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Counter-Parenting the Narcissist

counter-parenting vs, co-parenting

Narcissistic parents don’t understand co-parenting. Dealing with this situation means you are counter-parenting the narcissist constantly. I’m here to tell you being the counter parent is extremely draing. As a result, the children are left stuck in the middle of a nasty game of tug of war. Divorce is difficult for any family to experience. However, when one of the parties involved is a narcissist the complications of figuring out co-parenting can feel very one sided. Especially, when your efforts seem to be always deterred and the narcissist actively is pushing against every move you make. A narcissist aims to control, even their children, and they go to great lengths to exert that control. 

Co-parenting vs. Counter-Parenting

Most people think when you get divorced that both parents will take on responsibility for the care of their children. That’s what I also thought would happen. I was SO wrong! When you divorce a narcissist you don’t typically see two parents seeking the best interests of their children. Instead, you have one parent who is trying to hold it all together for everyone and another that is only looking out for their own interest. It’s exhausting!


Co-parenting is defined, by Wikipedia, as is an enterprise undertaken by parents who together take on the socialization, care, and upbringing of children for whom they share equal responsibility. The co-parent relationship differs from an intimate relationship between adults in that it focuses solely on the child. This a concept that a narcissist does not grasp. Consequently, this makes coparenting only a game for a narcissist to gain access to you or as a way to hide their true colors from others. Furthermore, if you have been in a relationship for as long as I was, you tend to lean towards trying to reason and understand their behavior. In all honesty, the narcissist wants to be the decision maker and the person in control. When that doesn’t go according to plan, they don’t handle the loss of that power well. 

Coparenting means working as a team, towards a common goal, with the interests of your children as the top priority. This means discussing details, compromise, and making decisions together. In addition, co-parenting requires the parties to have respect for one another’s opinion. When one parent is a narcissist the chances of coparenting in a healthy way is nearly impossible. Afterall, coparenting would mean that the narcisisst actually need to agree you are right sometimes. The chances of that are next to nonexistent. 


Counter-parenting is a term used to describe a parenting style that parents are forced to envoke when trying to co-parent with a narcissist. The word itself defines this parenting style. Counter-parenting is what the “healthy” parent does in order to fix the damage the narcissist has done to a child. Having a narcisistic parent often leads to increased anxiety, issues with self perception, and in more severe cases trauma disorders.  Furthermore, a narcissist will aim to go against nearly anything you try to establish. As you try to undo the confusion, they attempt to suck in the child with manipulation. 

Examples in which Counter-Parenting is Necessary

  1. The narcissist rewards bad behavior with toys, gifts, and special outings. This especially manipulative if the bad behavior is only happening at the parents house not rewarding the bad behavior. The child will begin to see they are getting rewarded when they tell the narcissist they yelled at their parent and refused to do what they say.
  2. Another way the narcissist works against you is that they pry for information. They seek out information about what the other parent is doing and typically does it in a way that involves the child getting a reward. They are seeking inforamtion to use against you the next time you have a comment to say about their parenting style.
  3. In addition, the narcissist is a master manipulator. They will very easily convince a child they are doing things right and the other parent is wrong. For example “I don’t think you need to take medicine, you’re not the problem.” 
  4. In my case, I have had the narcissist sugar up my kid, give her redbull (at 10), after allowing her to stay up all night and not give her the medicine she is prescribed for severe, combined type ADHD. Unfortunately, this was a way to “give me a hard time”. The intentions were to hurt me, not the child, but the child was the weapon used. A narcissist sees this type of behavior as funny, where as most healthy adults would say that is at the minimum unhealthy. 
  5. Lastly, I have often heard “I want to live with my dad” when my child does not want to do chores, homework, go to bed, or clean up her room. Unfortunately this is a response to neglectful parenting where there are no rules at dads. As a result, the child begins to believe the narcissist is the “fun parent” where the other parent is the “mean parent”. This only causes friction in the realtionship. 

Tips for Counter-Parenting with a Narcissist

Having boundaries in place and rules of engagement are key to dealing with a narcissist. Usually if you end a relationship you can simply stop all communication and cut all toxic ties. However, when children are involved this isn’t an option that will hold much weight in court. Unfortunately, manipulation and mental health factors aren’t taken as seriously in family courts. As a result, both parent and child are forced to maintain a relationship with the narcissist. Here are a few tips to help you deal with a narcissistic coparent.

