How a narcissistic parent treats the golden child vs the scapegoat

narcdandelion Aren’t I lucky? Neither of my parents was healthy and both were narcissistic in some ways. Yay me. While I was my mother’s only child, my dad re-married and had a second daughter. When he started his new family, I was discarded and kicked out of my paternal family as if I’d never been born. In fact, when I was 15, he drunkenly told me he wished I’d never been born. Safe to say, I was not the Golden Child!

The terms Scapegoat and Golden Child may be familiar to children of narcissistic parents. In a nutshell, the Scapegoat is the child that can’t do anything in right in the narcissist’s eyes. He or she will be ignored, neglected, blamed, criticized, left out, and basically treated like someone who is worthless. On the other hand, the Golden child can do no wrong. The narcissist will ignore his or her faults, spoil him or her, and brag about him or her. Neither the Scapegoat nor the Golden Child might be any of the things that the narcissist labels them, but their real personalities, strengths and faults are ignored because the disordered parent can only see them as good or bad.

At one point, my dad seemed to love me more than anyone. He adored me, spent time with me and paid attention to me, which was a relief because my mother was disinterested in me from the time I was born. My dad was the parent I loved and trusted. After my parents divorced, he focused on me as the only good thing in his life, and he always had a gift waiting for me when I visited him. We did all kinds of fun things like going to movies, amusement parks and festivals. Back then, it was pretty common for dads to get every weekend visitation while moms had custody most of the time. My parents’ divorce ordered weekend visits and my dad picked me up every Friday evening.

This went on for about a year until my dad remarried when I was almost 8. Then the visits slowed down. His new wife got pregnant right away, and within a year, I had a half-sister. I had always wanted a sister! But, I was barely around her because my dad stopped picking me up.  I was left out of every family event–weddings, funerals, birthdays, and more. Pretty soon, I was going years at a time without hearing from my dad–who lived in the same town. His wife didn’t want me around, and my dad complained that my mom was using him as a weekend baby-sitter. That’s how narcissists view their time with their kids–an obligation rather than a privilege!

My dad had a good job and came from a well-off family. He and his new family lived in a very large home in the best part of town, wore nice clothes, went on nice vacations, drove nice cars, ate good food…you get the point. I lived in an okay area with my mother who was usually broke. We weren’t living far above the poverty line. I used to wonder, on the rare days I saw my dad, how he could give his new daughter everything, yet forget that I existed. He even mocked me for my mother’s junky house and my cheap clothes. I used to wonder how he didn’t see that he was my parent and was responsible for my upbringing as well. But the fact is, he is simply too selfish to care.

When I was an adult, he apologized a bit and made excuses, and I tried to develop a relationship with my father. He then started comparing me to his other daughter, pointing out that she wore expensive clothes and was able to buy a nicer house. What he neglected to mention was that she lived at home well into her twenties, in his nice house for free. She had a child, but he watched her son for her so she wouldn’t have to pay for daycare. She didn’t even get a job until she was over 20, and never worked full-time until she was around 25. Then, she lived at home while she saved for a nice house. Of course she had money for nicer clothes and a down payment! With me, I was working at 14 and got out of my mother’s house early. I bought my own very modest house at a young age. There was no help. When I had my first child, I paid for daycare which was expensive and left me struggling to live on very little money. I asked my dad to watch my child every once in a while, and he declined every single time. So I’d wonder, why would my dad give his other daughter so much, but refuse to help me in any way? Why would he help her get a good start in life while denying me even occasional help? Why would he criticize me for working so hard to get ahead and not realize it was because I didn’t have the same benefits he gave his other daughter? He claimed to love me and was never outright mean to me, but it was clear that he favored his other daughter and her child, while me and mine came last.

In 2010, I called my dad on Christmas Day and asked when I could come over. He told me to wait until they’d had their family dinner. That stung me. Was I not his daughter? Was I not family? I vented to my half-sister and she became angry telling me that our dad was wonderful and would do anything for us. Well…maybe for her. But never for me. I tried to explain to her that her experience was very different from mine, but she hasn’t talked to me since. The Golden Child usually sees the narcissistic parent as infallible and is closed-minded to recognizing any faults.

Not too long ago, my father voluntarily told me that I was not on his life insurance policy and that all of his money and belongings would go to his other daughter and his wife’s son when he died. He explained to me that it was only fair because I had another parent. I was shocked. So, because I have a mother, he’s off the hook as my father? The meaning of the comment was far worse than not getting any money.

That’s the way it goes for the Scapegoat of a narcissistic parent. We are left confused and wondering why our parent seems to despise us and why we matter so much less than the Golden Child. I think in my case, it was just because I was the child of a failed marriage and his other daughter just happened to grow up in his house with him. I still don’t understand how any parent can ever just stop caring for their child. My mother didn’t block access. She wanted him to pick me up for my visits, (so she could go out on her own,) but he just didn’t care. For him, it was easy to replace a daughter. Crazy how narcissists think, isn’t it?

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7 thoughts on “How a narcissistic parent treats the golden child vs the scapegoat

  1. Thank you for sharing your story. The feeling of being a ‘spare child’ or not as important as your siblings is soul crushing. You need to keep focusing on your achievements. I appreciated your perspective regarding scape goats its helped.

  2. I can completely relate to this. I started out the lost child in the family then when the older kids moved out I got upgraded to scapegoat. You can’t do anything right by the npd parent, the enabler , and the golden child. Even after you’ve grown up and left home you still cannot convince them that you were treated differently , less than, and wrong . They just will not . They justify their words and actions and discount your hurt and tears. They will never treat you the same and certainly never better and then usually as in my family you become every persons punching bag in the family. They do not respect your feelings or your boundaries . It just makes you wish you lived on the other side of the earth to get away from them so you don’t end up losing your mind. They destroy your self esteem and your self confidence even as you are in the developmental stage. They step on it like a tiny bud coming out the ground. Stomped out before it has the chance to thrive. I believe it is worse for kids from divorced families. One parent abandons the relationship and all you’re left with is one parent who isn’t your parent but the golden child’s parent. You’re always on the outside looking in at what you can’t have which is parents and wondering what you did wrong to get cut off from the flock. They love to parentify you as well. As soon as you are off the bottle it is your job to worry about homework , eating , hygiene, your laundry as early as the age of 6, or I was which is why I had a hard time learning in kindergarten. It’s hard to learn colors when you are left to learn to tie your shoes by yourself, walk yourself down a highway home from school alone, and dig your dirty pants out the hamper for school the next day because your parent doesn’t care enough about you anymore to do those things. Basically , it’s like a tornado , it rips through your life , you don’t know why, and you carry PTSD around with you the rest of your life because of it. Haven’t these people just heard of orphanages ? I think that would’ve been better option for me since I wasn’t wanted anymore anyway and at least then maybe someone would have.

  3. I remember my father and his golden child, my older sister. He and my older sister would get together and tear down everyone. Me included. I was mocked, bullied, slapped, kicked, punched, and pushed. I remember my father laughing at my clothes, as though he were not in any way responsible. I remember my father laughing and smirking (oh, The Narcissistic Smirk) as I was being abused by my mother.

  4. Thanks for sharing, I feel like I’m in a same situation. My Mom always helps my sister (the Golden child) to get ahead in life. I always feel left out and it hurts me. It seems like I can do nothing right, I have no self-esteem and I feel that my sister is always better at everything. It’s really sad and it’s hard to get passed all of this and to live a happy life.

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