5 Manipulation Tactics Narcissistic Parents Use To Control Their Adult Children

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1) Emotional Blackmail

The narcissistic parent appears to make a request, but it is really a demand. If you say no, set boundaries, or let them know you’ll get back to them later, they will apply increased pressure and threaten consequences to try to get you to acquiesce to them. If you still refuse, they may then punish you with sulking, passive-aggressive statements, a rage attack, withholding of something important, or even the threat of violence or sabotage. This is emotional blackmail.

Example:  Your narcissistic mother may tell you that she would like you and your family to come over on the weekend for dinner. All the relatives will be there and they want to see you. Knowing her abusive ways, you tell her you can’t make it this weekend because you have a prior engagement. Rather than respecting your wishes, she proceeds to talk about how ungrateful you’re being and how all your family members are looking forward to seeing you and your children. You say no, and she hangs up on you and subjects you to the silent treatment for weeks.

Self-Care Tip: Know your rights and boundaries. You have the right to say “no” to any invitation or request, especially from someone known to be abusive. You have the right to protect yourself and any other family members who would be affected by your toxic parent’s behavior. You don’t have to give into any silent treatments or tolerate rage attacks. You can allow your narcissistic parent to have whatever reaction they have from a distance. During this time, do not answer phone calls, text messages or voicemails abusive in nature. Do not meet with them in person to “discuss.” Your “no” is not a negotiation.

2) Guilt-tripping with Fear, Obligation, and Guilt (FOG)

It is common for narcissistic parents to use FOG (Fear, Obligation, and Guilt) on us to evoke the kind of guilt that would cause us to give into their desires, even at the expense of our own basic needs and rights.

Example: Your narcissistic father disapproves of the fact that you’re single and have no children. He tells you that time is running out to give him grandchildren. When you tell him you’re happy being single, he lashes out in rage and despair, telling you, “So I am going to die without grandchildren? I am getting older and sicker every day – don’t you think I want to see my daughter start a family? Is this how you’re repaying me for all I’ve done for you? What will our community think, to see an unmarried woman at your age? It’s shameful and disgraceful! You’re a disgrace to the family!”

Self-Care Tip: Notice any guilt or shame that arises and realize it does not belong to you when you find yourself being guilt-tripped by a narcissistic parent.  Ask yourself if you have anything to truly feel guilty about. Have you intentionally inflicted any harm upon your narcissistic parent, or are you simply doing what every human being has a right to do – live their lives through their own free will? You have a right to your choices, preferences, and autonomy, even if your toxic parent disagrees with those choices. You do not owe them an explanation for choices that have to do with your career, love life, or any children you may or may not have.

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