Opinion: Narcissistic Parents Demand Complete Control of Their Children’s Bodies

Walter Rhein

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I grew up with a narcissistic father and it took me a long time to realize that I owned myself. This is a very difficult and very important concept for children to learn.

My controlling father implied that I was his property. These decisions went beyond the healthy obligations of parental protection.

As a parent, I feel it’s important that my children understand their autonomy. I feel children need to be empowered to stand up to abusive adults.

My father exercised complete control over where I went and what I did. I developed tactics to get around this, but my strategies were always within a framework of control.

My father’s strategy was controlling but it was also lazy. He demanded that I stay in certain places and do certain jobs. He put me somewhere and then ignored me. As long as I appeared to do what he said, he left me alone.

My experience with narcissistic parents showed me they are not as intelligent as they believe. You can use their self-concept of intelligence against them.

“I wouldn’t do anything against your rules because you’re so smart I know you would catch me.” I would say. I often used flattery as a weapon against my narcissistic father.

My father wouldn’t sign a work permit. This increased my dependency on him. It also meant I had to rely on his opinion on the value of my labor.

“The work you did isn’t good enough, you’ll get fired if you are lazy like this in a real job,” he would say.

Years of this treatment created multiple barriers to achieving a positive self-concept.

By the time I was old enough to work without a permit, he’d conditioned me to believe my work had no value. This was a very effective control tactic.

It took me years to develop a healthy perception of self-ownership. Even into my twenties, I still considered myself my father’s property. The only thing that mattered was his approval.

When I got my first job which was not farm work, I felt guilty about how easy it was. When my employers told me I was doing good work, I didn’t believe them.

I didn’t believe them even when they paid me more money, gave me promotions, and recommended me for other jobs.

It took me years to break down my mental perception that my narcissistic father owned me. Even when I rebelled against it when I was young, the lessons still took root in my worldview.

I thought that I had no right to pursue any career that my father did not approve of. When I began to work for other employers, I didn’t believe their positive feedback. I even turned down raises at times because I thought I didn’t deserve them.

Even decades later, I still fall into the thought pattern of my childhood. There is a familiarity in thinking I need to turn over my decisions to my narcissistic father. Those are my childhood memories.

Growing up with a narcissistic father makes me doubt many of my decisions. He conditioned me to defer self-ownership to him. Even today, I have to make a deliberate effort to make beneficial choices.

It was scary to live with a parent that felt it was his right to control every aspect of my life. His beliefs created thought patterns that made me vulnerable to other abusers.

As a parent, I teach my children that they own themselves. This is a deliberate act to give them personal 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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