Did arguments between you and your siblings feel out of control and never-ending growing up? If so, chances are it was because one of your parents was narcissistic. Although not every sibling argument stems from your parent’s behavior patterns, there are certain narcissistic parenting styles that can increase competition amongst siblings and intensify competition.
To gain insight into why these issues arise, it helps to learn more about what narcissistic parents do – and how they do it. In this blog post, we will explore how narcissistic parents created feelings of envy within you and thrived on turning you and your siblings against each other through frequent fighting over emotional support or resources.
1. They Need To Be The Center Of Attention
The true hallmark of a narcissistic parent is their need to be the center of attention. Manipulative and domineering, narcissistic parents tend to use their kids as pawns in a game of competition and one-upmanship, constantly pitting siblings against each other to reinforce their own superiority. This kind of parenting not only deprives you and your siblings of the attention and affection you ought to receive from a healthy caregiver – it can leave lasting psychological scars well into adulthood, such as feelings of low self-esteem, insecurity, and mistrust. Siblings are often deemed “good” or “bad” based on the approval of the narcissistic parent. This approval rating keeps the children vying to be labeled “good” and doing whatever it takes to be the golden child.
Impact Today: You may thrive on seeking attention and validation in your relationships rather than building genuine connections with others. Seeking validation is a slippery slope because it can leave you vulnerable and feeling rejected if this person were to leave your life. Connections based on deep levels of interests, values, and genuine love are much more likely to be successful.
2. They Triangulate Siblings
Narcissistic parents often triangulate their children, creating an unhealthy form of competition between siblings. When it comes to triangulation each person has a role: the victim, the villain, and the rescuer. This behavior pits one sibling against the other, setting them up in a rivalry that can lead to resentment, mistrust, and anger. Triangulation may take various forms depending on the parent's needs or desires; the relationship between the two siblings may become adversarial, or one sibling may be manipulated into taking sides against the other. While triangulation often allows the narcissistic parent to maintain control over both siblings and solidify their power in the family dynamics, it does nothing to improve subsequent relationships among siblings and can cause long-lasting emotional damage.
Impact Today: You may see yourself as the victim role in triangulation. You may bring others, like friends or parents, into your relationship struggles because you don’t feel confident to handle the situations or dynamics alone.
3. They Play Favoritism
When it comes to a narcissistic parent, favoritism and rivalry play a major role in the way siblings are treated. Parents with narcissistic tendencies often view their children as an extension of themselves and try to shape them into what they want them to be, disregarding the individual needs of each child. Consequently, they become more inclined to give attention, love and privileges to the one sibling that best reflects their values or ideals while ignoring or minimally engaging with the other siblings. This can create a competitive environment among siblings which leaves those at the receiving end feeling neglected and deprived of affection and attention. Without adequate guidance and understanding, this ongoing tug-of-war may result in long-term feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem for each sibling.
Additionally, a narcissistic parent will elevate one sibling while belittling the other, causing them to develop jealousy and a feeling of inferiority. This can lead to one sibling having entitlement issues and a lack of empathy, while the other sibling may become overly caring and sensitive in order to gain favor. The competition that develops between siblings then perpetuates an inappropriate power struggle dynamic long after children leave the household - this may negatively affect relationships for their lifetimes.
Understanding the dynamics at play is vital in helping you reshape your relationships with your siblings as you can see clearly the impact the parent played in attempting to destroy your sibling relationships for their own selfish desires.
Impact Today: You may seek a relationship where you are the chosen one even if this means putting yourself in unhealthy relationship dynamics to compete for a lover that may not even be emotionally or physically available. The constant rejection validates what your parent put your through as a child and never feeling worthy.
4. They Set Expectations
Narcissistic parents probably had a deep and lasting impact on you and your siblings, often expecting you to live up to unrealistic standards that the parent cannot themselves meet. Such extreme expectations can lead to constant rivalry between parent and you as well as siblings making it impossible to meet their parent’s unreachable goals. Furthermore, any hints of rebellion from you or your siblings may have been met with several forms of criticism from the narcissistic parent, ranging from disapproval and belittling to outright punishment or manipulation.
By always putting siblings in competition with one another in order to accomplish perfection, narcissistic parent harms their children’s self-esteem and destroys their natural curiosity and inclination towards growth. Overall, narcissistic parenting can put you and your siblings in dangerous psychological states that only serve to further damage already strained relationships between parents and their children as well as the sibling dynamic.
Impact Today: You compete with others in your relationships and fulfill your goals in life due to never being good enough. This often leads to a repetitive cycle of self-sabotage and never feeling worthy of your dreams and desires.
5. They Separate Siblings
Narcissistic parenting can have far-reaching consequences on siblings and their relationships. Oftentimes, narcissistic parents play siblings off one another, taking only one to go shopping, or to special events and activities, thus creating a sense of competition for attention and approval. This can lead to distrust among siblings as they compete for favor with the parent. This type of parenting also sets up an environment where siblings have unhealthy views of what they should expect in terms of relationships with others. When a child is repeatedly used as an emotional pawn in this way, it becomes difficult to form balanced attachments and reciprocal relationships as they grow into adulthood.
Impact Today: If this happened to you as a child, you may now seek to be chosen by partners as friends and have a deep fear of being left out of social activities.
If you find yourself in constant conflict with your siblings and want to repair your relationship, know that it's never too late. Sibling relationships can often be our most cherished relationships throughout life. As we mature into adulthood outside of the family dynamics, clarity and insight can be gained to resolve childhood wounds or competitiveness. While all siblings will need to want to change, a shift in mutual respect can happen.