If you have a child with a narcissist or sociopath, there are so many horrible things that can go wrong. Unfortunately, having a child makes it harder to escape the narcissist’s games. You can only protect your boundaries as much as possible and engage as little as possible, but I will be honest, even if you have full custody, you will most likely still have to deal with the narcissist’s controlling ways.
My narcissist ex shows very little real interest in my son, even though he *talks* about caring a lot. His behaviors show otherwise. In fact, on the rare occasions that he comes for his visitation, he seems more concerned with harassing me than seeing my son. This is evident in the way he insists that we don’t need to exchange my son with a supervisor or at the police station, and his insistence that he should just call me and show up at my home. This from a guy who says I’m lying about how abusive he is, and that I make false accusations. If he really believes I make false accusations, why in the WORLD would he push so hard to be alone with me, call me, or come to my home?! If he’s really concerned that I will falsely accuse him, shouldn’t he WANT someone to witness the exchanges? But of course, with a narcissist, nothing makes sense.
It frustrates me that, even after all the bullying, gas lighting, the smear campaign, the abuse, the ongoing attacks, and more, I cannot get completely out from underneath the narcopath’s thumb.
Even if you have full custody, here are ten ways a narcissist can and will control you through your child:
Refusing to pay child support
This is a big one. It’s hard to raise a child alone, and child care is very expensive. Many of us struggle to make ends meet while the narcissist drives new cars, spends big money socializing, and travels all over. I’m going to be in trouble if my car dies, and I definitely don’t have money for a vacation, let alone multiple trips! So while we support our kids completely alone, the narcissists leave us hanging. A child support payment is a rare treat, and yet most of us do everything we can to give our kids the best. Sadly, the narcissist will never want the best for the kids. They want the best for themselves, and there’s no way that supporting a child is going to stop them!
Playing with your time
My narcopath ex loves this. He is always late to get my son, and always even later to bring him back. I am always early or on time, because I don’t want to be the one violating the visitation agreement. I spend a lot of time sitting and waiting. Because my ex doesn’t take his full visitation time, or all of his visits, he is supposed to notify me ahead of time so I can have the ability to plan my weekends. Of course he doesn’t. Every time, I’m left hanging. Should I make other plans? Can I? Is he going to show up? How will I spend my Saturday off work? Should I go ahead and give my son lunch? Then the narcopath changes the time. I get my son ready, but narc calls to say he needs more time. Today this happened FIVE times. The whole day was all about waiting for the narc to show up and wondering if I was going to get yet another call saying he needed another hour or two.
Telling your child bad things about you
Another narc favorite. If you have a young child, they might repeat it back to you even if they don’t know what it means. My sweet little two year old came home and told me “Mommy is a crazy lady.” Gee, wonder where he got that from? When the kids get older, the do know what the words mean. Then they either believe them, or get mad that their other parent is bad mouthing you. Either way, the bully you tried to divorce is still on your back.
Making you fear for your child’s safety
This one is the worst for me. My narcopath ex is aggressive and violent, and a frequent road-rager. He gets in a wreck a year on average. I was in the car with him, (with my child,) and he’d still drive dangerously. So now I have to wonder when my son is alone with him, how is he driving? Then I have to wonder, is he going to bring my son back? My ex has removed the license plate from his car. Why? Is this so no one can track him? My ex also has a history of drunk driving and suspended/revoked licenses. Is he driving like this with my son? I can only wait and pray.
Guilt-tripping you for more time
Fortunately, my narcopath ex’s visits are limited, and he doesn’t take all of them. But sometimes, he decides he really does want to show up…on his time. If he were normal and reasonable, I wouldn’t mind. But this is a guy who manipulates and runs over everyone around him. My boundaries are barbed wire, electric fences at this point! I will not give an inch, because he will take ten miles. And so, when I don’t do what he says, I hear about how I’m tearing my son away from his family, and more. Frankly, I think he could give up some of his one night stands and show up for his visits, but he really just wants to tell me that I’m being mean to him if he skips his visit and demands a different time at the last minute.
