Good Child Syndrome

A lot of us have “Good child syndrome”, I made the phrase up (I thin), what I mean by it is “Give your car to your brother/sister”, “You tried to defend yourself and you hurt the feelings of your golden child sibling”, “look after little Tommy”, “don’t talk back to mummy or daddy”, “do as you are told” “mummy/daddy is always right”.  If you grew up in a narcissistic family of origin these were not requests, they were orders and the child was forced to comply no matter how uncomfortable, potentially dangerous or humiliating the situation was, the child had to obey because they were voiceless growing up in a narcissistic family of origin, dissidence was severely punished – this is what I call “good child syndrome”.

We take this conditioning/brainwashing into adulthood because we were forced to obey or parents, otherwise there would be severe consequences.  We take more abuse from others than most would tolerate, we think that “no” is a mean word and so we are reluctant to use it and it is easy for us to get sucked into other people’s dramas.

It happens when no matter how hard you tried as a child you were never good enough.  If you did what they wanted you to do, they either raised the bar or dismissed your achievement as insignificant, either way a child wants to get the approval of their parent(s) and will try even harder but it never happens in the narcissistic family.

Society will tell you “to look for the good in people”, “to be open, honest and frank” with your partner, family and friends, to share fears and insecurities as it is that very vulnerability that makes people feel connected.  You will be told that love is the most important thing in life and to love your family (unconditionally) and friends.    WARNING This “advice” will not end well if you are dealing with a narcissist in or outside your family. Love to a narcissist is all about control and power, if you grew up in a narcissist family you will have learnt that love hurts, love leaves you voiceless and love is all about the eradication of your own needs and dream in order to serve another.

If your family of origin has narcissists in it, they do not love you.  It is a hard one to take in, but it is important to register this fact (even though they will tell you they love you, look at their actions not their words).  It is therefore a futile exercise to try to get them to “love you back”.  What they want from you is not love, they want your resources, your energy, attention, time and money.  Going back to the same source and looking for love again and again is not a good idea because it simply isn’t going to happen.  You have to decide what you want from your “relationship” with your family members and proceed accordingly.  This might mean “no contact”, “low contact” or accepting the status quo as it is and implementing damage limitations.  The decision is yours and yours only and if one approach doesn’t work you can always change tactic.  The important thing is that you protect yourself and put up healthy boundaries.

In romantic relationships, we are told by society to have the courage to open our heart to others, to trust other’s good intentions and to believe that the other person is committed to doing the best s/he can for you and others.  This simply isn’t so with narcissists.  They will tell you that their intentions are impeccable and beyond reproach but that is a lie and we can very often find ourselves very involved before we realise that we have been duped.

There are a few things that are necessary to understand here:

  • If you have been raised by narcissistic parent(s) your needs will not have been met, and nor will your requests have been listened to or acted on. It is highly likely that you stopped asking people to do things for you a long time ago.  However, you cannot expect people to know what you want, so tell other people what you want and closely monitor what they actually do, not what they say they are going to do.
  • You will probably have very low expectations of others and will probably feel that if someone does or gives you something that you have to “pay it back with at least 100% interest”. Again, that is the contract that your narcissist parent(s) brought you up with and it is not healthy.
  • Accept in a partnership that as individuals, you do not have the same appetites for different things. This could be sex, food, socialising, the need for “down time”, time spent on a hobby and so forth.  If your partner does not want to socialise as much as you do, it is not necessarily a snub, it is just that s/he is not as gregarious as you.  However, if your partner does not want to do anything with you, you find that you have no core beliefs/values in common or more importantly the values the they said that they held true don’t stand the test of time – that is a red flag.
  • If the relationship feels uneasy or skewed in some way, but you cannot quite put your finger on it, trust your instinct it is probably right, even if you cannot put a label on what it is telling you. You will have been brought up thinking that “what I want doesn’t matter” and since it has been so ingrained in you, you might not even see it as a problem.

Trust issues are considered by many to be a weakness, a lack of generosity and in some way a failing, that will make you feel miserable and constantly dejected and untrustworthy yourself.  That is a common pop psychology take on it.  The reality is that a certain amount of caution is a really healthy thing.  You would not march up to an animal that you had never met before without any discretion.  So be discerning without being suspicious.  Use your judgement without being judgemental.

