My adult child is a narcissist: Is it my fault?

adult child is a narcissist

My adult child is a narcissist: Is it my fault?

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

Parents sometimes tell me their adult child is a narcissist. They describe sons and daughters who feel superior, lack empathy, and have fragile egos that crumble behind a defensive wall of rage. Frequently, the parents go on to say that everything they read says it’s all their fault.

I’m quick to assure them that the causes for narcissism are not that simple, but years spent in an increasingly demeaning relationship with a narcissistic adult child can leave parents confused, isolated, and vulnerable to these seemingly definitive opinions. A parent’s view of themselves, as reflected through an abusive, narcissistic adult child’s mirror, may be warped. The related shame can be debilitating. If you’re one of these parents, take heart. There’s more breadth to narcissism’s etiology and development including how the behavior can be acquired.

Your adult child is a narcissist: Do the theories keep you stuck?

A zillion blogs assert that narcissists are created by either overindulgent or neglectful parents. That these are opposites has always made me suspect, but like so many loud opinions, they’re repeated so often they’re accepted as absolute. The reality is that these are theories. And why not? Framing parents is convenient and absolves adults of responsibility for their own actions. These days, some therapists even encourage adults to blame parents for all their problems—like this one’s billboard.

Simplistic reasoning that heaps guilt on the parents enables adult children who turn on the charm then drop emotional bombs whenever it suits. Parents can become trapped in hurtful, subservient relationships with self-indulgent, ego-inflated sons or daughters who are intermittently loving. It’s a cycle of hurt and hope. Outsiders might see a carefully constructed public façade, sing the child’s praises, and tell the parent they must be so very proud. This then triggers a mix of pride and confusion, which provokes the parent’s shame and silence—just how abusers like to keep their targets.

Frequently, parents who have hung on for years find themselves discarded for good, maybe because they’ve begun to stand up for themselves and are less easily manipulated. Perhaps the parent’s health is failing so they’re no longer a reliable emotional fuel source for the narcissistic adult child. Or the parent unwittingly magnifies a narcissistic “injury,” that triggers the adult child’s counterattack.(1)

It’s also possible that the son or daughter has settled into the role of what’s known as a flying monkey, which is someone who supports and defends the narcissist, often, but not always, by way of manipulation. A flying monkey may do the bidding for another narcissist in the family. Yes, a flying monkey can also be a narcissist, and chooses or goes along with the role because there’s something in it for them.

Is narcissism in the genes?

Often, when parents identify their son or daughter as a narcissist they’ll spot a few others in the family tree. Whether these people are diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), or simply show a lot of the traits, is up for debate but the harm is real and the family patterns sometimes uncanny.

In one example, a life coaching client who was the father of two sons said his younger brother, whom he’d never been close to and who stopped coming around entirely when their mother got sick, was a narcissist. He later realized the younger of his own two sons was like his brother. A narcissist who only cared about himself and disengaged from his family when they were on to him. Subservient roles can get old (and intolerable) when people recognize what’s going on and how much they’ve been hurt. And a narcissist will often discard someone who no longer serves them and is difficult to control.

One grandmother talked about her older sister, a narcissist, who bragged about cozying up with a sickly, well-to-do elderly man and inheriting the spoils. Of the grandmother’s daughters, the elder one was a lot like her scheming sister. She even took advantage of a sickly older man. In both cases, the younger sisters stopped associating with their narcissistic sibling … and were cautious of their other family members who continued to associate with the narcissistic one. The ongoing connection, they believed, put them at risk. Subjects of past narcissistic abuse feel safer making sure the narcissist has no way of finding out anything about their lives.

Some may say these scenarios point to the upbringing as the culprit, but twin studies show otherwise. Environment, meaning not only the parents but society at large, surely do play a role in all personality disorders, but research indicates that narcissism is heritable. Depending upon the individual study, and how the research is conducted, the degree of heritability runs from around 24 to nearly 80 percent.(2) It’s a wide swing but a genetic connection exists.

Genes and what else?