Playing Father of the Year in front of others
Recently, narcopath went a few months without visiting my son, but suddenly wanted to visit. I figured there was a catch! I learned after the fact, that he took my son to a social gathering with a bunch of people we know. He paraded my son around as though he was the best dad ever, then he promptly left my son with an 11 year old baby sitter for the rest of the visit. He used my child as a prop to impress people, then dumped my child so he could go party. My son came home talking about how much fun he had with the baby-sitter. The first visit in three months.
Changing your child’s appearance
If your narcissist ex can’t boss you around and control you, they will do it through the only connection you have–your child. Children of narcissists often come home with new hairstyles, new clothes, dyed hair and who knows what else. I never know if my son will have the same hair when he comes home. I also wonder how well people could identify him from a picture if his dad kidnapped him and changed his hair again.
“Losing” your child’s belongings
Be sure never to send your child’s best clothes or toys on a visit…because they probably won’t come back at some point! My son had a toy he really loved, and he kept bragging to his dad that “my mommy bought me this.” Guess which toy came back snapped in half? My two year old wasn’t strong enough to do it…. This is another form of control. If the narc can’t hurt you directly, they will take and destroy the things you provide for you child.
Asking you to supply their visits
Which leads me to this next one. In our visitation agreement, it is noted that my ex is to supply all of my son’s needs–clothes, toiletries, food, toys, and more during their visits. Does that happen? Of course not! Maybe, I should start introducing him to websites like https://serp.co/best/remote-control-snake/ and similar ones to explore gifts for the children. At least, he can have an idea of what type of toys our child likes. Hopefully, he can make use of them and buy them the next time he plans to make a visit. My ex doesn’t pay child support, but he can’t bring himself to buy a pair of pajamas at Walmart for $10 either. And so, every time he shows up, he tells, (not asks,) me to bring my son’s overnight supplies. And I do it because if I don’t, my son will sleep naked and come home in dirty clothes. (Yes, this happened before I finally started sending the bag.) A narcissist will avoid responsibility in EVERY way they can.
During the brief time I have to see the narcopath–while dropping off and picking up my son–he is up to his old tricks. My ex doesn’t like to spend any money on my son, so he always brings my son home hungry. He always says he skipped dinner because I said I’d feed my son. No, I didn’t say that, but I’m going to do it anyway because I’m not letting my child starve when the ex brings him home hungry.
The ex also bugs me to change visitation orders. I stay firm and say “no,” because I am sticking to the judge’s signed papers. The ex always gas lights me and tells me the judge’s orders are only suggestions. Umm…no. They are not. They aren’t “suggestions.” They are ORDERS. And so, on and on, I have to put up with these head games.
All these little ways of annoying me, controlling me, trying to keep a hand in my life. Narcissists like control. I’ve noticed they don’t always care what their choices are…as long as it’s the opposite of what you are hoping to accomplish. They play games simply to keep us off balance. They dodge supporting their children. They come and go as they please, and expect everyone to accommodate their wishes. The kids are just pawns to them. If the child is cute or smart, the narc will probably show up more often simply so they can show off your child and take credit. Amazing how they can take credit when they don’t pay for anything and only spend the minimum amount of time, but that’s how narcissists work!
If you have a child or children with a narc, and the narc is in the picture in any way, you are going to have to deal with their behavior at some point. All you can do is hold your boundaries and never show them they are annoying you. When they know they have bothered you, that is when they win because that is what they want.
8 thoughts on “Ten ways a narcissist will control you through your children”
I have a very very sad story that could actually be a book or movie. It involves guardianship that was awarded to the oldest son, who is a master of deception, and by all measures used his master Narco skills to take my daughter away from her home of 31 years. From a dad and mom that are Heart Broken to say the least. In fact it will be the death of us, knowing her fate and life is being Cut short and I need someone that help.
A son who was married to a beautiful young lady that was physically and emotional abused, she tolerated it for 10 years until she just couldn’t take it anymore. He convinced her to agree to divorce thru “legal zoom” and Lord only knows the conditions he set. He did not want her to reveal his darkest secrets.
