Having grown up with a narcissistic grandmother and mother I felt that this would be a great post to write and help others. As you may know there is no real way to get along with narcissists, so to speak, but if you have decided not to go ‘no contact’ with the narcissist in your life then it is important for you to have boundaries and to manage your contact with them. It is important for your mental health to have boundaries in place, and also vital if you have children who are in contact with their grandparents. You do not want the patterns from your childhood to repeat themselves again.
Narcissistic Mothers become Narcissistic Grandmother’s: Protect the ChildrenGail Meyers
- Ignore your rules that you have put in place for your children, as their parent. This could be bedtime if they are staying over night, dietary requirements if you have asked them to avoid certain foods, or even the content that they are allowed to watch on television.
- Get your children to keep secrets. They will start with something small like keeping a present, that they have bought for you, a secret. But once they are sure that your child will keep secrets, the nature of the secret is likely to become much more inappropriate.
- Share inappropriate information about you with your children. This could be told as a funny and embarrassing joke that your children find quite amusing, yet you know that your mother (step mother) is crossing a boundary and trying to annoy you.
- Try to buy your children’s love with large impressive gifts, this will be even more fun for them if they are gifts that you are unable to afford or deem inappropriate. For example if you said that your 5 year old is too young for the latest gaming computer, and their grandmother buys it for them anyway and allows them to open it when you are not there. This then puts you in the situation of looking like the bad cop if you say that your child is not allowed to bring the gift home, and of course grandmother looks like the good cop.
- Disrespect you in front of your children. Again this may be done in the guise of a joke so that only you pick up on the disrespect and it goes above your children’s heads. Leaving you feeling exasperated and frustrated.
- Compete with you over the children’s affections in the hope that the children will pick a favourite.
- Have a favourite grandchild if there is more than one grandchild. In narcissistic families this will be the golden child and the scapegoat. Being raised in a narcissistic home you will know that your parent had a favourite, this does not stop with the grandchildren, if you allow it, your children will be divided in the same way.
- Make insensitive comments to the children, especially the child that they view as the scapegoat. For example telling a body conscious teenage grandchild how fat she is getting.
- Make personal comments about you in front of everyone this could be about your weight, your outfit, hairstyle or anything that they feel like picking on.
- The will undermine you in front of your children. For example asking why you are such an uptight parent, and saying that they never treated you like that. Or saying that you spoil your children and that you will have to pay the consequences when they grow up.
- Hide your children’s belongings, this may sound like a strange one but it definitely happens. It could be hidden just to add some drama to the day and upset your child, upset you if its something that you just bought. Or they could hide it because in their warped way they believe that you bought it to show off. Sometimes the item will miraculously show up again at a later date, other times the item will disappear for good. This is an easy and deniable way for them to annoy you, because it cannot be proven, everyone loses things sometimes so pressing the issue will make you look ridiculous but you will know deep down that they hid it.
- Nit pick at your children and make them feel uncomfortable. This could be their table manners, the way they speak, their looks, what they choose to wear, or how they behave. Their are no boundaries and whatever comes to grandmother’s mind will be what comes out of her mouth.
- Behave very childishly. This can show up with them sulking about the fact that your child does not want to hug them goodbye at the end of the day. They could have said something to annoy your child, discreetly of course, but then they will make a very public show of the fact that your child does not want to hug them.
This list is by no means exhaustive and there will always be different behaviours that show up within different families. You may have many more examples that you can add to this list, but the important thing to know is that a narcissistic parents behaviour does not change just because you have grown up. Even if they show signs of improvement, because narcissists are masters of manipulation and can be covert, it is in your best interest to know what behaviours are taking place with your children when you are not around. When your children are old enough to discuss the strange behaviours then you can have a conversation with them. If your children express to you that they do not want to see their grandparent then it is important that you listen to your child.
Due to familial obligations that you feel it may be necessary for your child to continue to see their grandparent, but you may want to ensure that you do not leave them alone so that you can be aware of the interaction. You can also limit how often your children visit. It is important to have boundaries in place but narcissists are notorious for ignoring or constantly challenging boundaries. Telling your mother, or in-law that she is not allowed to load the children up with sugar, may make it more exciting for her to give them even more sugar at the next visit. You then need to decide how you manage this, if she is not listening you will either need to withdraw your children, or stay so that you can take control.
There is no easy way of dealing with narcissistic grandparents, but it is possible to manage the interaction and detach from the situation when you feel that you need to. You are entitled to take a break if someone is being deliberately annoying.
Lastly, but importantly, you have to wonder how it effects your child seeing someone disrespecting you all the time, yet you continuously go back to them. I think that this is a point we consider more when speaking of abusive relationships between Mum and Dad, but if your parent is treating you like a child and continuing abusive behaviour, only you can decide if this is appropriate. I would love to hear how you manage contact with the narcissists in your life. Did you decide to go no contact? Or do you try to manage contact?