NPD frequently occurs with other brain and personality disorders.(1) So, whether your child is diagnosed or simply showing many narcissistic traits, comorbidity can create all sorts of relational and occupational dysfunctions. These problematic scenarios can cause a variety of related consequences. These then influence and shape the course of a person’s life in ways that may contribute to narcissistic behavior and NPD. To name every potential contributor is impossible. The prevalent, yet simplistic opinions, don’t begin to scratch the surface. What’s clear is that narcissism’s basis is more than a cut-and-dried scenario where parents are to blame.

It’s fair to say, though, that parents may contribute. A variety of circumstances influence parents’ lives. Also, individual children affect their parents’ behavior. If your child was sickly at a young age, you probably interacted differently with that child than you did with those of robust health. A sensitive, lonely child might prompt loving parents to work harder at building the kid’s self-esteem. If your child was emotionally volatile, you did your best to calm outbursts, teach them how to use their words, and to soothe themselves.

With any children, supportive parents do their best to show justice, kindness, and what it means to empathize and care for others. However, in the workaday chaos of a busy life, you may, at times, have fallen prey to a child’s insecurities and whims. Perhaps you were indulgent on a day when you needed a modicum of peace. Maybe you even assured them they were extra beautiful, uniquely talented, or even special when they felt insecure. That stuff happens in just about every family. Yet, with a burgeoning narcissist, the times of give-ins and ego boosts may have inadvertently contributed to an insidious and growing problem.

That’s not to blame you, of course. Since the early 1990s, experts have preached the importance of self-esteem. Parents followed suit. And most of us dealt with life in the best ways we could at the time. If your child already carried a propensity for narcissism, they probably learned how to play you, too.

Earlier, I mentioned the father of two sons who says the younger one is a narcissist, as is his own older brother (the boys’ uncle). Upon reflection, this father was distressed to realize that, to a degree, he treated the younger of his two sons differently than the first. He came to recognize that his narcissistic younger son’s behavior had triggered responses that derived from the father’s boyhood days. His interactions with his younger son were shaped by relational patterns developed in his family of origin as an older brother, interacting with a narcissistic younger one whom the rest of the family doted on.

Does this mean the father is to blame? If given the chance, his narcissistic adult son might claim so. The dad, though, now sees a younger son who was different from the start. “He was always more demanding,” he says. “As he got older, he could suck all the air from a room. It was always about him all the time.” The boy’s attention-seeking, the father says, changed the family dynamics from early on.

“I’m sharing my story because maybe I can make a difference for another father,” he says. “Maybe one who can identify how his kid’s behavior triggers his own people-pleasing and over-tolerance from the past, and then circumvent.”

Acquired narcissism

Society at large also plays a role in narcissism’s development. The onset of social media, which can be addicting, coincides with increasing narcissism.(3,4,5) This ties in with a 2019 letter “from the editor,” Henry Nasrallah, M.D., in the journal Current Psychiatry, wherein he brings up fame as a trigger for “acquired narissim.” (6)

Nasrallah speaks of superstar athletes and actors who “acquire” narcissism from their suddenly revered position, which is enhanced and magnified by thousands of adoring fans. Social media has enlarged their audiences, too. This “acquired situational narcissism” (ASN) is the old saw, “It went to his head,” in action.

I tend to think two things about ASN: 1) that it can happen to lesser stars, standouts in their career or social settings; and 2) that no matter the level of narcissistic traits, those who “acquire” narcissism probably already had tendencies (even if only somewhere in the genes).

Could medications factor in?

Lately, quite a few parents have told me about narcissistic adult children who are taking prescription medications. These parents speculate that the medications have caused the personality changes they see, with a lack of empathy chief among them. Could it be these prescribed drugs cause deleterious side effects that affect their ability to care about other people’s feelings and pain? Perhaps.

Even the widely used painkiller, acetaminophen, (the main ingredient in Tylenol), has been associated with a reduction in empathy.(7,8) The same goes for some antidepressants.(9) In fact, many medications can cause changes in mood, behavior, and thinking. That’s not to say that a prescribed medication is not beneficial or safe. Many medical treatments involve a risk vs. benefit measure to determine the best treatment.