We are told to serve others and be kind whenever you can.  This is also a very dangerous concept around narcissists because they will take advantage of this and take whatever they can get and give little or nothing in return, if they give something back, no matter how small, they will see it as a purchase, either to encourage you to keep giving or to pay off their “debt” to you.  Society will tell you that “you should not give to receive”, but with a narcissist you have to be very careful that you are not giving and giving because they will never stop taking.  It is up to the giver to decide when they have been given enough.   A narcissist will suck you dry and then walk away without the slightest bit of remorse when they see that you have nothing left to give them.

So examine how much of you “good child syndrome” habits you are bringing to your adult relationships (not just with partners but with friends and family too) and check your relationships on a regular basis to see if you are being pushed around and being disrespected.  The more you let people disrespect you (the more tolerant you are of their bad behaviour) to more they will push at your boundaries.  Your responsibility is to yourself first and don’t beat yourself up about this, you were repeatedly taught the same lesson over and over again that you want doesn’t matter.  You were a great attentive child and you just learnt a very unhealthy lesson too well!

Golden Child

The narcissistic parent(s) have one or more favourites in their family unit and these are called the golden child(ren).  This child can do no wrong will be highly protected and cossetted and decidedly more cherished and praised than the other off spring.  They will always receive the bulk of the resources within the family, such as food, attention/affection, respect/privileges and often the vast bulk of any inheritance.  The golden child will be protected so long as they do exactly as the narcissist parent wants (these wants will very often not be vocalised, so the golden child will be constantly on high alert looking for subtle cues that will alert them to what they “should be doing”).  The constant threat of demotion, makes that child hyper vigilant of the activities of his siblings and will often act as a go between for the parents needs to ensure that every member of the family is putting the parents needs before their own.  This is called trauma bonding, the golden child can see how the other siblings are treated and will do anything s/he is asked (told) to do to maintain their privileged status.

The parent will also insist that all other members of the family take care of the golden child’s needs and do nothing to upset them.  This could be anything from getting into an argument or out-shining them in any way (at school/sport/career/seeming to be more popular etc.).

The way the golden child pays the narcissist parent back (as a narcissist never does anything that does not have a personal gain) is to protect the parent’s reputation at all times.  Totally discrediting any criticism that might be levelled at her/him and will attack any sibling that might have the audacity to voice some negative feeling towards them.  The parent will encourage this hostility between the siblings because it makes them easier to control and means that they will not gang up on them.

The golden child will have inherited privilege and attention, but they know that they have not earned it.  Often it is because they are simply the first male child in the family who has shown no special talents but they have been elevated into a position of privilege because of their gender.  This makes the golden child extremely defensive and aggressive about protecting his/her realm.  At the same time, they have an external veneer of entitlement but their behaviour belies their confidence.  If challenged for example they can be reduced to tears, have a temper tantrum or storm off.

Being a golden child often makes the cossetted child morally corrupt as they think that everything is their birth right, they are quite capable of stealing, fraud and infidelity.  The parent who favours the golden child  will continue to protect them with a completely exaggerated ferocity right into adulthood and probably until the day that they die.


The wounds that are inflicted through a narcissistic family dynamic

Many people who have grown up in a narcissistic family fully understand how the core wounds that are inflicted manifest themselves.  Many more don’t because the child is confused by the fact that someone who claims to “love” them wants to hurt them and as such they grow up with the message that “love hurts”.


The main wounds that are “passed on” are as a result of never being able to champion, celebrate or praise their child, unless that child is a Golden Child, in which case they will be applauded for the slightest achievement.  This in turn will result in very low self-esteem and self-confidence (in the children who have been neglected) on the one hand and a ridiculous sense of entitlement and grandiosity on the other from being over cossetted and praised).

There are some wounds that apply to both children who have been scapegoated and golden children and those are:


  • Comparison to others, a scapegoat you will feel that they are not good enough and no matter how hard they try it will not be appreciated. The golden child will be praised for everything and will have a sense of superiority to just about everyone on the surface, however, inside their self-esteem is low and is merely protected by this false persona.
  • You will only be loved on the condition that you comply with the parent’s “needs”, this applies to both types of child rearing, since love and affection are the mainstay of healthy parenting, the child will do anything to get these very limited resources and they will always compete against each other to attain them.
  • Shaming children so that they constantly feel that there is something wrong with them and that they MUST try harder.
  • Infantilising so that their children are never really “allowed” to grow up. They want their children to look to them for guidance at all times, this way they have more control and attention.  Suppression of the child’s development also means that they will never outshine or take the lime light off the parent, it also keeps the child immature so the narcissist can relate to the child more.
  • Feeling guilty for wanting more from you parents and “taking them for granted”. Guilt is a big part of the narcissistic family dynamic.  The will guilt trip you for not being good enough (at school, doing the house work, or as good as other children), they will guilt trip for being too good (showing up the golden child, or drawing attention to yourself) and they will guilt trip you for wanting stuff, “you have a roof over your head, food on the table just think of the poor Syrian refugee children, you are so ungrateful for all of the sacrifices that I have made for you”.