This gets really deep to deep to detail. I have spent and my life savings in fighting to get my daughter home. After 3-useless Lawyers and $58k – it did’nt happen. He used his money and power to bully courts.
I have reached out to countless people and organizations because what is Sad, she wants to come home. Her care is being neglected and I have proof, but they do not want to know.
Her developmental disability gives her a cognitive skill of a 3-4 year old, therefore she had no voice-no rights as a disabled adult.
Not only is she incompscitated physically and mentally she is being denied the medical care she requires to treat her diagnoses of CVID in 2012. I have the proof of the neglect,, but yet the courts ignore it. Lawyers I paid a small fortune to could not litigate and especially catch this Narco up.
This is a damn mess and my daughter is the victim. I have two other sons they too were persuaded to turn against there parents in support of their controlling Narco older brother.
My daughter is 34.
This is so intense and complicated. I only pray that I find the money and will to find a person or group that can save my daughters life, he stole her joy and his actions will be the death of Her, me and her mother.
We need help and advice. I am on a stupid phone finger typing this, this does not Even Scratch the surface of this. Honestly there is probably not and never will be a Gaurdisndhip Cade like this. The good ol boys in this County can not do it. Especially wihen the son has the Chief Justice abd Lt Gov In his hip pocket.
Need I say more…,
The one thing that I found that works with sociopaths is to never let them see you happy or doing well, because they have to make you pay.
Your instinct will be to let them know you’re doing just fine without them, but instead you should present that life is not all roses. You don’t have enough money for food because all your money goes to the child. You don’t have time to go out. It has been difficult on your own.
Sucks, yes, but they feel like they are “winning” and will not escalate their bullshit.
What you said in this article is absolutely correct before and after I divorced my Narcissistic husband in 1987 he used every strategy you mentioned to control and abuse me. I didn’t know until after my children were born that he had a habit of impregnating women and dodging the child support obligation afterward by telling the court the women were unfaithful to him. He hoped that I would let him off the hook by getting a job and living with my parents until the children were adults. To make a long story short everything he’s done to avoid paying child support has ruined my relationships with my children. I don’t want to engage in put down visits on holidays or pay a ransom to have a relationship with my adult children or grandchildren.
This is interesting, because my narcopath has done some of these things the opposite way. My narcopath ex paid the child support without question. He was notoriously good at “forgetting” to take care of little things like bill paying, so I insisted that he set up an automatic bank draft to transfer money from his account to mine for the support. This way, I didn’t have to keep asking him or wait for him to get around to it. He is a practicing attorney, so providing the support while still driving his convertible Mercedes and doing what HE wants to do was never a hardship. In our situation, his “agreeability” in paying the support was a tool in his belt to “demonstrate” to the kids and others about how much he loves them (since I am incapable of truly loving my kids according to him . . . . more about that later).
Playing with my time.
I learned early on – when my first child was an infant that I could take control of his manipulation of my time. After the first time he said he’d come home from work to take care of her so I could have a night out with friends and he didn’t call or show up, I learned to hire a sitter every time. This way, he could come home when he wanted, and I was not prevented from my own self-care time. Later when we were divorced this became an ongoing game. He NEVER, and I mean NEVER picked the children up at the time agreed upon either in the parenting agreement or a different time agreed upon between us. It was as though something inside him could not allow me to have so much power over him as to dictate when he had to be anywhere. Since he felt and feels no responsibility or commitment to me, it is no surprise. Again, my strategy was to let go of any expectation and to take care of myself. If I needed to be somewhere, I hired a sitter and later when I remarried I often left them with my husband for the narcopath ex to pick up. He hated that! It was truly rich one evening when he showed up very late, my husband was angry with him and he voiced surprise that it was my husband who was there instead of me suggesting that if he had known, he would have been there sooner. (Translated, I don’t care a rats ass about her time, but I don’t want you to think I’m a jackass – because I care about what other people think and say about me – after all, I’m a narcissist. She should have told me you were here so I could have been closer to being on time to prove that she lies about what a jerk I am. Therefore, in a twisted sort of way, it is her fault that I’m late.)
