The damaging effects of shame in narcissistic parenting


  • Shame damages the emotional well-being of the child and the child’s perception of themselves. Shame tells the child “you are a bad person” whereas guilt tells them “that was a bad behaviour –we can work on improving that”.  In the second instance the child has clarity on what behaviour was not acceptable and can learn not to repeat it.  A shamed child feels that their entire existence is flawed and does not know what to do to make it better.
  • Shaming has a very negative influence on a child’s self-esteem, when a child’s emotions are invalidated, ignored or as typical narcissist would say, “you shouldn’t feel like that, because…” this lack of empathy for the child’s feelings leaves the child feeling unworthy of support and attention, but also that the pain and confusion that is created between what they know they actually feel in a specific situation and what they are told that they are “allowed to feel”, in other words what they feel is incorrect.
  • If a parent does not listen to or validate the small stuff that a child is trying to tell them, over time the child will not tell their parent(s) anything because it doesn’t feel safe. So if the child comes across a major problem that they need to resolve, they will have no adult to turn to and will have to deal with the situation alone.  This is emotional abuse and very traumatising for the child.  That which is trivial to an adult can be extremely important and challenging to a small child, narcissistic parents tend to attribute adult emotions to even their very small children (albeit narcissistically stunted emotions)
  • Narcissistic parents will often jeer and ridicule their child for actually having emotions as most narcissists despise their own humanity. They see it as a sign of weakness in themselves, but also in others.  This causes massive insecurity because the message is “everything that you feel is wrong”.  This doesn’t only apply to negative emotions such as fear, despair, being scared, lonely, sad, inferior or empty but also to positive ones such as accepted, happy, joy, interested, optimistic, calm, loving and playful.  The narcissistic parent gets upset by emotions at both ends of the spectrum and would much rather that their children behaved like they were constantly on anti-depressants and constantly adhering to the needs of their parents.
  • When a child’s emotions are constantly rejected they cease to have the courage to express them since they are never validated. They learn to express themselves within very limited parameters for fear of being chastised, ridiculed or punished.  Shaming a child kills off their spontaneity, their freedom of expression and their confidence in exploring the world.
  • When a child has been subjected to narcissistic shaming there are two extremes, they become either over reactive so that they try to anticipate another person’s desires before that person even knows it themselves (people pleasers), or they shut down and become more or less immune to the needs and desires of others, in other words they become narcissistic themselves.
  • The effects of shame based parenting can last well into adulthood and may often be repeated – as it was the role model that was presented to them when they were very young before they knew what was happening.
  • The adult child of narcissists will there for have problems trusting his or her self as a result of being perpetually denied their feelings and emotions when they were growing up.

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