Join our mailing list!

THE LEGACY OF A NARCISSISTIC PARENT

Posted: Thu, 04/02/2015 - 12:56

 


BE



Narcissistic Parent

 

THE LEGACY OF A NARCISSISTIC PARENT

When Dr. Robin Berman was first establishing her own practice, she intended to work solely with kids—until she realized that she couldn’t do much for little ones without re-parenting the grown-ups. Per Dr. Berman, who is also an associate professor of psychiatry at UCLA, the vicious cycle can be intense. But there’s hope, which she details in a compelling read, Permission to Parent: How to Raise your Child With Love and Limits, which combines her own insights with feedback from kids and adults who turned out well. The themes of the book are straightforward and profound: In short, this generation’s take on parenting—overbearing, enabling, overindulgent—is a pendulum swing in the opposite direction from the way they were parented (ignored, abandoned, unseen).

One of the more vicious cycles that Berman has addressed in her practice is the legacy of the narcissist parent—because it often begets narcissistic children. Here, her thoughts on how it manifests, plus ways to break the cycle.

———

I was in the grocery store when a three-year-old girl burst into tears in line after her mom said that she could not have candy. Looking agitated, her mom barked, “I have no time for this nonsense right now!” Then came the clincher: “Why do you always do this to me when I am in a hurry? You sure know how to ruin my day.”

Ugh. My heart sank. I felt badly for this little girl, not because her mom said no to her candy request, but because her mom was so blinded by her own feelings that she could not have empathy for her daughter. A less narcissistic mother would have taken her daughter’s hand, looked her in the eye and calmly said: “I get how much you want this candy, but we don’t have candy before lunch.” If the mom had shown she understood her daughter’s feelings, instead of dumping her own, the girl would have felt heard and the tantrum could have subsided.

Children need to feel seen, heard, known and cherished. To be adored for who you really are is the highest form of love. Giving unconditional love is our greatest legacy as parents. Long after we die, our children will be able to tap into the feeling of being celebrated for their true selves.

By spewing out her issues, the mom skipped over her daughter’s emotions and made it about her. But as parents, we often have to set aside our own feelings to be in service to our children. Children learn when parents mirror their feelings and help them understand their experiences. When narcissism interferes, the mirror is reversed. Narcissistic parents need their kids to mirror them.

MODELING KIDS IN YOUR OWN IMAGE

Narcissism doesn’t have to be absolute. It can show up in little ways and often under the guise of doing “what’s best” for your children or giving them opportunities you were deprived of when you were little. For example, it’s understandable that you’d want to enroll your kids in soccer because you didn’t get the chance to play, but you also have to notice if they even like soccer. You might bring home clothes in monochromatic colors because that’s your style, but you have to notice what colors your child gravitates to. While you want your child to attend your alma mater because it worked for you, think about whether you’ve asked if it will work for him. To get narcissism out of the picture, make sure your motivation stacks up with what your kid wants.

HOW NARCISSISM INTERFERES WITH PARENTING

Narcissists have a way of making everything about them—they take up all of the air in the room. Their profound need for attention and praise subverts everyone else’s needs. Unchecked, a parent’s narcissism eclipses a child’s feelings. Narcissistic parents take their children’s every feeling or action personally. These parents are easily angered when a child does not agree with them or mirror them. Parents with narcissistic tendencies are so sensitive to praise and admiration as fuel that it makes them overly sensitive to criticism. So children learn to tiptoe around these emotional minefields, trying not to trigger that anger, or worse, have their parents withdraw love.

Perceptive children will also pick up on the emotional vulnerability of their parents. They will compliment their parent or try to be a perfect reflection of them. They hope that taking care of mom or dad will shore the parent up enough so he or she can eventually get back to taking care of them. With all of that care directed at parents, these children will likely lose touch with their own emotions and needs.