Adderall (made of mixed amphetamine salts) is one medication that has come up repeatedly in discussions with parents who say their adult child is a narcissist. Considered effective for treating ADHD, one known side effect is feeling emotionally detached (10), yet some people so like the increased focus of this stimulant that they take it in higher than prescribed dosages. Misuse can lead to addiction with one side effect being a sense of grandiosity.(11) Add that to the side effect of emotional detachment, toss in the irritability and self-centeredness that’s typical of addicts, and a parent might very well say their adult child is a narcissist.

Other symptoms of addiction, whether to Adderall, marijuana, alcohol or some other substance, include issues with anger, manipulative behavior, mood swings, and a shift in what they care about (meaning they care less about people because they just want the drug). The sum of these can certainly make an addict look and sound like a narcissist whether they clinically fit the label or not.

One dad of a celebrity estranged adult child says, “If it walks like a duck, quack likes a duck, then it’s a duck.”

A longer story

There are other circumstances that may also contribute to a narcissistic way of being. For example, some medical conditions include emotional and personality changes that might fit some of the traits. Hopefully this article demonstrates that narcissism is more complex than some might have you believe.

It has long been my opinion that even people with narcissistic ways can alter their behavior to do good and be kind—if they want to. Plenty of parents who will say their adult child is a narcissist and acts horrendously with them … but gets along well where they must.

The truth is, we all need a useful dose of healthy narcissism if we’re to take pride in our accomplishments and maintain a healthy sense of self-worth. That’s different from someone who feels they’re superior and uses others to prop up their fragile ego or for selfish gain. Read more about NPD here.

Related reading

Parents of estranged adult children: Pack your emotional toolkit

Negatively stereotyping parents of estranged adults: It hurts

References

(1) American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th ed, (Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association, 2013).

(2) Reichborn-Kjennerud T. The genetic epidemiology of personality disorders. Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2010;12(1):103-14. doi: 10.31887/DCNS.2010.12.1/trkjennerud. PMID: 20373672; PMCID: PMC3181941.

(3) Malik S, Khan M. Impact of facebook addiction on narcissistic behavior and self-esteem among students. J Pak Med Assoc. 2015 Mar;65(3):260-3. PMID: 25933557.

(4) Andreassen CS, Pallesen S, Griffiths MD. The relationship between addictive use of social media, narcissism, and self-esteem: Findings from a large national survey. Addict Behav. 2017 Jan;64:287-293. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2016.03.006. Epub 2016 Mar 19. PMID: 27072491.

(5) Daniel Halpern, Sebastián Valenzuela, James E. Katz. “Selfie-ists” or “Narci-selfiers”?: A cross-lagged panel analysis of selfie taking and narcissism. Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 97, 2016, Pages 98-101

(6) Nasrallah, Henry A. “Beyond selfies: An epidemic of acquired narcissism.”  Current Psychiatry; 18(8).

(7) Mischkowski D, Crocker J, Way BM. From painkiller to empathy killer: acetaminophen (paracetamol) reduces empathy for pain. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2016 Sep;11(9):1345-53. doi: 10.1093/scan/nsw057. Epub 2016 May 5. PMID: 27217114; PMCID: PMC5015806.

(8) Mischkowski D, Crocker J, Way BM. A Social Analgesic? Acetaminophen (Paracetamol) Reduces Positive Empathy. Front Psychol. 2019 Mar 29;10:538. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00538. PMID: 31001155; PMCID: PMC6455058.

(9) Rütgen, M., Pletti, C., Tik, M. et al. Antidepressant treatment, not depression, leads to reductions in behavioral and neural responses to pain empathy. Transl Psychiatry 9, 164 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41398-019-0496-4

(10) Sheppard, S. (2023) Adderall and emotional detachment: Why it happens and how to cope. https://www.verywellmind.com/adderall-and-emotional-detachment-why-it-happens-and-how-to-cope-6831140

(11) Adderall addiction: Signs and symptoms of misuse. 2024. American Addiction Centers. https://americanaddictioncenters.org/adderall/symptoms-of-abuse

 

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40 thoughts on “My adult child is a narcissist: Is it my fault?

  1. Penelope

    My ED recently contacted my husband to ask him to tell me she is well and happy. That’s 15 years after telling me by email to never contact her again.

    I’d long since gathered she must be ok. Sorry to disappoint her but I’ve long accepted she doesnt like me and I have moved on.

