Validation of the Abusiveness of a Narcissistic Parent

Validation:  A powerful, life moving moment when you’ve been in an unhealthy relationship and realize that all those things that you thought “didn’t feel right”.. were in fact, not right.

Validation: To establish the soundness of; corroborate

Narcissists and other personality disordered, abusive individuals love to invalidate.  They do what professionals call “gaslighting”.   Gaslighting is manipulative behavior used to confuse people into thinking their reactions are so far off base that they’re crazy.  If you’re around it long enough, you start to lose a sense of reality.  You normalize their behavior and compensate for it.  They tell you it didn’t mean anything and you shouldn’t think anything about it.  “You’re crazy to be so mad about it.” they say.  “Really… aren’t you over it already?”  Eventually, you compensate for them… well, they were having a hard day.  Their business isn’t successful. They’re under a lot of stress.

Similar to Alec Baldwin’s daughter, who basically dismisses the infamous voicemail where her dad calls her a “rude, thoughtless little pig”.  Ireland Baldwin says “”The only problem with that voicemail was that people made it out to be a way bigger deal than it was. He’s said stuff like that before just because he’s frustrated.”   No, Ireland… this is not OK.  It’s not at all okay, and the fact that you are dismissing this is a really bad thing because it only says that you are likely to wind up in relationships in your future where you are treated the same way and think “it’s okay, he’s done it before”.

Back to validation:  It’s powerful to realize that your reactions to the antics of the NPD in your life are real, normal and acceptable.  It’s wonderful to realize that you deserve to be treated better and that you’re not crazy for thinking so.

Which makes me think… how powerful is it for our children to be heard and validated?  With the exception of finding and maintaining our own sanity, it has to be one of the most important things we can do as a coparent with a NPD individual.

My thoughts on how to validate our children’s reactions to their NPD parent:

1. It takes a village to raise  a child.  As a single parent, I find that every other (decently normal) adult that’s interacting with my child is important.  They are another voice of reason and sanity for my children.  They are another conduit for information on social skills, treating with respect, teaching that everyone is important, valuing diversity, and what’s most important in life (money doesn’t buy love).

2. Communicate with your kids often. Open the door to let them talk.  If talking about what goes on doesn’t work, ask them to tell you a story about it, or invite them to pretend the story is about a friend and not them.  Ask them to draw it out as a story in a book.  Finding out what they are dealing with and trying to understand and process is huge.  Remember to thank them for sharing, and let them know that you are happy that they did.

3.  React with normalcy about the really confusing events in their lives:

  • When the parent rages at the child… the child tells about it and says they are scared.  Our response?  “you were right to be scared.  I think you were very smart for noticing that you felt that way and telling me about it.  Let’s discuss other things you or I might be able to do about this.”
  • When the parent doesn’t even call for the child’s birthday or attend an important event:  “How do you feel about that?”  I can imagine it would make you feel ____.   I am sorry that happened to you.”
  • When the parent has a girlfriend/boyfriend with them during the child’s time and spends more time with them than the child…again, discuss how what it meant for them.  Were there good parts to it? (My children’s dad is usually nicer when someone else is present)  Were there parts that felt frustrating? Did they feel less important than the ‘significant other’?  What can they do to remember that they ARE important even in the face of feeling dismissed?
  • When the child expresses that their other parent can’t understand how they feel?  This is real for my kids – and I explain the lack of empathy aspect of narcissism by telling them that their dad didn’t learn how to do that as a child, and probably will never learn how to understand other people.  What can they do about it?  Accept it, and seek other people to understand them.

4.  React mostly with empathy for how they feel, and compassion.  Be careful not to speak poorly about the other parent.  Focus on the child’s reactions and validation that how they felt when they were treated poorly was an accurate reaction to the situation.   I will personally say that what my ex DID was mean or unacceptable – especially if it’s behavior that I don’t want to see in my house (screaming, name calling and hitting), but I do make sure to focus on the behavior itself being unacceptable.  I also empathize with my children in their desire to have a dad that treated them better… because, after all… I do wish that this was the case too.



6 Responses to “Validation of the Abusiveness of a Narcissistic Parent”

  1. heather says:

    I liked him but he made me so depressed by the end of the day … he didn’t really focus on treatment or making people better…just over and over again how addiction is related to trauma…PD is related to trauma….everything is related to trauma…I like brene brown better. But he’s worth knowing I guess. I just haven’t figured out how to integrate his approach into my life.

    • He did write a book that I remember reading an excerpt from – which I liked the basic premise. It’s “Hold on to Your Kids; Why Parents Need to Matter More than Peers”. The title really says it all – that parents should make sure that the direction, morals, ethics and values are coming from them rather than their child’s friends. Maybe that’s his better, more realistic contribution 🙂

  2. Julie says:

    The gas lighting is so true it makes you feel crazy. I looked this up after you mentioned it. I am having a big problem with my child along these lines since he is younger he doesn’t communicate what is happening at dads house well. But lately he has been saying he is stupid, he hates himself, and sometimes he hits himself. I ask if daddy says these things and he says no. I know it is his dad because he treated me the same way, he would call me names . I told him that he is my favorite person and I don’t like it when he talks bad about himself at hits himself and that if someone is saying that he is stupid they are mean and a liar. What else can I do? I feel like crying

    • Oh, I am so sorry. That feeling of frustration is so difficult. I’ve always said that I can deal with whatever he wants to dish out to me, but when he’s hurting my kids – it tears out my soul. I had a whole bunch of conversations with my son around the age of two as that’s when he picked up on the use of the f-word, but didn’t understand why some words were for his use and others were not. He would ask me if policeman can say that word – in attempts to understand who could use these forbidden words and why his dad could do so. Watch your sons play – with objects to see if he is repeating events through play. This is how children process what’s going on around them and will give you some insight into what he is potentially experiencing (look for repetition and themes). Hugs to you!!

  3. Heather says:

    I’m sitting in a Gabor mate colloquium right now. Like Brene brown I’d totally recommend his work to you btw.

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