STEALING YOUR KIDS’ EXPERIENCES

Audrey was trying on prom dresses in a department store dressing room. The store was getting ready to close, and Audrey was acutely aware of her mom’s desire to buy a dress and leave. Her mom’s need to be done dampened Audrey’s excitement about finding a dress she felt good in for this special rite of passage. Her mother said, ”I found the perfect dress for you!” and held up an ugly dress with red and white stripes. Audrey took one look and immediately hated it. Masking her disappointment, she put it on anyway.

“It’s perfect, I love it!” Mom said, not even seeing how unhappy Audrey was. Now the girl was in a bind. Which mirror should she attend to: The literal one, which clearly showed a dress she would be embarrassed to wear, or the mirror she was used to reflecting and pleasing?

The daughter tentatively expressed her discomfort. Her mom’s agitation flared. Audrey reflexively changed her tune: ”I guess you’re right, it does fit well,” she said flatly. Her mom smiled, feeling much better. And for just the moment, Audrey felt better, too. But not really.

On prom night, Audrey walked self–consciously down the stairs to greet her date. His disappointed first words—“Red Stripes?”—were crushing.

THE EMOTIONAL TOLL OF A NARCISSISTIC PARENT

Long after the prom dress was discarded, Audrey’s memory of catering to her mom’s needs on her special night—and many other occasions—lingered. Children like Audrey often end up in therapy. They are trying to discover who they really are. They often don’t trust their instincts, and they have trouble expressing their feelings. The boundaries between mother and child become so blurred that surviving childhood means catering to their parent and subverting themselves. Children like this worry that if they assert themselves in their adult relationships, they will risk losing love. This is what happens when a parents’ narcissism engulfs their children.

But narcissism can show itself in the opposite way: Neglect. These parents are so self-obsessed that their children feel invisible. Without being seen, these cannot develop a stable sense of self and may grow up to be narcissists themselves.

BREAKING THE CYCLE

If you grew up with narcissistic parents, never fear, the legacy can end with you! Your parents’ mistakes can be rocket fuel for your own development.

  • First, you have to grieve the loss of the parent you never had. Really grieve the fact that you didn’t get the parent you needed, the one who put you and your needs first. Part of that requires releasing the fantasy that your narcissistic parent can change and eventually give you what you need. They can evolve and grow, but they may never evolve enough to meet your deepest needs. Therefore, managing expectations is key, particularly when you see glimpses of the healthy parent you wish you had had, but in fact those glimpses are often not sustainable. Accept that your parent was limited—and could not give you unconditional love or even deep empathy because she could not get past herself to truly see you. Allow yourself to feel your feelings, the anger and the sadness. Emotion has the word motion in it; allow your emotions to move through you. You might not have lost your parent to death, but you lost what could have been—you lost an opportunity to be truly mothered—and that is really a profound loss. Accepting this, rather than denying it, is the first step in opening your heart to healing.
  • You are going to need to discover boundaries—where you begin and your parents end—to free your authentic self. When you choose who you want to be, rather than who your parents wanted you to be, you break free from their narcissistic grip. Tolerate their discomfort, even if they make a lot of noise. You are not misbehaving, rebelling, or rejecting them. You are being you, the real you—maybe for the first time. This is the first part of breaking the cycle. Next, you don’t want to repeat/generalize the relationship that you had with your narcissistic parent to your coworkers, partner, or friends. Realize where you are meeting the needs of other narcissists in your life, real or imagined. Sometimes children of narcissists assume that every person they’re close to will need the same kind of hyper-attention and appeasement that their parent did—and unconsciously begin doing mental backbends to please others. At times you may be tapping into the expectations of a narcissistic boss or partner, and reflexively playing that familiar role. At other times you may be making erroneous assumptions about what someone important to you really needs—perhaps they don’t want you to mirror their opinions or they don’t need you to sugarcoat your real feelings or soften constructive criticism. Breathe, pause, give yourself some psychic space and then test it. Try just being frank, try not to rush in and take care of their feelings. If being different from your loved one feels uncomfortable—or if you feel you’re risking love with that stance—just notice it. Watch how much stronger your bond is than what you secretly imagined it to be. This is the gift of evolving past the scene of the original crime—your own childhood. Surviving childhood meant taking care of the narcissist and swallowing your feelings. But now as an adult you can begin to surround yourself with people that you feel safe and at home with—like soul mate girlfriends—who know and love the real you, and this can be deeply transformative.
  • Children of narcissistic parents often wonder if they are really loveable. You are! Start loving and caring for yourself in ways that you wished your mom or dad had loved and cared for you. Start paying attention to what really matters to you; what makes you feel alive and moments when you feel authentically you. Maybe you will need help mothering yourself. Maybe that means getting re-parented by a therapist, or maybe the healing comes from an emotionally reparative romantic partnership. Maybe you have a friend’s mother who is nurturing to you, or a mentor who celebrates the real you. All of these people can become part of your collective parent. No one person is ever capable of meeting all of your needs so start building your collective parenting community. And once you have learned to mother yourself, you will be able to mother your child.