    Interesting to note she didnt even ask if we were ok but that’s par for the course with her

    Reply
  2. Lucky

    Thank you, Sheri, for your insightful post on narcissism. My daughter has been estranged since she turned 18, 12 years ago, with a brief six-month period of reconciliation last year. Unfortunately, after I reminded her of her promise to spend the holidays together in 2023, she went silent again.

    Two years ago, both my daughter and I were diagnosed with ADHD, which I suspect my father also had. My mother, on the other hand, was a sociopathic narcissist, and I endured significant abuse and trauma from her, leading to 35 years of no contact before her death five years ago.

    Last year, I had an epiphany: my daughter might have inherited my mother’s narcissism. As I delved deeper into the subject, I realized she not only exhibits traits of narcissism but also signs of a developmental disorder on the autism spectrum. I believe she might have a mild case of Pathological Demand Avoidance Syndrome (PDA), which could be inherited. This would explain her oppositional behavior and resistance to normal demands, particularly in our relationship.

    Many times, narcissism comes with co-morbidities. I have to admit that my self-destruction due to my daughter’s discard has taken a different turn since gaining knowledge of her probable mental health issues.

    Reply
  3. Helen

    It is incredible how similar our stories are….i live with the pain everyday but i am trying hard to get past it. My youngest daughter lives near me and is a godsend…dont know what I would do without her. My two older daughters dropped us when my husband passed away..block us and never answer phone messages their children r adults and they forbid them to talk to us..it is painful beyond words…i am always looking for help in dealing with the pain. I keep myself very busy paint and take classes and book clubs..my youngest daughter reprimands me for wanting to talk to them again ..i will get ur books for ideas thank u for ur input.

    Reply
  4. Aurora

    Thank you for this article. I am new to the site, but not new to estrangement or narcissism. Narcissism abuse is real, and for that reason, sometimes we have no choice but to step away. It may look like abandonment, but for some of us, if we don’t break away, we have committed the greatest abandonment of all – to ourselves.

    Reply
  5. Lily S.

    I recently found you amidst the flurry of googling I do to try and understand my daughter and what the heck is happening. I’ve realised that emotional estrangement is a thing, and imho, worse. I liken it to when I was raising my kids whilst married to their emotionally unavailable/workaholic/abusive fathers vs when I raised them without their presence. The latter was easier, because then, I wasn’t constantly questioning why they weren’t being good fathers. This particular post was yet one more validating piece of the puzzle I’m trying to put together that, I believe, looks like “NPD.” Thank you for all the courage it has surely taken you to share your story and advocate for a marginally seen and supported society of parents.

    Reply
    1. rparents Post author

      Lily, absolutely true that we are a marginalized group! I include the consequences of this in BEYOND DONE. Overcoming this is important for our well-being.

      HUGS to you,
      Sheri McGregor

      Reply
  6. Patricia

    Sheri thanks for helping all parents rejected for their son/daughters. Your tips and stories give us comfort and hope of a better ending at least for ourselves if reconciliation never comes. I read Done with the crying and Beyond Done with the crying after read a lot about narcissism and it was the right moment because I think I am ready for let go.

    Reply
  7. Trish

    Hi everyone, if you are posting in here, you probably haven’t joined the community. I was in here for a while before I joined, and I am glad I did because it gave me a sense of privacy. I found a lot of new friends that I could connect with in the community. They all understood, and I can’t even get that with my old friends. I still have a long way to go and there are many things like live meetings. I am still new and navigating but I will get there.

    Reply
  8. Lizzie

    Sherri, I have posted many times before about the heartache of my son abandoning my husband and I. It will be nine long years in June, not a single word any shape or form. I still have his email and telephone number which I still try to communicate but never an answer. I did a stupid thing, right before Mother’s Day I emailed and called saying, please don’t forget me on Mothers Day, nothing. I guess I have tried to hard letting him know how much we love and want him in our lives. I didn’t think I would ever be at the point of giving up trying but I need to give him what he wants no contact. To all the parents out there I truly know what your going through, I would say it gets easier, just hang in there and focus on yourself and your well being..

    Reply
  9. Betty M.