The effects of this sort of “parenting” style on a child are many and all negative.

  • Low self-esteem, lack of self confidence
  • Fearful of doing anything that might draw attention to yourself.
  • Tolerating shoddy treatment from others
  • Physical ailments due to stress and anxiety such as panic attacks, chest pains and depression etc.
  • Feeling responsible for making things “better” for others, minding adults
  • Adopting behaviours that sabotage yourself when you are doing well or feeling happy
  • Feeling guilty when you are enjoying life
  • Addictions in their various forms such as drugs, alcohol, shopping, gambling etc.

When a child does stand up for themselves the narcissistic parent can feel rejected (as the child is not following their “guidance/script”) and this can manifest itself with rage, counter rejection, sadness or an exhibition of extreme weakness and vulnerability so that the child feels like s/he has to protect their parent.  The consequence of this behaviour is that the child might feel pressured to shrink back into a supporting role for the parent and abandon realising their own potential.  Many parents will project the pain that they carried from their own childhood on to their children and will use phrases such as

“the sacrifices I have made for you”

“if it wasn’t for you I would be…”

“you are so ungrateful”

“I had to do … because of you”

“you were/are a mistake”

“I spend my whole life doing things for you”

Our culture will say:

“you are duty bound to your parents”

“your family is everything”

“you owe your mother loyalty and affection”

“there is no love like a mother’s love”

The message to the mother is that “if you don’t love being a mother and love your children there is something very wrong with you”  (no narcissist would ever admit to not loving being a mother, so it has to be the fault of their ungrateful children).

When you acknowledge and heal the damage that your family of origin has exposed you to, you will be clearing a way for healthier and happier relationships, both with yourself and with others.



Bad babies

Narcissistic mothers can label their babies as being “bad”.  The reason for this is because the narcissistic mother will not give the emotional support that a baby needs this will make the baby feel very unsafe and might cry a lot to try to get their mother to respond to them in a loving and caring way.  The fact that the baby is crying a lot of the time annoys the mother because she thinks that it makes her “look like a bad mother” and she will blame the baby rather than try to understand what the baby needs.

She will not look at her baby and see a little bundle of joy and innocence reaching out to have their needs met in the only way they know (by crying), she will project intention on to the baby and think to herself that they are only crying to “make her feel guilty”.  There are other reasons why a narcissistic mother thinks her baby is bad:

  • She will see the baby “competing” with her for attention
  • She will resent the lack of sleep
  • She will feel that the baby is taking her for granted
  • She will resent the routines like feeding, nappy changing and bedtimes
  • She will see illness of any sort as a form of bad behviour and to annoy/make her feel guilty
  • Narcissist are all about their needs and to have to focus on her baby is an exhausting and tiresome investment of time, energy and effort. It is also relentless the baby has needs every single day and cannot be put in the toy box when she gets bored with it.
  • She also has to spend a lot of energy into training the baby that her needs come first, and that any deviation from this attention will be punishable. To do this she has to intimidate, break the will, brainwash, bully and silence her baby.
  • The narcissistic mother can often breast feed for too long because having a baby feed from her provides comfort to the mother and it means that the baby is more dependent on her. It also means that the baby is less able to self soothe and therefore remains almost exclusively focused on the mother.  Breast feeding for too long also makes the baby easier to control because the mother can threaten abandonment and no mother = no food and is therefore a death threat which in turn will make the baby very, very reactive to the mothers needs and demands.



The opposite to the golden child is the scapegoat.  Scapegoating is a serious dysfunctional family problem.  It is when one (or sometimes more) members of a family are picked out to be blamed for everything wrong that happens in a family, even if they had nothing to do with the event, this is called projection.  The narcissistic parents will completely violate the boundaries of this child and project everything “bad” that happens in the family on to him/her and force them take on the blame for collective family problems (even though the scapegoat in the family might only be 3 or 4 years old).  They will force other members of the family of origin to do the same thing to ensure that the scapegoat does not find any support from any other member of the family.

