Parenting is the most rewarding and challenging adventure anyone will ever embark upon. But when you’re co-parenting with a narcissist, it’s much more difficult than it needs to be.
In co-parenting with a narcissist, one parent is the “Alpha” parent while the other is the “Beta” parent. Naturally, the narcissist is the Alpha parent. They call the shots. They know exactly how to raise children, even though they’ve never done it before. Kinda’ like Barney Fife on the Andy Griffith Show with his imaginary perfect child.
The Alpha parent believes they know their child inside and out. They know how evil and rebellious the child is because they’ve projected themselves onto their child. They know exactly what the child is thinking. Growing up, I must’ve heard this cliché a thousand times. “I’m ahead of you by five minutes, five hours, five days, five weeks, five years…” Uh-huh. And the moon is made of lemon meringue.
Voicelessness.com gives the best description of narcissistic parenting:
Children are ready targets:
narcissists consider children flawed and lacking,
and therefore most in need of severe “teaching” and correction.
This negative picture of children is a sad projection
of how the narcissist truly feels about his or her inner self…
they consider their harsh, controlling parenting
magnanimous and in the child’s best interest.
Alpha parents are narcissists. Narcissists are bullies. And bullies are cowards.
Which leads to…
The Beta parent is the “inferior” parent. The Alpha reminds them they’re too inexperienced and naïve to know how to properly raise the child they had together. So, the Alpha will tell them exactly how to do it.
Because the Alpha is a coward, they prefer a kind of hands-off parenting by proxy via the Beta co-dependent parent. Sometimes they give verbal commands to the Beta. Sometimes they write daily notes to the Beta. Sometimes they write daily notes to the child too. By hiding behind notes and long-distance commands, the narcissist doesn’t have to face the “music”…the wounded feelings, tears and anger of their exasperated, never-good-enough child.
Naturally, this puts the Beta in an impossible situation. If the child misbehaves, it’s the Beta’s fault. This would never have happened if the Alpha had been there to enforce their edicts.
Worse yet, if the child finally (quite rightly) rebels against the extreme demands and heartless perfectionism demanded of them, the Beta becomes frantic. Desperate! They must force the child into submission and obedience or the Alpha will have the Beta’s guts for garters. Put them down. Remind them yet again what a lousy parent they actually are and how much better the Alpha would be at child-rearing, if they had the time.
If the Beta still can’t enforce blind obedience, the Alpha sighs deeply to let everyone know how their important time is being imposed upon and actually gets involved to lecture, brainwash, dominate or terrorize their child into submission. Whatever works best.
For engulfing narcissists, children aren’t people. They’re projects.
Projects to be discussed coldly and impersonally, never calling the child by their real name in the discussion. Just “he” or “she” as the child’s fate is decided based on fact, never considering their feelings.
Projects to be completed successfully. Projects to be completed perfectly. Projects to be admired by others, thus reflecting well on the Alpha parent.
The Alpha pursues this object with a single-minded and straightforward approach. The end always justifies the means.
They pay no attention to the Beta’s timid suggestion that they allow their kid to be a kid. That the child’s emotions matter. That childhood friendships matter. That extracurricular activities are too and can give children a well-rounded joy in learning not available in dry, dusty schoolbooks.
Nor will they have any truck with the child’s emotions and feelings. They’re neither here nor there. The goal of raising an impressive Adult Project within the span of 18 years is all that matters. Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!
All Grown Up
If you survived co-parenting with a narcissist, congratulations! I’m just sorry raising your child was so much more difficult than it needed to be.
If you survived being raised by a narcissist, congratulations! It’s one of the hardest experiences you’ll ever undergo. If you survived it, you are strong and courageous. Any challenges in your life will pale in comparison to the triumph of surviving the domination of your Alpha parent and the desperation of your Beta parent.