Opinion: Narcissistic Parents Don’t Consider Their Child’s Emotional Health

Walter Rhein

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Many parents believe that if they put food on the table and a roof overhead they’ve fulfilled their parental duties. However, to raise a child properly you must attend to that child’s mental health.

The best thing my narcissistic father ever did for my family was leaving. Not having him around the house on a day-to-day basis was an enormous relief from pressure.

Even though he didn’t live with us, my father still managed to exert a negative influence on our lives. It took me years to recognize the full extent of his abusive behavior.

Growing up, our family never had conversations about emotional trauma. The only solution when somebody felt bad was to wait until they felt better.

My father said, “Time heals all wounds.” Although this is a common saying, it’s not true. Some wounds won’t heal unless you attend to them.

Sometimes children can experience trauma and they need mature guidance to heal.

My uncle passed away when I was nine. We went to his funeral and then never talked about him again. This was a good opportunity to discuss emotions. Instead, we waited to feel better.

My father became uncomfortable when we talked about emotions in the house. He’d say, “I don’t want to talk about that.”

He didn’t allow us to talk about emotions even when he wasn’t present. The subject was off-limits.

My narcissistic father was a very manipulative and controlling person. I’ve come to suspect that not talking about emotions was another way to control us.

People in my household often felt bad because of something my father said or did. In a healthy relationship, it’s valuable to examine why words or actions are hurtful.

Sometimes, recognizing why you feel hurt is a way of achieving growth in your relationship. Sometimes we feel frustrated and don’t know why.

My father would say hurtful things and then claim it was a joke. He said we shouldn’t take his words seriously. When he recognized we were angry, he didn't speak to us.

When our normal interactions resumed, so did the insults. Our relationship didn't improve because my father refused to discuss his behavior.

I remember feeling frustrated growing up. If I asked my father, he’d say, “Life is hard.”

When I see that something is bothering one of my children, I ask them about it. I try to help them feel better.

When my children are unhappy with my behavior, I evaluate my actions and apologize when necessary.

I do not apologize for every conflict. Part of modeling responsible behavior means admitting mistakes.

Feelings of frustration are part of being a human being. You get frustrated when you learn to ride a bicycle. You get frustrated when you learn your multiplication tables.

Good parents help their children navigate frustration so they can get to a healthier mental state.

My narcissistic father liked to keep me in a state of frustration. This ensured that I would fail at school and in my relationships. This made me easier to control.

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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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