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How Narcissists Co-Parent

The Micklin Law Group-How Narcissists Co-Parent

If you’ve gone through a divorce from a narcissist, you may already know the common tricks and tactics they employ to get their way. But if you somehow made it out of the relationship with your narcissist co-parent relatively unscathed, you might be surprised at their behavior when it comes to custody arrangements and disputes. Sadly, narcissists often subject their children to their poor behavior and manipulation, which is to the detriment of both the child and the other parent. Here’s how many narcissists parent and what you can do about it.

Selfish About Their Needs

Many narcissist parents believe their children exist to fulfill the parent’s needs. They will push back against any attempts for greater independence because they want to be in control of their children’s behavior at all times. Narcissists also worry about how they will be portrayed by their children since they believe their image is of the utmost importance. This makes narcissist co-parents reluctant to give up scheduled time with their kids. If you want to take your child on a vacation during your ex’s scheduled parenting time, you can expect to run into issues. Your ex probably feels owed that time, and she’ll be extremely reluctant to give it up or even to change the schedule. Additionally, may not want to give you what you want purely out of spite. The only way around her reluctance may be to ask the judge to grant permission for you to take your vacation with your child.


Narcissists regularly manipulate their children, generally in ways that show conditional love. The narcissist weaponizes their love for their child so they can get what they want. They may also threaten harsh punishments, such as abandonment or a lack of financial support. Common manipulation tactics include guilt trips, blaming, shaming, unreasonable pressure, and emotional coercion. This is ultimately an attempt to control their public image and increase their own self-esteem. It can cause irreparable damage to the child’s psyche to know that their parent’s love is conditional. 

Extreme Jealousy

As a narcissist’s child grows up and starts to see how other family systems operate, they may become more defiant toward their narcissistic parent. A child whose parents are divorced may also begin to see the difference in how they are treated by each parent. Once the child gets to high school or college, they may also begin to date, which the narcissist sees as a huge threat to the family system.

A narcissist wants their child to forever be under their influence, and anyone who comes in the way of that may find themself the victim of emotional and verbal abuse – or a smear campaign to turn others against them. Your ex may attempt to alienate you from your child, but she may also try to ruin your child’s platonic and romantic relationships. Anyone she sees as a threat should watch out for attempts to turn the child against them.

How to Help Your Child Cope

If you share custody with your narcissistic ex, there are limits to what you can do to help your child. Parental alienation is not permitted, so a judge may be able to help you maintain a positive relationship with your child without your co-parent’s interference. If your ex is manipulating your child in a way that is physically or emotionally abusive, you may petition the court to modify your custody agreement. 

Sadly, younger children may not be able to recognize the signs of alienation and abuse. If you suspect your child is being negatively affected by their relationship with their narcissistic parent, consider taking them to see a counselor or therapist who specializes in helping the children of narcissistic parents. It’s best not to personally put pressure on your child during such a difficult time. Instead, remain supportive while you enlist the help of a professional. Once your child is on the other side of this challenging time in their life, they will remember how supportive you were and how you did everything possible to help make their life better. 


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