croquet Wed 14-May-14 12:05:11


I started looking up narcissism to think about my stepkids' mother, who does seem to have those traits. I've been interested to read that narc mothers can treat their children as either golden child or scapegoat.

Thing is, in the situation I'm thinking of, there's two children and one perfectly fits the description of scapegoat and the other of golden child -- like really extremely.

Is this possible that a narc mother could treat two children these two different ways, or would they only treat all children the same way? Trying to work out if it's plausibly narcissism or something else.


CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 14-May-14 12:19:55

I think it's highly risky to diagnose difficult people with disorders on the strength of a little knowledge. Does 'stepkid's mother' mean your partner's ex?

croquet Wed 14-May-14 12:22:19

Yes don't worry I'd never tell anyone, just trying to understand a really weird dynamic at work. All these descriptions are just ways of understanding / describing after all.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 14-May-14 12:25:27

Fair enough but there can be a point where understanding and describing slips into excusing or predicting. There is also the temptation, once you've decided someone is in a particular pigeon-hole, to make the evidence fit the case. Deal with what you observe rather than trying to fill in too many gaps.

croquet Wed 14-May-14 12:27:47

Urgh, I was just trying to find the answer to my question, this is a forum! Surely I can use the information for whatever purposes? But ok, I will google it instead.

I am a clever, caring person, dealing with what I observe, which looks like mild abuse. Trying to understand it, that's all, without sticking my beak in in real life, to help subtly and supportively.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 14-May-14 12:42:21

I'm not quibbling with the idea of finding more information, I'm just urging caution in going the disorder route which often seem to offer pat explanations. If you're seeing abusive, contradictory or upsetting behaviour towards your stepchildren, deal with it the way you would with anyone else rather than making allowances for a disorder that may or may not apply. Stick your beak in rather than letting children suffer.

DenzelWashington Wed 14-May-14 13:03:41

To answer your question, I'm no expert, but I don't think a narcissist would necessarily treat each or all children in exactly the same defective way. Surely plenty would divide and rule, have a golden child and scapegoat(s) and lots of other things. I think it can probably vary.

I do agree with Cogito though. These disorders are very difficult even for professionals to diagnose. As a label applied by a non-professional, it's meaningless. The most important thing is to deal firmly with any abusive or damaging treatment of the children.

Aussiebean Wed 14-May-14 13:18:50

Have a look at the stately homes thread. That might give you some examples.

I (as the girl) was treated very differently to my brothers. They could do no wrong.

If you do realise the difference. Don't over compensate the other way. Treat both with love and fairness. Set a good example and let the scapegoat know they are loved.

croquet Wed 14-May-14 13:25:49

Ok fine, well remove the narcissist bit then, that's not necessary -- what I'm asking is do you think a woman would ever treat children so differently i.e. one perfect and the other a complete mistake/failure? Does anyone know anything about situations like this and what's best to do?

Aussiebean is useful, thanks.

DenzelWashington Wed 14-May-14 13:31:05

Yes. Happened to someone I'm close to, who is the scapegoat.

The difference in treatment with the golden child was unbelievable unless you witnessed it directly. I mean, not just conscious differentiation, which was very nasty, but also general indifference to and distance from the one child and obsessive love and praise for the other.

The scapegoat did the only sensible thing, given the rest of the family was adamant the problem was the scapegoat's alone, and family life was actually fine. Scapegoat bailed out and left them to it. Whereupon, with the dynamic disrupted, the remaining family members all went a bit weird and fell out too. Golden child now wants contact with scapegoat, who has refused.

croquet Wed 14-May-14 13:38:52

Thanks Denzel. As this is a step situation the 'hot tub' of this activity is not in my daily family life as my DH is the non-resident parent of children who live fairly far away. As such, though DH is v. important to them, our household is not really figured in this dynamic. The (teen) scapegoat in my situation is going off the rails, presumably both living up to projected type but also maybe (I hope!) trying to rebel out of the situation. There is a very marked difference between how the two children, who are not close (though no animosity), are treated. I'm just trying to understand so I know what to do at our end and not unquestioningly go along with the story we get of how the scapegoat child is naughty / bad / hopeless. How to go (peacefully) against the narrative, as it were.

croquet Wed 14-May-14 13:40:21

general indifference to and distance from the one child and obsessive love and praise for the other.