Telling your child bad things about you
I was abused and then abandoned as a child. My father was a narcissist. Yes, I came into the marriage broken, wounded, and a child narcissistic personality abuse victim. But before I knew my narcopath was a narcopath, before he showed me what he was really like, I trusted him. My discernment button was broken. My truster button was broken. But he lavished praise and adoration on me to build me up to trust him – and I fell for it, hook, line, and sinker. Then, he took all that I had shared – my woundedness, the abuse, the vulnerability of all of that and he used it for years to brainwash my children into believing that because of the abuse and brokenness of my childhood, my ability to love them was broken. He promoted the idea that he, alone loved them. He demonstrated his “love” by giving them stuff – he could afford to do that. He was permissive. He set no boundaries when they were with him – no curfews, nor discipline. As they got old enough to choose for themselves, but not old enough to see what was going on, they chose to move in with him. He continued the brainwashing programming against me. He bought them cars, clothes, insurance, and housing. You name it, he pays for it. Unlike the narcopath you described above, mine spends obscene amounts of money on them to keep them from me. My daughter recently told her younger sister (who understands that his a narcissist), “Mom has issues with money”. Hmmmm. Wonder where she has heard that before? My “issue” with money is that I don’t “support” irresponsible adults. I am generous when they truly need help because I love them. I support them when they are going to school to improve their lives and move towards adult independence. But I do not keep them in bondage to me by bailing them out of every mess they get in and supporting them until they no longer believe that they have the ability to take care of themselves on their own. So my narcopath’s two-fold strategy has been to insidiously convince the children that I am incapable of loving them, and keep them under his power by enabling, preventing their ability to live independently.
Making me fear for my child’s safety
He is an alcoholic. He is tall and weighs more than 200 lbs. Consequently, he can drink all the alcohol he wants to and not get “drunk”. So he says. Of course, this is no surprise to anyone who knows that an inherent trait of the narcissist is that he is the exception to the rule. If the rule says that you drink all you want you will become drunk, then he believes his own physical body is above that phenomenon and that he can drink without it affecting him. Needless to say, I have spent many weekends when they were with him worried about their safety until I got them back! And so far as their drug or alcohol use? He funds it. By taking care of housing, cars, clothes and food, they can literally take the money he gives them or earn, when they happen to be working, to spend on parties, drugs or anything else they want.
Guilt tripping you for more time
I hadn’t really thought about this one, but while I don’t think it was about time, the guilt tripping was real. We mostly kept to the parenting agreement and were open towards adjusting the schedule. If his mother was in town, I was glad to let the kids spend more time there to be with their grandmother and he was amenable to changes, too. I realize now that any “agreeability” I experienced from him served a greater purpose of being perceived as an awesome dad. But I did feel guilty. Throughout the years, I have tried to resist the urge to feel as though I had somehow done something wrong or the problems and the divorce would have never happened. I guess it is safe to say, I was just guilt tripped overall. Covert messages always were something like “I love you. I’ve always loved you. I’m sorry you feel like you have to do this. You can’t love. You’re broken.” When we hear this long enough, it is nearly impossible to avoid internalizing it. That is why it is imperative to cut off the contact. If I’m not in contact with the negative input, then it can’t hurt me.
Playing Father of the Year
Oh, yeah. Without rehearsing all I’ve said before, Disneyland Dad, was all about lavishing his form of indulgent love on the kids so others would think he was a great dad. And of course he believes it. But anyone close to our family can see the damage he has done and continues to do by his version of the “father of the year.”