    Thank you so much for this article. It explains so much! I have 4 children 3 of which have these qualities. Both of my daughters have discarded us and broke our hearts I haven’t seen my beloved grandchildren in a year. When my daughter first discarded us it was 6 months we couldn’t see them but her husband persuaded her to let us visit. Then Covid lockdowns came and after that my grandchildren became distant now there is no contact and my daughters husband has ghosted us. They were
    my babies we were so close before this happened they
    couldn’t go 3 days without asking yo see their gramma
    I do my best to keep going but my heart is broken.In
    reading your article I see how my daughter used me
    to care for them while she worked but when I got old
    and sick I was no longer of any use to her. My younger
    daughter defends her behavior snd is very cruel she
    married a hostile bully whose also a narcissist. Your article helped me to see all the signs and patterns I
    Ignored. Than you

    Reply
  10. Agoodmom

    Sheri,
    Thank you for tackling this subject.
    I can say from experience that NPD is absolutely hereditary. Without knowing the name for such behaviors, I only knew that I grew up in a nutty family where things just never felt right. My Mom got a little better as she aged, but the underlying personality never went away. Our daughter, who wasn’t around my family much developed a personality mirroring that of my mom. Multiple therapists would only diagnose general anxiety- but that didn’t explain the disturbing lack of empathy. The behaviors got increasingly worse as she got older, lying, stealing, arguing, etc. At that point, therapists were still not diagnosing personality disorders in kids, and it was so frustrating not to know what to do. One therapist actually told me that I had to understand my daughter better! That was at the point that we were doing all we could, and every day was consumed with trying to manage the destructive behaviors. After reaching her 30s and two husbands later, our daughter estranged from us, going on 3 years now. As difficult as that was, it didn’t really surprise us, as we were essentially the only people left in her life who knew the truth. Without us, our ED is free to tell up any sad story she thinks up. I do think that’s why a lot of estrangement occurs. I was interested in hearing about the link with acetaminophen. One Dr. did mention a possible behavior link with chronic ear infections which our ED had. In any case, our ED was hard-wired out of the gate, and nothing we did or didn’t do could have changed it.

    Reply
  11. DD

    I have a somewhat different perspective on this subject. I went down the narcissism rabbit hole when my mother acted strangely. I googled the behavior and narcissism came up. I read about it, and could see those traits in my mother. Not too long after, my daughter started distancing herself from us. I knew all about no contact, boundaries, etc. and recognized the words being thrown at me. My daughter eventually told us she was seeing a therapist, and in our brief try at therapy together, I learned the extent of my daughters warped memories, and the theories she and her therapist came up with, labeling me a narcissist. In my research about this estrangement epidemic, I read about one father that had been sent a list of narcissistic traits by his daughter, and he said he didn’t know anyone that didn’t have at least one of those traits. We need to take a look at how we are psychoanalyzing everyone, and labeling people as manipulative and narcissistic. I cringe now when I hear people using the term narcissist. Jordan Peterson had an interview in which he discussed how therapy can mess with people’s minds. Abigail Shriner has a book out called Bad Therapy about how this trend is affecting children. I believe that therapy is the main cause of this abnormal rejection of parents and family, and also the immature, self centered attitudes we are seeing in our adult children.

    Reply
  12. mommanomore

    Thank you for writing this. My daughter has Borderline and I am pretty sure she is a narcissist. No one ever talks about this. Thank you, Sheri, for making sense of things again.

    Reply
    1. rparents Post author

      Hello mommanomore,

      Yes, many mental disorders occur simultaneously. Knowing this can make all the difference for a struggling parent, trying to make sense of things.

      Hugs to you.
      Sheri McGregor

      Reply
  13. Bodhi

    Thank you Sheri for shining a light on this very important subject. My estranged daughter, definitely has antisocial personality disorder, diagnosed by a trusted psychiatrist. She exhibits many traits of narcissism. She has been estranged two years, and lives with a toxic, drug using boyfriend, who also sounds like he is narcissistic, as he is also estranged from his parents! We were never permitted to meet him. They live totally for themselves, and don’t want children. I banned her from coming home, until or unless she reconciled with me. She chose not to. My husband continued to connect, but she just manipulated him, it caused a huge marital rift, which I hope is now starting to heal. I had to be patient with him, as he was so attached to her. Our daughter is also adopted. It’s best to stay away from such people, they tend to destroy the lives of people around them. She had a wonderful childhood, maybe she was spoiled, but we did love her so much. I wish everyone well, as this is a tough path to walk.

