Co-parenting With a Narcissist: What to Do?

Co-parenting With a Narcissist
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Yes, you can see the telltale signs, but you just haven’t figured out its name. Oh! Maybe, you know what it is, and you’re so elated to be finally free from the shackles, but the fact that you’ll be co-parenting with a narcissist has had you wriggling in constant foreboding.

Calling quits on a relationship, whether you’re facing a tough divorce or consciously ending things, is difficult on its own, but when kids are involved, things can get excruciatingly cumbersome.

And if the individual you’ll be co-parenting with is a narcissist, tsk! It’ll look like an impossible journey.

Who is a narcissist?

A narcissist is someone with an astronomical sense of self-importance. They feel they are on top of the hierarchy and believe they deserve special treatment. Their feelings are often accompanied by the fantasy of unlimited success, beauty, power, or love.

These individuals feel the need to be constantly and excessively admired, and all eyes should be on them when they enter a room. When ignored, these individuals feel mistreated, slighted, and even enraged.

They are superficial and exploitative in relationships. They choose partners based on physical features. Their value for people depletes when they are seen as no longer useful.

Narcissists lack empathy. Their emotions are severely limited or totally absent, leaving them with little or no care about others, loved ones included.

They are seen as extremely rigid, highly superficial, and often fragile. They only feel stable when they view themselves as exceptional. When their grandiose sense is challenged by reality, they retreat or deny the threat.

They find it difficult to be attached or dependent. They rely so much on the feedback from their surroundings. They create relationships for a positive self-image. Interaction with people is a façade; intimacy is a distant thought for them.

In most cases, they have a chronic feeling of boredom and emptiness. When they don’t get praised, they feel depressed and restless.

They are vulnerable to change. Maintaining reality-based professional and personal goals is quite difficult for them. They find unbearable jobs, schools, and relationships that require compromises.

A deadly trait of individuals with a narcissistic personality disorder is their proneness to suicidal thoughts and attempts.

What happens when a narcissist has a child?

Children need unconditional care and love regardless of their misdeeds, which requires empathy. Something a narcissist does not possess. Instead, a child is likely to be blamed for the stress and trepidation that comes with parental responsibilities.

Also, showing love may seem alien or odd to a narcissist, as their relationships are forced or downright transactional just to ensure a constant supply of their needs.

Narcissists treat their children as an extension of themselves. This means that the child gets punished when he or she makes the family look bad, poor, or of ill repute.

Narcs need to feel superior. It keeps them sane and on top of their game. When they are high up there, they feel content, happy, and oblivious of their own humiliation.

Trophy kids that excel in things like academics or sports are highly revered by their narc parent(s). The other kids in the neighborhood are considered inferior compared to their golden child.

Narcs are pleased by the above. To sustain the euphoria they derive from their child’s success, narcissistic parents push and prod their kids to stay at the top of everything. When these kids fail to meet their expectations, they get punished.

The abuse would often come as far as the kid doesn’t keep up to the needs of the narc parent. Whether it is mental or physical punishment, the kid will end up being afraid of his/her parent.

Narcissists result to cheap tactics to guilt-trip their kids. This could be in the form of comparing the trophy kids to their other siblings who are considered less talented. 

The narc always see themselves as number one, so their children must reflect them, no excuses! If a child has a special need, narcs may invalidate the child by making them feel that they actually have no need or are being selfish and greedy. This will surely make a child feel bad for having that need.

Narcissistic parents abuse their children daily. Nothing will ever be considered good enough for them. They show love when their kids make them happy but see them as nuisances when the kids make them unhappy.

Narcissists shut themselves away from their kids and make them feel like they are nothing. Needless to say, putting children under the care of a narcissist is highly regarded as a bad idea.

How to know if you’re co-parenting with a narcissist?

Below are some of the behavioral patterns displayed by narcissists when co-parenting

  • Shifting ideas and expectations about parenting or previous commitments.
  • Unfulfilled promises to the co-parent or the child.
  • They act as if their involvement in their child’s life is a choice while the other parent’s involvement is of utmost importance.
  • Manipulating the child or the parent, particularly when it comes to meeting the needs of the narcissist.
  • Tarnishing the image of the other parent to the child or subtly eroding the child’s trust for the other parent.
  • Always competing with the other parent for the attention of their child. This is done through promises and extravagant gifts just to win the child over.
  • Making the child feel like he or she must choose between the two parents puts the child through mental and emotional stress.

How to make co-parenting with a narcissist work?

1. Set clear boundaries

Setting clear boundaries is mandatory when dealing with narcissists, especially when children are involved. Be clear about what you expect and what will be considered intolerable during the co-parenting.

These boundaries will free the co-parent and child from guilt and emotional damage that’d probably arise when dealing with a narcissist and unstable behavior.

2. Document everything

Organize and document the surrounding schedules, teacher contacts, discipline protocols, extracurricular, etc. This will help back up the co-parent when the narcissist begins shifting expectations, games, or manipulations.

Documentations, written agreements, and guidelines can help dilute the inevitable fights; if it’s documented, Narcissists can be easily held accountable.

3. Be Slow with your reaction

Co-parenting with a narcissist will trigger you a lot. Accepting that you are partnering with a difficult personality helps you gain the tools to cope with it.

Be mindful of your reaction to issues that will come your way when co-parenting with a certain personality. Refrain from responding and reacting impulsively. This will help reduce the conflict volume and create a conducive environment for the child.

This form of dealing with narcissistic partners is sometimes known as the grey rock method, which refers to acting like a boring, grey rock in response to your partner’s attempts to get an angry or irritated response from you.

4. Focus on What’s best for the child

In any co-parenting relationship, knowing that the relationship should be centered on your mutual care and desire to be part of the child’s life is mandatory.

It is paramount to know, especially when the co-parenting partner is being difficult, that all your reactions affect the child. This knowledge could encourage you to respond in a more tasteful way, even when you’re angry or triggered.

5. Focus on being a consistent co-parent

Fixate your entirety on how you can show up for your child. Even if the other parent is toxic and unresponsive to change, your ability to make good choices and consistent positive parenting will greatly help your kids develop.

Be consistent in doing what you say and showing up when you promise you will. Abstain from commenting negatively about your co-parent and lead by example. Modeling these good traits will provide a strong positive example that will help in your kid’s development.

6. Consider ways to balance out the narcissist’s parenting style

In most cases, you and your ex-partner probably will have different parenting styles—which means you’ll often see yourselves on different pages. And since children suffer when parents are not aligned, it would be worth it if you revisited the arrangements made with your partner.

If “good cop” is their approach, you have to take over setting limits with the children, chastising them, and enforcing sturdy structures.

When they are more emotionally undisciplined and tilt towards being the ‘bad cop,’ barking and yelling orders will probably be their style. This means that validation and compassion need to come from you.

7. Seek expert Involvement

Last but not least, when you realize co Parenting with a narcissist is overwhelming, involve a therapist knowledgeable in working with narcissist patients.

This therapist must be able to weave through the challenges and difficulties that arise while co-parenting or parallel parenting with an individual on the narcissistic spectrum.

If necessary, find a child psychologist that can help equip your child with the necessary tools to deal with the potential negative effects of having a narcissistic parent.


Co-parenting with a narcissist is hard, but it’s not impossible. It could be a healthy situation if you can both set boundaries, put your differences aside, and focus on being amazing parents to your kid.

 However, you have options if you realize things are no longer going well, or the situation has become toxic and abusive.

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