Your journey is to love your children for their true, glorious, separate, authentic selves—and to give them what you may have not gotten enough of. It will not only be beneficial to them, it can be quite healing for you. You will grow and evolve enough to ask yourself, in difficult situations: “Is my reaction more about my child’s feelings or my own? What does he or she need right now?” This will prevent you from reacting with anger or withdrawing love, as your parent may have done to you. You are now a cycle breaker.

Conscious, mindful parenting is the ultimate in damage control. When you get your ego out of the game, you can step back enough to see the soul of your children. Just nurture that, and watch them soar.

 

Breast-feeding Pays

Posted: Mon, 03/23/2015 - 15:54

It pays to breast-feed – for babies. When they grow up, that steady diet of breast milk may boost their monthly income by up to 39%, according to a new report.

 
Researchers tracked down nearly 3,500 Brazilian adults who were enrolled in a study within days of their birth in 1982. Back in the '80s, interviewers had asked their mothers how long their children were breast-fed and how old they were when they were introduced to other foods.
 
Fast-forward to 2012. Those children are now 30-year-olds with jobs.
 
So the researchers, from the Federal University of Pelotas and the Catholic University of Pelotas, asked them how much income they earned in the previous month. They also administered an intelligence test to see if they could find a link between breast-feeding and adult IQ. (Many studies have found a correlation between breast-feeding and IQ in children.)
 
After adjusting for factors like parental education, family income at birth, genetic ancestry and mothers’ smoking and weight status, the researchers found a basically linear relationship between breast-feeding and monthly income – children who nursed for more than six months went on to earn significantly more than children who didn’t.
 
Compared to those who stopped breast-feeding by the time they were 1  month old, those who nursed for more than a year earned 28% more per month, according to the study. The benefits were even greater for people who had nursed for six months to one year – their monthly incomes were 39% higher than those in the baseline group who breast-fed for less than a month.
 
IQ followed a similar pattern. After adjusting for demographic factors, the researchers calculated that study participants who nursed for six to 12 months had 3.5 more IQ points than those who nursed for less than a month. People who were breastfed for more than a year gained 3.76 IQ points.
 
These higher IQs were the primary mechanism through which breast-feeding seemed to lead to higher incomes, accounting for 72% of the observed effect, the study authors found.
 
Although they didn’t examine the biology of breast-feeding, the researchers noted that unlike infant formula, breast milk contains long-chain saturated fatty acids like DHA, which “are essential for brain development,” they wrote.
 
Previous studies have found that higher IQs lead to bigger paychecks, but this report is the first to show a “direct association” between breast-feeding and income, mediated by IQ, according to the study.
 
“The beneficial effects of breast-feeding on intelligence persist into adulthood,” the researchers concluded.
 
The results were published this week in the journal Lancet Global Health.

Parenting Advice From ‘America’s Worst Mom’

Posted: Thu, 01/22/2015 - 09:32

"World's Worst Mom" on Discovery channel--looks great!

 
By JANE E. BRODY  JANUARY 19, 2015 4:33 PM January 19, 2015 
 
Lenore Skenazy, a New York City mother of two, earned the sobriquet “America’s Worst Mom” after reporting in a newspaper column that she had allowed her younger son, then 9, to ride the subway alone.
 