  1. Parallel Parenting is a term many parents don’t have to familiarize themselves with. This term simply means having as little interaction as you possibly can with the narcissist. Do not speak unless it pertains to the children. If topics get off the children simply don’t respond, hang up, or walk away. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO EXPLAIN YOURSELF TO THIS PERSON ANYMORE!
  2. Use text and email for as much communication as possible. This gives a paper trail and also gives you the proof you need when they do get sideways with you about personal matters or switching time. Furthermore, act like the judge is looking at your message. Keep it short and to the point. Do not disclose any details, just the facts that are necessary. 
  3. Stick to the parenting plan. Don’t bend your life around their needs. They use it or lose it. Don’t trade weekends or accomodate their personal life. It may sound harsh, but I guarantee they won’t do it for you. 
  4. Set your boundaries. Do not allow what you feel uncomfortable with. If you don’t like the idea of your ex coming to pick up the kids at 3:00pm Friday because you don’t get off until 5:00pm, don’t agree! Again, you don’t have to accomodate them! 
  5. Don’t trash talk! Your children are already confused, sad and feel in the middle of the biggest fight of their lives thus far. Don’t make it worse for them by talking smack about the other parent. They will get all they need to hear from one side. Finally, rest easy knowing that you are doing modeling the behavior that the child will eventually realize was the appropriate way to handle things. 
  6. You are the safe parent. Most likely your child knows and has seen the narcissist act in ways that have made them scared. If your child is throwing the fit with you and saying words that the narcissist has said, then know that is not them speaking. As a result, you have to be both parents. 
  7. Remember that its ok to not do this right, but I promise you are doing it better than the narcissist is. Cut yourself some slack. One day, your kids will thank you for being the parent they needed even if you did always do what they wanted you to. 


Seek Support for Yourself and Your Child

If you know that this behavior is damaging your child, then please seek support. I made sure my threefold and I were all in therapy directly after my separation. Getting ahead of the damage that will be inflicted and helping them to heal any damage that has already been done will be so beneficial. In addition, therapy allows for your child to have a safe place that isn’t mom or dad to vent their frustrations. As a result, your child will feel more validated in their feelings about the situation. 

I hope this is beneficial for my tribe of people who have or are survivors of narcissistic abuse. You aren’t alone. I also know how difficult it is to find your voice and your confidence to stand up to the narcissist. However, learning about how to counter parent in a way that shut the narcissist down helped me.  In addition, when I set my boundaries and held my ground I grew stronger in my ability to protect my threefold and I. Honestl;y, I have been sucked back into his toxic manipulation multiple times since I left. As a result, I allowed each of us to be hurt by those lies time and again. Actually, it was when I set my boundaries and made them clear that we started to heal more. Finally, I found my senses and realized that the lies were only empty promises of change that never came to light. 

Stay Positive! We’ve got this! ♥ ~ M psssss,,,follow on facebook!

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3 thoughts on “Counter-Parenting the Narcissist

  1. Good post. I am sorry you have had to write it. To me, most narcissists want the credit, but not the work. They want someone else to do the heavy lifting while they do the stuff they can get credit for.

    1. Absolutely! Usually their parenting style depends upon the child they are dealing with. I’ve found that his attempts to make me struggle more are intended to hurt me, but indirectly hurt my threefold instead. It’s sad.

  2. Thanks for this post. I’m not sure if my fiance’s ex is a narcissist or just self-centred and indifferent to the bigger picture beyond only herself and the 2 children she and my man share. But it’s a constant struggle. We have to tiptoe around all her triggers, trying not to get into a conflict. The first 2 years following their residence separation (they had been separated for a while, but co-parenting in one household), we had a 50/50 arrangement. She was ok with that at first. Although, my fiancé was giving her a little financial support for a little more than a year. The first year was really hard with the kids, especially when they were with us. The second year, we were seeing real progress. Then last spring, she asked to try a new arrangement, which meant the kids were 5 days a month less with us. We were assured it would only be on a trial basis, and that there would be no demands for financial support (we have 3 other children and at our financial limit, and my fiancé is already working full-time and me on the side when I can). I was uncomfortable with it from the start. Then since I’m home the most with the children, I was the first to notice how the relationships between us and the 2 girls was rapidly deteriorating. More outbursts, tantrums, objections to our rules and the chores we expect of the children. At their mother’s, they aren’t required to clean their room, and ex-wife is proud of that, thinking she is such a great mom.
    But no matter how many times these issues came up in the discussions between my fiancé and his ex, there was only objection to going back to our original arrangement. She claims it is in the children’s best interests, but completely dismisses our side of things as being of less importance. Then this year, she came with a demand for financial support and a threat if we didn’t comply. For me, that was it. I’m not willing to go along with this crap anymore. My fiancé agrees the 50/50 arrangement was the best and that we should go back to that, but the ex refuses to allow it. She believes her right over the children is of greater importance that his. 50/50 would make them equals as parents and put an end to the children’s escape route from learning to accept the reality of their family situation. They prefer being with their mother for her lax rules, unlimited sugar allowance, eating what they want, lack of chores and responsibilities, and being allowed to have their own cell phone. It’s not allowed at our house. We are much more structured and expect an age appropriate level of responsibility and helpfulness from the children. But we also allow more than enough freedom and encourage independence. However, these are all superficial matters. The root seems to be thinking their mother is a victim. She’s so poor (but only works a low paying part time job in a greenhouse) and we have it so much better, have more money, and it’s not fair. Well, as I said, my fiancé works full time. We have almost zero leisure time, because we have 3 children here full-time (my daughter from a previous relationship and two children together who are 3 and 1 1/2.) But we also have more children to support than the ex, higher rent, utilities and expenses, despite our very minimalist lifestyle. And we pay over 400€ a month for all 3 school age kids to go to a really good private school. We do all the driving to and from school, except for one morning a week, when the ex drives. But we pay for her driving expense. And then there’s all the mind games and gaslighting. It’s so infuriating!

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