Opinion: Narcissistic Parents Make Families Compete Instead of Cooperate

Walter Rhein

Image by Walter Rhein

It is sad when members of a family compete against each other. Life is difficult. There are unexpected challenges around every corner.

You have to have people you can rely on in your life.

My narcissistic father made our home a very competitive environment. This was a reflection of the home where he grew up.

I competed with my brother and sister in all things. The goal was to win at all costs. Losers did not receive any praise.

The same dynamic existed when we went to visit my father’s extended family. We would sit around a large table and hurl insults at each other. The objective was to make the meanest statement possible.

The problem with competition is that it fosters resentment.

When we were young, our competition revolved around unimportant things. We competed by playing video games. We competed when we played board games.

As we got older, our focus changed. We competed against each other in things like academics and personal relationships.

The problem with competition is that you don’t have to do your best to win. You only have to defeat your opponent. When families work together, they might discover they can all receive more than they can by working alone.

In a competitive environment, your opponent might rely on sabotage to win. For example, if you have to take an important academic test, a brother or sister that resents you might play loud music at night so you can’t sleep.

A household that’s based on competition becomes very hostile. You learn that you can’t trust anyone. Your siblings and your parents give you bad advice so that you fail. They perceive your failure as their advantage.

In a competitive household, failure becomes the only expression of love. My father taught me to hold back so that the other people in my family could feel better about themselves.

It doesn’t make any sense for members of a family to compete against each other. A healthy family celebrates achievement. When one person in your family prospers, everyone prospers.

Competition can have advantages in certain areas. Competition can make you push yourself in ways that are different than cooperation.

Fair competition can be healthy. My competitive family displayed lots of resentment. This resentment made other members of my family sabotage my efforts.

The lingering resentment is why I had to ghost my narcissistic family members.

As a parent, I work to create a household based on cooperation. I feel it’s important for the members of my family to celebrate each other.

My narcissistic father took pleasure in watching me fail. I take pleasure in watching my children succeed.

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Walter Rhein is an author with Perseid Press. He also does a weekly column for The Writing Cooperative on Medium.

Chippewa Falls, WI

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