The damning criticism she endured, including a threat of arrest for child endangerment, intensified her desire to encourage anxious parents to give their children the freedom they need to develop the self-confidence and resilience to cope effectively with life’s many challenges.
 
One result was the publication in 2009 of her book “Free Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts With Worry).” A second result is the Free Range Kids Project and a 13-part series, starting Thursday on Discovery Life Channel, called “World’s Worst Mom.” In it, Ms. Skenazy intervenes to rescue bubble-wrapped kids from their overprotective parents by guiding the children safely through a sequence of once-forbidden activities and showing their anxious parents how well the children perform and how proud they are of what they accomplished.
 
The term “helicopter parents” applies to far more than those who hover relentlessly over their children’s academic and musical development. As depicted in the first episode of the series, it applies to 10-year-old Sam’s very loving mother who wouldn’t let him ride a bike (“she’s afraid I’ll fall and get hurt”), cut up his own meat (“Mom thinks I’ll cut my fingers off”), or play “rough sports” like skating. The plea from a stressed-out, thwarted Sam: “I just want to do things by myself.”
 
In an interview, Ms. Skenazy said, “Having been brainwashed by all the stories we hear, there’s a prevailing fear that any time you’re not directly supervising your child, you’re putting the child in danger.” The widespread publicity now given to crimes has created an exaggerated fear of the dangers children face if left to navigate and play on their own.
 
Yet, according to Peter Gray, a research psychologist at Boston College, “the actual rate of strangers abducting or molesting children is very small. It’s more likely to happen at the hands of a relative or family friend. The statistics show no increase in childhood dangers. If anything, there’s been a decrease.”
 
Experts say there is no more crime against children by strangers today — and probably significantly less — than when I was growing up in the 1940s and ’50s, a time when I walked to school alone and played outdoors with friends unsupervised by adults. “The world is not perfect — it never was — but we used to trust our children in it, and they learned to be resourceful,” Ms. Skenazy said. “The message these anxious parents are giving to their children is ‘I love you, but I don’t believe in you. I don’t believe you’re as competent as I am.’ ”
 
Dr. Gray, author of “Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life,” said in an interview, “If children are not allowed to take routine risks, they’ll be less likely to be able to handle real risks when they do occur.”
 
Case in point: His college’s counseling office has seen a doubling in the rate of emergency calls in the last five years, “mainly for problems kids used to solve on their own,” like being called a bad name by a roommate or finding a mouse in the room. “Students are prepared academically, but they’re not prepared to deal with day-to-day life, which comes from a lack of opportunity to deal with ordinary problems,” Dr. Gray said. “Over the past 60 years, there’s been a huge change, well documented by social scientists, in the hours a day children play outdoors — less than half as much as parents did at their children’s ages,” he said.
 
In decades past, children made up their own games and acquired important life skills in the process. “In pickup games,” Dr. Gray said, “children make the rules, negotiate, and figure out what’s fair to keep everyone happy. They develop creativity, empathy and the ability to read the minds of other players, instead of having adults make the rules and solve all the problems.”
 
Dr. Gray links the astronomical rise in childhood depression and anxiety disorders, which are five to eight times more common than they were in the 1950s, to the decline in free play among young children. “Young people today are less likely to have a sense of control over their own lives and more likely to feel they are the victims of circumstances, which is predictive of anxiety and depression,” he said.
 
There are also physical consequences to restricting children’s outdoor play because there are no adults available to supervise it. Children today spend many more hours indoors than in years past, which in part accounts for the rise in childhood obesity and Type 2 diabetes. Many elementary schools have even canceled recess, believing it is time better spent cramming children’s heads with facts and figures.
 
“Childhood should be a time of freedom and play, not building a résumé for college,” Dr. Gray said.
 
As Ms. Skenazy put it, “if parents truly believe children must be supervised every second of the day, then they can’t walk to school, play in the park, or wake up Saturday morning, get on their bikes and go have an adventure.”
 