There are different reasons that one child is singled out, they might be too independent and noncompliant, the child might be too different from the parent, they might be sensitive and emotional, remind them of a relation they did not like or they might just be weak or vulnerable for some reason and therefore easy to bully.  Children of narcissistic parents are often very angry with their parents simply because they are not doing their job as protector, carer and provider, but at the same time are extremely interfering and controlling.  This generates a lot of anger and resentment and since children of narcissistic parents know that there is no point in getting angry with their parents, that anger has to be deflected/projected onto someone else.  It is classic bullying, “I am hurting, I cannot hurt the person who is hurting me, so I will attack this small vulnerable person instead and that will temporarily make me feel better, more in control”.

The narcissistic parents of a dysfunctional family will actively encourage the other children in the family to redirect the anger that that is held for them onto the scapegoat child.  The parents will lead by example by taunting and hurting the scapegoat child.  This is called mobbing or flying monkeys.  All members of the family are affected, the scapegoat will learn that they are at the bottom of the pile and are a dumping ground for all.  The dynamic of a “good” child and a “bad” one can continue into adulthood.  Aggression, the use of force against another human being is always present in scapegoating it can be through rudeness, humiliation, rage or constant negative feedback.  The target of scapegoating feels wrongly persecuted and disempowered because whatever they do they are always wrong.  If they are good they are bad and if they are bad they are bad too and even if they are paralysed with fear of doing something wrong – they are still wrong.

These roles have been assigned by the parent(s) and have little or nothing to do with the individual themselves.   The scapegoat is probably selected because they are the easiest to bully and manipulate.  It is not their fault, they didn’t do anything wrong, but they are raised thinking that they just stumble from one self-made atrocity to the next, without ever knowing what they have done wrong.

If one of the siblings feels inclined to stand up for the scapegoat, the family will swing in and let that child know that it is not acceptable behaviour to support the scapegoat and will threaten punishment for offering support as that would destroy the structure or the dynamic of the family that the parent or now collective “family” has deemed “acceptable or correct”, so the system is self-policing.

Any external defence of the scapegoat will probably bring more punishment on to the scapegoat as the parent will see that the scapegoat has done something to make her/him look bad in public and that is a punishable offense.  The scapegoat child was more than likely just being a child but the parent(s) will project their “adult” malevolence onto the child and punishment will inevitably ensue.

The whole sick dynamic is really a form of emotional incest or rape.  The scapegoat child will be blamed and held accountable for the parent(s) emotional well-being and will also be denied a childhood.

A narcissistic parent will NEVER support the scapegoat child.  It will not matter what happens, whatever the evidence of having been mistreated, the narcissistic parent will always take the side of the other person.  S/he will say things like “you must have done something to deserve it”, “how can you be so selfish, you have hurt that person’s feelings” (if you defend yourself), “well of course they ripped you off, you look like an idiot”.

So how can you tell if you are a scapegoat?

  • You are held responsible for family problems that you have nothing to do with.
  • If you defend yourself, you are disbelieved or incur rage from the family unit in one shape or another.
  • Some family members are actively encouraged to be verbally, emotionally or physically abusive to you, while the other members of the family do nothing to defend/support you.
  • There is constant projection, a family member shouts abuse at you and then you are accused of being hurtful.
  • You are afraid of being “successful” as you know that it will incur the collective wrath of the family, so you deliberately under achieve. To succeed at something is a source of toxic shame.
  • Constantly being accused of being the sick, bad, addicted member of the family.
  • Being treated with distain or hostility by your family, being excluded from family communications only being told what is going on when they want something from you.
  • Any achievement will be belittled, ridiculed and rejected (sometimes punished).

So how do you survive this craziness?   Scapegoats often have huge issues around trust and feeling safe in relationships so are susceptible to flight, fight or fawn.  This all comes from childhood trauma.

So how can the scapegoat break the spell?