    Reply
    1. rparents Post author

      You’re welcome, Bohdi.

      I’m hearing from more and more people with adopted children who end up in estrangement. I’m so sorry you’ve had to go through this. You are obviously a loving and supportive wife and I hope that you two can come to terms and even grow in connection with all you’ve been through.

      HUGS to you,
      Sheri McGregor

      Reply
      1. Willow

        Our two children were adopted when they were 7 and 10 days old. We were very open with each of them about their adoption situations. Our son met and has a casual relationship with his birth mom and our daughter met and has some contact with her birth mom and dad. We have a good relationship with our adopted son and his wife and see them often. And we had a good relationship with our daughter as well. However, our daughter (the youngest) used high-potency cannabis in February 2021 and was in psychosis in March. She was hospitalized four times in March 2021 on 72-hour holds. When she wasn’t hospitalized she had strange and paranoid thoughts and engaged in dangerous and reckless behavior. Her brain slowly healed and she finished her last five classes to get her college degree that summer. But psychosis left its mark in that she had a false delusion during psychosis which remains “fixed”, and she estranged from us. I know firsthand that this delusion is FALSE. It involves a situation that somehow got twisted in her head when she was psychotic. And it has been heartbreakingly devastating to not only my husband and me but to extended family and close friends as well. Her childhood and my son’s childhood were like any of their friends. Good schools, church, numerous activities and opportunities. We loved our children as much as they would have been born to us, and families we know who have also adopted feel the same! I’ve spent three years trying to get some advice as to how to resolve this estrangement. At the end of January 2021 my daughter had excited conversations with my husband, and then me, because she had just a few classes left before graduating from college. There was no conflict. There was no discord in our family. There were no bitter feelings, no unresolved arguments. A month later she was in psychosis and everything fell apart. It doesn’t matter if you had a good family life. It doesn’t matter if you tried to give your kids the best life possible. It doesn’t matter if your kids are biological or adopted. High potency cannabis doesn’t care, and it caused this estrangement.

        Reply
      2. Bodhi

        Thank you Sheri. Your words are very comforting. Yes, it’s been a tough two years, and I’ve tried my best to stay connected to my husband, even when he was hostile and blamed me for the estrangement. I think he now is beginning to detach from our daughter, and appears to be more of himself now. Time will tell. Yes, adopted children are often more likely to choose estrangement.

        Reply
  14. Helen O.

    Thank you for this service. Your work is God sent to sad mothers. I am sorry that I cannot do Tech money transactions because I’m tech illiterate. A new member in London. Pls tell me how else I can support the work.

    Reply
  15. Anne F.

    Sheri, good morning!
    Thank you for your excellent article. Just last night, we received a very long, hate filled email from our oldest son blaming us for everything that has gone wrong in his life and how bad we are for not coming to our granddaughter’s high school graduation. Then I received your email.
    Thank you, Sheri, for a most welcome acknowledgment that we are NOT the monsters our son makes us out to be.
    He nearly had us convinced even though we have tried and tried. My husband and I decided not to go to our granddaughter’s HS graduation because we DO NOT feel welcome, that’s the bottom line. Parents deserve some modicum of respect . So sad for our relationship with our granddaughter but we just cannot take the hurt to our hearts and soul. Thank you again, Sheri.

    Reply
    1. rparents Post author

      Dear Anne,

      I hear from so many parents who end up feeling they have no choice but to back away. The pain that’s put upon them is just too much … and then it is also a painful choice when the grandchildren are not able to have the love and attention of grandparents. Sounds like you’ve hung in for a long time. May you have peace now and enjoy your lives.

      HUGS to you,
      Sheri McGregor

      Reply
  16. Nanette

    This is the BEST article I have ever read about narcissism. Several points made could have contributed to my adult daughter’s NPD. Thank you for not putting the blame solely on the parents. This article explains so much and brought me a peace I have never had from other articles. Thank you!