Some 2,000 families were screened by the Discovery Life Channel to find 13 families crippled by anxiety yet willing to have an intervention. “The parents weren’t easy pushovers,” Ms. Skenazy said. “Some were very unhappy to see me at first. But once pride in what their children achieved replaced their fears, they were ecstatic — relaxed and happy instead of crippled with fear.”
 
Ms. Skenazy spent four days with each family, introducing a different challenge each day. Sam learned to cut cheese and slice a tomato with a sharp knife and then made sandwiches for his parents. He also learned to ride a two-wheeler.
 
“I don’t guarantee I’ll take away all their worry, just give them the confidence to loosen the reins on their kids,” she said. “Kids need roots and wings. Parents give them roots. I give them wings.”
 

 

Halloween for Kids in the '70s vs. Halloween Today

Posted: Tue, 11/04/2014 - 07:03

I know Halloween has come and gone but this is hilarious!

Just a few days ago, my 6-year-old and I were discussing what she wants to be for Halloween. We still like to (mostly) make our costumes instead of buying them. Plus, who can afford them today? I kid you not, I saw a little girl's fairy costume for $89.50 a few days ago. (When is the last time you spent $89.50 on something just for you? Exactly.) So, my daughter wants to be Hello Kitty this year, but not just any Hello Kitty. She wants to be a Hello Bat Kitty -- which totally rocks. (I love this about her.)
 
Anyway, all of this discussion about the upcoming holiday had me thinking about my own 1970s childhood Halloween experience and how different it is for her today.
 
Today's Halloween vs. a 1970s Halloween
 
1. Halloween Costumes.
 
1970s: The night before Halloween, your tired mom takes you into K-mart, where you look through the picked-over plastic masks with matching costumes. You clutch that $5.99 Cinderella or Spiderman mask and matching costume to your chest on the way home as you slide around on the bench seat without a seatbelt in the back of your parents' wood-paneled station wagon, while your mom smokes in the front seat. There were no costumes left in your brother's size, so when your mom gets home, she pulls out an old stained sheet from the musty bottom drawer and cuts two eye holes in it so your brother can go as a ghost. She then puts four frozen salisbury steak TV dinners in the oven (and this time, she remembers to pull back one corner of the aluminum foil on top so the sauce isn't frozen popsicle gravy).
 
Today: Three months before Halloween, your mom starts researching politically correct costumes and narrows it down to three choices. A family meeting is held for everyone to vote on their costumes, in order to allow the children to exercise their decision-making skills. Your mom then spends three days on Pinterest planning the components of the non-genetically-modified corn costume. Afterwards, she spends $279 at the local craft store to purchase non-allergenic material and locally made glue, only exchanging the green material twice to get the exact shade for the corn husk. She has you model the finished product with a series of 17 photos so that she can blog about the steps to making it. Then, she posts it to Pinterest and Instagrams the photos.
 
2. Getting Ready On Halloween Night.
 
1970s: You bust through the door from school and run straight to your costume, pulling it on over your school clothes. You try the mask on, knowing its tiny breathing hole will in no way facilitate oxygen exchange while you run around like a crazy person during trick-or-treating. You lie to your mom and say you can breathe just fine. The mask eyes never fit perfectly, so vision is limited, but you lie and tell your mom you can see, even though she doesn't care by then because she is too engrossed in her "stories" on TV to be worried about something as minor as breathing and seeing at night. You run around in your costume in the yard, getting sweaty, until it's time to go right at the moment it starts getting dark outside.
 
Today: You come home from school and your mom has a tray of organic vegetables fashioned into non-scary Halloween shapes like smiling pumpkins and happy ghosts with a side of homemade hummus. You have dedicated quiet time in your room reading a book or drawing so that you don't get over-stimulated. Your mom double-checks the neighborhood association's newsletter to ensure that she's right about the designated trick-or-treating hours of 6:37 p.m. to 8:01 p.m. One hour before the designated neighborhood time slot, your mom tells you to pee, wash your face and brush your teeth. You open the package of new organic thermal underwear that perfectly matches your costume. Your mom gently helps you into your costume and carefully paints your face with dye-free, organic tint. Your mom takes two selfies of you and her and posts them on Facebook with a countdown clock. She then positions you into 12 different poses in front of the recycled farm background that she made during her lunch hour earlier that day. She posts those pictures to Instagram.
 