  • You need to know where you have come from and distinguish what you were told to believe, rather than what you do believe.
  • Get back in touch with yourself, there is an indestructible core inside of you all of the time, re-connect with that person. S/he might be as young as 4 or 5, this person is referred to as “your inner child” in the literature. This young person is very precious and has been subjected to a lot of abuse If you come from a narcissistic family, recognise the fact that you could be taking on generations of neglect/abuse etc.  Don’t let your family use you as their dumping ground.
  • Get back in touch with who you were when you were little, that is the true you.
  • Don’t try to appease the scapegoat family, collectively or individually, it is in none of their interests to let you move out of the role that they have given you – so don’t try, it is not worth it, it will only trigger more pain.
  • Don’t ever expect abusive family members to be anything other than abusive family members. Once an abusive family member always an abusive family member.


  • The word is “no”, don’t say yes to everything that they “ask” you to do.
  • If someone treats you badly within your family, call them out on it.
  • Don’t treat your interaction with your family as a means to an end.
  • Take into consideration what your family have told you about yourself in your role as scapegoat, acknowledge the fact that what they have told you is projection of their own pain and problems.
  • Trust your instincts, listen to that little voice that says “this is not fair” and let them know that you are no longer prepared to take on their abuse.
  • You have been the family punch bag and the bad feelings and opinion that you have about yourself are not “real”,
  • Write down what you know to be true about yourself without looking for validation from outside of yourself.
  • Don’t try to look for the validation of your abusive an uncaring family, friends and co-workers
  • Don’t look for apologies, they will still blame you
  • Call people out when they are disrespectful and point back
  • Accept that you will never have a healthy relationship with people who treated you as a scapegoat
  • Treat yourself with kindness care and compassion
  • It will take time to learn how to take care of yourself, but it is do-able and well worth the effort

Narcissists will set you up to fail, they can do things like give you something and then publically accuse you of stealing it, tell you someone’s secret and say that everyone knows about it, so that when you mention it to someone else it makes you look like a malicious gossip etc.  They do this because nothing is ever their fault but they know that they cannot randomly blame everyone as that would lose them favour, so they carefully select someone(s) to take the blame for whatever they do and will work diligently through lies a deceit to make sure that everyone believes them.  The scapegoat in a lot of cases isn’t aware of stuff that has been attributed to them but notices that certain people treat them with hostility.

A few precautions:

  • Don’t be alone with a narcissist if you can avoid it, they won’t abuse you if there are other people around, if you are in company and they ask you to leave the room with them, make your excuses.
  • Don’t accept presents or stuff from them (if a narcissist gives you something they consider it a purchase)
  • Don’t believe anything that they say (until you have had validation from another source)
  • Be aware that you are probably being manipulated at all times
  • Don’t look for appreciation or gratitude because you won’t get it (unless it is in a public setting but it will never be sincere)

Parental Wounds

Our Parental Wounds are traumas that have been chugging down the line through the generations for a very long time and are issues that our fore fathers and mothers have not examined or tried to heal/change or resolve in any way. They just kept perpetuating unhealthy cycles of behavior and belief systems.  The wounds that are played forward include toxic and oppressive beliefs, toxic practices/rituals, completely dysfunctional ways of relating to family and friends and dysfunctional coping mechanisms to deal with pain, suffering and rejection.  They can also include racism, bigotry, homophobia and religious fanaticism.

Parental wounds are inflicted by:

  • Shaming their child so they feel that they are not good enough, that something is fundamentally wrong with them and that they are unlovable.
  • Comparing their child to others in order to belittle them, so that they feel that they are not good enough and never will be
  • Criticising their child in front of others
  • Devaluating anything that their child does so it is either ignored or dismissed as unimportant and a non-achievement, this can range from a drawing to getting a degree
  • Splitting siblings so that they cannot form a close bond
  • Interfering in relationships with 3rd parties
  • Telling their child what they can and cannot believe/think
  • Brainwashing their child by constantly repeating the same negative messages
  • Telling their child what the can or cannot feel
  • Not letting their child express their emotions in any way, such as fear, sadness, pain but also happiness, joy wonder and curiosity
  • Ignoring or “not allowing” their child to be physically sick. Such as sending them to school with a temperature ignoring symptoms of an illness or not attending to broken bones
  • Refusing to comfort their child when scared or in pain
  • Withholding affection/attention
  • Denying their child opportunities to grow and develop in life skills/hobbies/education and sport for no good reason
  • Blaming their child for their own short comings and mistakes
  • Frightening their child through threat of abandonment or putting them in physically dangerous situations
  • Never listening to their child
  • Withholding information from the child
  • Never playing with their child
  • Not bonding with the child
  • Parentifying the child