Changing your child’s appearance
When my oldest daughter was 12, 13, 14 years old, she came home literally every other weekend from his house with designer jeans, expensive t-shirts, handbags, shoes, make-up, etc. The clothing was sexually provocative and totally inappropriate for a child that age. She thought she looked great. She thought her dad loved her. She didn’t know that he was setting her up to relate to men and submit to men sexually to get approval and love. The therapist I was seeing at the time called it emotional incest and she was spot on. And the dynamic hasn’t changed. It is so very sad. If I tried to restrict her clothing choices or say anything to redirect her self image, I heard things like “You just don’t really understand me like dad does.” “You are being ridiculous” “None of this (clothes/stuff) means what you are saying”. “You don’t know what you’re talking about”. “Admit it mom, you and I are never going to be close.” The voice I heard coming from her mouth was the feminine voice of my child, but my heart heard his deep baritone speaking right through her.
Asking me to supply their visits and losing things?
Not so much, especially the supplying things – because he got to take them out and buy them tons of stuff so they would think he was great and “loved them”. They had way too much – everything they did need and much more that they truly didn’t.
That went on for years. For years I railed against it thinking that I could help him see that he was mistaking. I have to say that I never actually believed what he was saying, because I knew better, but in the context of a marriage commitment and years of hearing the lies, I learned how to back down just to end the argument. I’d say, “Okay, whatever you say,” just to get him to shut up and stop telling me that he didn’t say what I heard him say or that he did say what I know he never said. I just didn’t know that was “gas lighting”. I wouldn’t say he made me think I was crazy in that I didn’t trust my own memory, but I did become seriously depressed. I felt like an animal in a cage, bound to my marriage commitment, desperate to protect my children from the painful life I’d known from a broken family, not fully understanding yet what was going on and consequently, totally powerless to “fix” it.
Here is my advice to any parent who is living with a narcissist. Get expert help and witnesses to his abuse and leave him or her and take the kids with you. Make a case for the abuse he is inflicting on them with the courts. Move as far away as you can to minimize your children’s contact with the narcopath. Seek professional counseling support for them – before they show signs of trouble – they will need it. Make sure the counselor is educated in narcissistic abuse victim syndrome. Seek expert counsel for yourself. You and your children are victims. Listen for cues of language you recognize as being from him and support the children in a gentle process of deconstructing the lies.
After all of these years, we very recently engaged in an intervention for my son who is addicted to drugs. My narcopath showed up, promised to cooperate, wrote a check, but when the intervention began, he took over, abandoned all of the “rules” he had agreed to follow, and subsequently sabotaged the intervention. He did it because he “knows” his son better than any of us. The reality is that if his son really got sober and well, he would not come home to live with his dad. He can’t handle that. He needs his son to be struggling and failing in life to be able to “rescue” him to prop up his “superior parent” facade. The interventionist called me the next day to say he’d never seen anything like it. The two interventionists who worked with us quickly realized that, to the narcopath in my life, it was more important to him to “beat me” than to really help his son. So very sad. My narcissistic ex, in spite of my son’s therapist recommending at least 3 months, got him out of rehab in 2 weeks and, no surprise, took him home to live with him again.
Many narcissists are powerful and manipulative. The key is recognize what you are dealing with quickly as you can, arm yourself with information/knowledge, organize professional counsel and support – you will need it and make a plan to walk away. The sooner the better for your children and for you.
A group of mothers facing this serious problem asked me to write a book for their children. My book, The King and Queen of Mean teaches children about the selfish and manipulating behaviors of some relatives. It also shows them how to take care of themselves when dealing with a narcissistic parent and to make good choices to not become like that person. Besides being on amazon.co I share a free pdf file of the book with anyone who will put it on their FB page. email me a firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks again. I need to be grateful every day that my son doesn’t know his father. That’s presents a different kind of pain. X
I just shared this post on twitter. It is so true and hits home for me because for me the most recent narc was a relative who was trying to take my parental rights away. They have a degree in Behavioral Science and do Social Work so they have clout and a degree as one of their flying monkeys. We ran suddenly and they had almost no warning that we were going to leave, they saw that I was going through my things and getting rid of a lot of my belongings. My kid had no warning at all and it shook them them up but we made it out and I’ve had to stick to my guns that we weren’t going to see them ever and refused all contact. It’s not been long but I’m doing my best and those who are close to me can see how much it’s effected me and how hard I’m trying to keep my family together. Thank you for your post, it means a lot to me.