3. Halloween Night Trick-or-Treating.
 
1970s: As the streetlights click on, your mom rips two pillowcases off of the pillows and hands one to you and one to your brother to put the candy in. She hands you an old flashlight that weighs about two pounds, but has to shake it first to get it to work. You immediately shove it into the pillowcase as you run down the sidewalk, your mom waving from the front door as smoke from her cigarette encircles her head. You meet up with some friends from the neighborhood and run like maniacs from door to door until your mom yells for you or the scary widow lady tells you it's time to go home. You drag your full pillowcase of candy along the road and into the house. It's 11 p.m. Your mom is asleep on the couch with a cigarette burning in the ashtray.
 
Today: Your mom presents you with an organic tote bag on which she's stenciled your name, the holiday and the year with dye she's made from soaking organic fruits and vegetables. She clips four flashing orange lights shaped like small pumpkins onto your costume and bag. At 6:34 p.m., your mom buckles you into the back of the Range Rover. She drives to the first neighbor's house and waits in front of it until precisely 6:37 p.m., when she gives you permission to unbuckle and go up to the first door. After the first house gives you a sugar-free, organic sucker and a toothbrush, you get back into the Range Rover and your mom drives you next door, where you repeat the process until precisely 8:01 p.m. when your mom drives you home.
 
4. The Candy.
 
1970s: You rush into the house and dump the candy from your pillowcase onto the floor. Your mom immediately takes the apple (because it has razor blades in it) and the Pop Rocks (because they make your stomach explode, especially if you mix them with Coke in your mouth). She hands you one of the homemade popcorn balls from your stash so you can eat it while you sort through your candy. Your mom puts the pillowcases back on your pillows and tells you to check the chocolate for pin holes in case someone injected something into it. You and your brother eat candy to your hearts' content while you watch Halloween. You pass out on the floor in front of the TV with a stomachache, still in your costume, at 1 a.m.
 
Today: Your mom carefully helps you out of your costume. You go upstairs to take a shower while your mom swabs your candy wrappers for signs of drugs, explosives or other illegal substances. She throws away the products that are not organic and separates the candy into chocolate vs. non-chocolate. She unwraps the 17 toothbrushes you received and puts them into the dishwasher to sterilize them. When you come downstairs, clean and in organic pajamas, you are allowed to pick one piece of candy to enjoy before you go to bed. You brush your teeth with one of the sterilized toothbrushes and you are in bed by 9:17 p.m. You got to stay up late for the special occasion and are excited! Your mom searches Pinterest for healthy ways to use leftover Halloween candy and looks for local dentist offices that will trade candy for another toothbrush.
 
5. After Halloween.
 
1970s: You wear that costume every single day until it falls apart. The cracked plastic mask lasts a little longer because your mom keeps replacing that broken rubber string on the back of the mask with a rubber band. Next year, you're bummed because your plastic Cinderella mask is too cracked to wear. Your mom asks you to hold her cigarette while she tries, one last time, to replace the mask string with a rubber band. It doesn't work.
 
Today: After Halloween, your mom carefully rinses your non-GMO corn costume in the organic homemade laundry detergent. She discreetly hangs it to dry in the laundry room so it doesn't waste electricity in the dryer. After, your mom carefully folds it, places it in a recycled bag made of hand-sewn fibers and donates it to the church for next year's costume exchange. She then immediately starts researching handmade Christmas gifts on Pinterest to make for the 42 extended family members who will be at your house for the holidays.
 
Check out more from Jacqueline on PrimeParentsClub.com. You can also follow her on Twitter as @WritRams and @PrimeParentClub. Pick up her humor book 50 Shades of Frayed: What Happens When 'I Do' Becomes 'Not Tonight' on Amazon.

 

Pages