    Reply
  17. Annemarie

    Wow. Much to ponder. I’ve often wondered if my oldest estranged son has his grandfather’s detached personality. My husband’s dad abandoned him when he was 10 years old. My mother in law, truly one of the warmest hearts God created, raised him and his sister alone. That, and autism in our family. When my es younger brother was diagnosed with autism at a young age, he required a lot of extra attention. I had mother guilt for my oldest and looking back, I believe I indulged things I should’ve dealt with. A cocktail of genes and parental mistakes. However, I forgive myself for that and believe my es can and should do better. Period. My older sibling had drug problems. I was the youngest of four. I know my parents HAD to give more attention to that sibling and understand and love my mom and dad.My es needs to grow up. I love him, but his behavior is immature and selfish.

    Reply
    1. rparents Post author

      Annemarie,

      You looking back from an adult standpoint is something that used to be common. Looking at one’s childhood and circumstances and realizing that maybe your parents didn’t do everything as you would have liked, but recognizing them as human beings dealing with difficult circumstances. This seems to be a huge problem among so many who only see their own selfish perspective. And you have obviously looked at things from many angles.

      Hugs to you dear Annemarie,
      Sheri McGregor

      Reply
  18. Katherine

    This really hit home for me. My older son was a brilliantly smart kid and was always very independent. He had a perfectly normal (and reasonably privileged) upbringing, good grades, friends, sports, etc. We were always very proud of him and celebrated his accomplishments, he was successful at anything he did and never really failed at anything. He was a genuinely good kid. But as he grew older his independence morphed into aloofness, more like detachment, and any warmth was fading away. He got a great job making lots of money and as he needed us less, he simply had less use for us. Then he began dating a girl who came from a very wealthy family, she didn’t seem to care much for us and didn’t want to get to know us, and within six months my son suddenly and coldly discarded us. It has been a gut wrenching and heartbreaking two years. We never saw it coming, but the more I think about it I wonder if the signs were always there. I question if he truly is a narcissist. He shows no empathy whatsoever and no remorse, doesn’t miss us at all, seems to have just erased us and his whole history with us. His status seems more important than anything to him. The only thing that bothers him is that we have talked openly about what has happened to our family and it have “tarnished” his image. Much of this screams NPD but I have no way of knowing for sure. I’m blessed to have a wonderful younger son who exhibits none of these narcissistic tendencies and with whom I’m very close. So I focus on him, his sweet fiancé, my loving husband, and all my extended family and friends, but it will always haunt me how my older son ended up as he is. Truly sad!

    Reply
    1. Junie

      My goodness a mirrored image. We too have a son who excelled from the word go. Although not from a ‘well off’ family we worked and put together money for both his sister and himself for university. His sister went on to set up her own advertising company and he went into law, later a barrister. The two are like’ chalk and cheese’
      No matter how we tried to communicate he gradually wanted less contact with us. Over the last 25 years or so this contact has disappeared and we have now been
      ghosted. No reason, no discussion nothing. Over the years my husband and I have dissected every part of our character, should we have done this, should we have done that, would, could should over and over. But what does this give you, more confusion and sadness. We have our wonderful daughter, son-in-law and a beautiful grandson. Life is full of sadness one way or another but I was never expecting it to emerge this way. Chin up as they say and best foot forward.

      Reply
    2. Trish

      I am so sorry this happened to you and your husband. Maybe it’s something in their brain. I just can’t understand it. You can see the signs of independence growing early on. Maybe because they never fail at anything they do; it makes them this way. Did he ever appear to love any family members?

      When I took my son to school on his first day it was so emotional in my heart. As I watched him enter the classroom, it struck me that he never looked back at me. I could see how it was, so I taught him myself when he wasn’t in school.

      All these years later he has a job but cares nothing for money or things. He chooses woman that are “&%^&%^*”

      He was never into sports. He was strong enough but had no interest. I am glad about that now because it turned out he has a serious kidney disease.

      I know now I let him down when I didn’t let him go to John Hopkins at 16. They were going to let him skip some of high school. I wish I let it happen.

      I know he loved his family and I know he still loves his oldest sister.
      As hard as this is, at least you still have another son. You can also feel really good that his life is successful.

