How to tell you’re co-parenting with a narcissist

 In Family Law

If you believe your ex’s narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is negatively affecting your’s or your child(ren)’s wellbeing, it is time to speak with an attorney. Our Lake Charles child custody attorneys can advise you on parenting and custody matters, and we will ensure you and your child(ren) are heard and protected.


Call (337) 433-1414 to get in touch with our firm. In the meantime, keep reading to learn about some of the telltale signs of narcissism in parenting.

1. They lack empathy, even toward children

A person with narcissistic personality disorder has a lack of empathy toward others, meaning they have a limited ability, if an ability at all, to relate to the emotional condition of another person.

Being an effective and nurturing parent often requires empathy and sympathy in order to understand the child’s feelings and to know best how to help them. This natural parenting function can be complicated for a narcissist, which might leave your child feeling unsupported and/or unloved by that parent. 

2. They undermine your parenting efforts

Narcissistic parents put their preferences over others, including yours. They might undermine your parenting methods in order to get what they want. For example, your ex might try and manipulate your child to get them to go along with their interests and desires. As you can imagine, these behaviors can be very harmful to impressionable young children.

3. They constantly “gaslight” you

“Gaslighting” is when someone intentionally challenges another person’s feelings or experiences, making that person believe that those feelings and experiences are not valid or do not exist. Gaslighting is a technique used by people who want mental and emotional control over others, and it’s a technique many narcissists use to get what they want.

Narcissists often gaslight others in order to shift blame, deny the truth, dismiss others and their opinions, dismiss someone’s needs, isolate their partner from their friends and family, and might use “love” as an excuse for their behavior.

For example, they might try to convince you that something such as abuse didn’t actually happen, or they might tell you that they did something because they “love” you, even if it was a harmful and abusive act. 

4. They ignore your rules

One of the key elements of a successful separation agreement is the following of the terms included within it. A narcissist will rarely follow rules, and may even actively ignore them out of spite. 

5. They have no respect for your boundaries

When undergoing a separation, however cordial it might be, boundaries are essential and must be respected in order for each of you to develop individually and to help your children successfully transition to their new situation.

co parenting narcissist boundaries

A common trait of narcissists is their lack of respect for the boundaries of others. This can affect how your child custody agreement is approached or followed because they will likely not respect your boundaries and may repeatedly insert themselves into your physical custody and into your child’s life over you to maintain control. 

6. They isolate your child(ren)

A key element of childhood development is socialization. If your child’s parent is a narcissist, they may attempt to isolate your children from others. Whether these others are members of your family or their peers, isolating your child can be harmful to their development. 

7. They criticize you in front of your child(ren)

Narcissists have a strong need to be right, and to tip the scales in their favor, they may criticize you in front of your children. Exposing children to this kind of negativity can be emotionally harmful.

You can attempt to minimize this harm in your child custody agreement. Ask your lawyer about limiting interaction between parents or only allowing communication about your child on a court-approved application. 

8. They expect your child(ren) to fulfill their own needs

Narcissists are consumed by their own self-interest, which often means they leave children to “figure things out” on their own. A narcissistic parent may refuse to show affection to their child, or they might show affection in damaging, self-centered ways.

This behavior is yet another example of a parent placing their interests ahead of the child’s, which can be detrimental to your child’s development. 

9. They rarely or never accept fault

In order to fully move on from a mistake, a person must accept fault, and they must learn from that mistake. Most children are taught this lesson by their parents, and it’s a good lesson to learn in order to foster independence, empathy, and understanding.

However, narcissists rarely accept fault, which means they often make the same mistake over and over again, hurting the same people in the same ways and giving a poor example to their children.

10. They rarely or never feel remorse

One of the best ways to experience growth and development and to move past negativity is through the feeling of remorse, which can encourage a change in future behavior. Narcissists rarely feel this emotion, which can make them blind to the harm that they cause. 

Narcissistic personality disorder affects the whole family, not just the parent who has it

According to licensed professional counselor (LPC) William Krill of We Have Kids, narcissistic personality disorder can have a significant impact on children who have even one parent who is afflicted by the condition.

narcissistic co parent

The following negative developments may be realized in children of a parent with narcissistic personality disorder:

  • Low self-esteem – they often blame themselves and feel responsible for the negativity they experience. A lack of appropriate attention can lead to low self-esteem as the child doesn’t feel loved or as though they aren’t good enough, and may hope that by changing themselves they will be able to earn their parent’s love. 
  • Feeling invisible – a narcissistic parent can often overshadow their child due to their need for attention, making the child feel unnoticed, which can be detrimental to their development as an individual. 
  • Negative impact on future relationships – the children of narcissists experience neglect, a lack of empathy, emotional games, unhealthy relationships, and other abuse, all of which can lead them to expect this kind of treatment in future relationships. They may develop insecure attachments, won’t trust others, or they may have an unhealthy aversion to relationships altogether.  

Because a narcissistic parent’s behavior can have such harmful and long-lasting impacts on a child, it’s important to consider this personality disorder when approaching child custody disputes to ensure the best interests of your child are protected. 

Worried your co-parent is a narcissist? We can help.

If you worry that your co-parent has narcissistic personality disorder and that their behavior is harming your child, don’t hesitate to call an experienced Lake Charles child custody attorney to ensure that these harmful personality traits are considered by the court in your custody orders. 

To schedule your consultation, call The Johnson Firm at (337) 433-1414 or contact us online today. 

Jonathan Johnson
Partner Specialty in Family Law & Personal Injury
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