This, in a nutshell.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 14-May-14 13:49:21

I've seen very bad favouritism before as well. Doesn't just apply to mothers, of course. Never sure if the motivation is 'divide and conquer' or if one child reminds them of someone they don't like (the father? themselves?) or if they're just the nasty bullying type that likes to create upset There's also the possibility that they genuinely do rub each other up the wrong way. Just because there's a family connection, doesn't mean people have to get along. I don't think it's possible to make a definite causal link between having a difficult parent and rebellious behaviour. It could be quite the other way around... in fact an indulgent parent ending up with a spoilt brat is pretty common.

I think the only way to handle it is to take the young people as you find them and create your own relationship with them.

croquet Wed 14-May-14 13:54:31

Yes I do try, but as they come as a pair, it is always the story that one is so naughty and the other perfect. It's not just a story, the facts are there in reality (i.e. naughty one failed exams, cautioned by police, looks a state etc.), but I was wondering if 'chicken and egg' they came about because of what I can see of a long narrative about the naughty one being a nightmare and bad from a young age.

It's become a self-fulfilling prophecy now, where naughty one is vile and naughty and gets told off/people being disappointed.

Not sure really.

JaceyBee Wed 14-May-14 14:00:29

Yes, this dynamic is often very consistent with narcissistic parents. Try this website for further info


JaceyBee Wed 14-May-14 14:01:53

Oops link fail, sorry

JaceyBee Wed 14-May-14 14:08:08

And fwiw I'm one of the biggest critics of bandying around psychiatric labels on mn but does no harm to read around.

croquet Wed 14-May-14 14:12:03

Yes sorry, I do understand, I was just trying to use a shorthand for the topic I wanted advice on -- I don't care what anyone concerned would be officially diagnosed as. Most mental health categories are defined by pharmaceutical companies in America... but that's another rant entirely!

BluebellTuesday Wed 14-May-14 14:14:30

I was the scapegoat, though it was worse than that, as my mum also tried to sabotage what I did or wanted to do. The only solution is growing up and putting distance between you.

As for what you can do, provide a safe space where both dd's are loved and supported; and you give them time. Create distance between your house and theirs, that is to say, explicitly judge things for yourself and listen to the dd's, don't import the narrative. Talk about the future and how you can support and provide opportunity. In other words, try and create an emotional space beyond the normal dynamic. That is the best suggestion I can give.

Your DH should be able to act more directly, possibly by suggesting a therapist or someone independent the DD can talk to.

croquet Wed 14-May-14 14:17:23

Thank you Bluebell, that is useful and very practical, possible advice. We're already doing that really but will carry on. My DH does try very hard but is met with such opposition and evasion, but I will continue to encourage him to suggest a therapist.

LegoSuperstar Wed 14-May-14 14:57:07

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

croquet Wed 14-May-14 15:04:01

Oh yes, I'd never say any of this to anyone in real life. Would be too complicated to go into whole story. I have almost no input bar being a good influence on DSC when they're here, like a family friend, and certainly wouldn't ever mention anything of this sort even to my own DH.

However they affect me when they visit, and sometimes make me feel sad, and so I do end up puzzling over their lives.

Be assured, in real life I am completely standing back. I'm not called step mum, or anything like that, and don't parent them as such.

LegoSuperstar Wed 14-May-14 15:14:50

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

croquet Wed 14-May-14 15:23:33

Yes I do try lego, thank you.

Basically they split because of EXW's cruelty and (routine) infidelity. He is cordial and read lots of books / sought advice on how to have a good divorce etc. but she really hates him and won't co-operate in any meaningful way, though they do manage to communicate to sort out money and visits. Though she has sometimes contacted me haphazardly we haven't met. She wouldn't meet me unless it was to have a row, I think, but we live far away, and have no cause for one! I don't think she has any curiosity / thinks it could benefit the DSC (though I have offered it, unpushily, to DH and DSC). I met him a long time after they split. My DH has no influence over her whatsoever, and cannot get her to agree to normal suggestions about the kids or discuss them properly.

It certainly affects the DSC, but I think perhaps it always did, even when their parents lived together? I think this dynamic was in play then too.

It's not really my business, I'll carry on as I am.

croquet Wed 14-May-14 15:27:41

The little bits of info from everyone have helped, thank you.

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