      Reply
  19. Monique

    My husband continues to cater to our daughter. He co-signed for a car for her. She continues to lie to him. Now, she claims she is pregnant and needs money to go to the doctor for her miscarriage. I told my husband, “Good luck with that.” I guess he forgot we are in Mississippi. There have been so many false pregnancies this year.
    My son is mad because he felt ignored. After all, we were always trying to deal with our adopted daughter. Our son is biological. My daughter would instead deal with her bio family and us when she needs money.
    My son doesn’t have a car cause my daughter stole it to pay for drugs. My husband and I do not have wedding rings or many other things because my daughter stole them for drugs. I am tired, and I feel guilty at times. Yet, I resolve to keep her away from me and my home. I refuse to be abused by her mentally anymore.

    Reply
    1. rparents Post author

      Dear Monique,

      Your daughter has shown her true colors, hasn’t she? With all the lying and stealing. I’m so sorry that you’ve gone through what you have … Your experience will help others to look more closely and realistically at their own.

      HUGS to you,
      Sheri McGregor

      Reply
  20. Trish

    I read all of this but need to slow down so I can process all the possibilities relating to my family and myself. We are truly a mess as a family. Everything you wrote really scares me. I don’t think my kid is a narcissist. There is a possibility that things changed during those years he was in another country. I know he was horribly unhappy about it and so was I. He did come back different. I just want the kid back that loved his whole family. If only I could go back and have them all together,,, just one more time. Thanks, Sheri, for posting this. Maybe I am the narcissist. I will find out and do my best to fix it.

    Reply
    1. rparents Post author

      Dear Trish,

      There’s something that is frequently said about a narcissist never asking themselves if they are the one who is. That you are willing to look at this from that perspective demonstrates that you are a multifaceted human being willing to look at your own mistakes. I hope you will not take on/take in others’ failings as your own. It IS good to look at our family’s history though. In my 2021 book, Beyond Done, there is some how-tos on this that help with looking at one’s family history and relatives. Perhaps it will be of help to you.

      Hugs,
      Sheri McGregor

      Reply
  21. Cindy K.

    This hit home for me as I am convinced my son has a NPD and is also a recovered drug addict. Also thanks to relaxed laws he now has access to cannabis on a daily basis. Anyway he and his ex wife use our only grandchildren to punch and manipulate us. I am currently banned from seeing them and it breaks my heart. His lack of empathy is beyond comprehension especially since his only sibling died from cancer just a few years ago. We are convinced that he loves us on some level but does not truly care about us and has said so many times. I continued to walk on eggshells and help financially so see the kids. But he has to be nice. If I can’t see them and he is incredibly uncaring, he can live on the street now.

    Reply
    1. rparents Post author

      Dear Cindy,

      You have set parameters (boundaries), which is important. Good for you because it’s a way to take back some of the power in a relationship such as you describe. I hope that it will all work out for the best, that your grandchildren continue to be loving and kind, and that you can at least mitigate the harm with your boundaries.

      HUGS to you,
      Sheri McGregor

      Reply
  22. Ginny

    Thank you for the post on narcissism. For several years now, I’ve been watching videos of professionals discussing this on YouTube. It’s difficult, I believe ,for most grandparents because you have to deal with the adult parent who is a narcissist just to see your grandchildren. In the case of my son, , over the years, he’s used them as pawns to say we can’t see them if we don’t listen to what he says .
    Many times, I want to communicate with my daughter-in-law who is in the past been supportive, but usually she’ll tell her husband and everything explodes. I want her to consider, the benefit of at least faking it, to care for us , for the sake of their children’s emotional health but then I decided that would no good.

    Reply
    1. Nanette

      i am sorry about your grandchildren. I am not allowed to see my autistic grandson because my npd adult child will not allow me. This is a painful journey for grandparents. Everything you posted I understand and have experienced.

      Reply
    2. rparents Post author

      Dear Ginny,
      I hear from people often who talk of a daughter- or son-in-law they wish could help them. Sometimes it does work, at least for a time. But the poor spouse of an individual with NPD is terribly difficult. To be put in the middle is a tough place to be because of the abuse.
      Thank you for posting .

      HUGS to you,
      Sheri McGregor

      Reply

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