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Can Narcissists be Good Parents? The Surprising Answer

Reviewed by Karis A. Williams, MSMHC, LPC

Narcissists want everyone to believe they are the best parent in the world.  Overt narcissists will brag about their parenting skills, whether or not they exist in reality.  Covert narcissists will use the most humble of words to prove to you what a good parent they are.  And they will make you think you are the one who came to that conclusion.  But, can narcissists really be good parents?

Narcissists can appear to be good parents when they are in public and being watched by others.  But as a general rule, what goes on behind closed doors is a different story.  But because everybody does good in this world, even the worst narcissist will do good things with their children.  Unfortunately, the destructive things they do with and to their children  will overshadow any good parenting skills they pick up over the years.  

Let’s take a closer look at what ways narcissists can be good parents.

Narcissists Must be Seen as Good Parents in Public Places

Many narcissists, especially covert narcissists, have a need to be seen as perfect and will put on the best public act to convince people.  This was especially true for my ex husband.  He was an elder in our church and “deeply religious.”  I say that in quotes because while his words would indicate so, his actions were often anything but religious.  

He put on the wonderful, doting father act in church all the time.  He even taught parenting classes for a while.  Unfortunately, because he didn’t really understand how to parent normally, the classes tended to be very shallow and by the third round of classes were poorly attended.  

Even though the classes he taught didn’t continue, people still thought of him as a great parent and family man.  That is because he still talked a good talk.  And most people in church (me included) give people the benefit of the doubt when they speak to you things that are supposedly from the heart.

It is typical that narcissists (secular or religious, overt or covert) expect their children to look amazing and give an equally amazing first impression.  And they expect their children to live up to that first impression in public forever.  The narcissist sees their children as an extension of themselves.  And narcissists wear a mask in public to keep their real self deeply hidden.  So, since their children are an extension of the narcissist, the children are expected to reflect that same mask in their own public appearances.

How they look, what they say, how they move, everything is considered most important.  They cannot let the mask fall.  If they do, there will be hell to pay.  

Everybody is a Good Parent Sometimes

Behind closed doors (I say that loosely, it could be at home but in the yard, or really anywhere that the narcissist felt safe enough to “let their hair down”), the narcissist doesn’t feel the need to keep up the mask as well.  My ex was known in our former neighborhood as the “father of 8 who hates kids.”  That is because the minute he came home from work, he would tell whatever kids were in the neighborhood to go home as soon as he got out of his car.  They would scatter.

Once in the house, he would tell our kids to go away so he could decompress from work.  I do understand the need for that to a degree.  But to not really even greet his kids after a long day was severe.  And he rarely ever caught up with them or spent time with them in the evening or on the weekends.  They weren’t really there for him to relate to.  He used to joke about kids being free slave labor.  And as the kids got older and his relationship to them didn’t improve, I came to believe he may have been serious about the slave labor remark.  

That being said, there were a few times that he would have some good times with the kids.  Once in a great while he would throw a ball with the kids.  Actually, the only time that really happened was with our youngest son after we were in counseling.  It had come to light that he was not spending time with his children and they had all been wanting him to be more involved for many years. 

So, in an effort to convince the counselors that he was a good dad, he would spend about two minutes with his kids doing whatever they were doing at the time.  Then he could go to counseling and tell them that he was getting better at spending time with his children.  Which was true considering he was spending almost no time with them before.  

Before then, he would coach the kids in soccer and basketball, but those things were primarily done to preserve his “good parent” reputation in public.  There was no practicing at home with them.

Just before we separated in 2018, he was starting to go on family day trips and other events with the kids.  And I think sometimes the kids had a good time with him being there.  But often he was so demanding and authoritarian that the kids ended up preferring the times that he didn’t bother to go.  I think they felt that way because the harm he did in the long term was just to insurmountable to be covered over by the few good times.  And that brings us to our next point.

The Harm Narcissists do to Children Overshadows the Good Parenting

This subtitle reminds me of the phrase, “Even a broken clock is right twice a day.”  As I mentioned before, there were good times here and there.  And I think that my ex wanted his family.  But he wanted to own us.  We were just property to him to use when he wanted us around or wanted to make a good impression.  He didn’t see us as people, even when we talked about it in counseling for months.  I do remember one time that we were arguing and he said the he didn’t think he could make himself be different than he was.  That statement stopped our argument instantly.  And it both scared me and made me sad for him at the same time.  

A clock tower, reminiscent of the saying, "Even a broken clock is right twice a day." This is similar to the concept in the article that narcissists can be good parents on occasion.

Unfortunately, his statement proved to be true.  As counseling progressed and he was called out for his narcissistic issues, he spiraled out of control.  He went off the rails with all of his children.  And they all walked away, not willing to put up with the misery of the narcissism in order to enjoy the few good times, which were good experiences on the surface, but poor experiences relationally.  

For the few good experiences they did get, they have suffered from bad memories, lack of memory, PTSD, and a myriad of issues needing professional counseling.  They did not emerge unaffected.  And my prayer now is that they can heal and now have healthy families of their own.

How Children Heal From Narcissistic Parents

As I briefly alluded to above, professional counseling will be a must.  This rings especially true if the narcissistic parent falls higher on the narcissism spectrum.  

As the other parent support person of a narcissist’s child, reading about ways to support and love your children in healthy ways will help you to help your children.  Often, children of narcissists grow into adults before realizing the harm that was done to them by their narcissistic parent.  But there are some great books and resources out there for them!  Here are a couple of the ones that helped my family greatly:





The first book, Picking up the Shards, was written for adult daughters of narcissistic mothers.  It was an earth-shattering book for me.  It helped me to realize that my sisters and me were not alone in my traumatic childhood experiences.  I would recommend it as the first book you pick up if you (or your kids) are dealing with a narcissistic mother.  

If your family or loved one is dealing with a narcissistic father, Why Does he do That? by Lundy Bancroft is just as amazing as the book I recommended above for narcissistic mothers.  This book is not specific to narcissistic dads.  But the issues are definitely relevant to children as well as adults of narcissistic men.

The Emotionally Destructive Relationship is the perfect book to help you recognize destructive behavior vs. difficult behavior.  Then, Leslie Vernice goes on to help you decide how you want to deal with the behavior in a way that works well for you.  She doesn’t tell people what to do.  Instead, she helps people to see all of the facts and then make their own healthy decisions.  I love that!  It is such a healing book.  And you will be amazed at the new you! (Or you will be proud of the person you are helping through this journey!)

And finally, Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend is a book that should be required reading for everyone!  It is such a good book for teaching us how to relate in healthy ways to everyone!  Without proper boundaries in place, we open everyone up to do harm to us.  But once we understand the functionality of boundaries, people will never be able to take advantage of us again (at least not after they try it and don’t succeed)!

These books can all help you get to a healthier place, whether that means your relationship transforms into something else, or even that you choose to end the relationship, at least for the current time if you feel that you cannot get the relationship to a healthy, balanced place.  

Also, for a couple of articles that go more in depth about relationships with narcissistic parents, click on the titles below:

Understanding the Tactics of a Religious Narcissistic Father

Dealing With the Trauma of a Religious Narcissistic Mother



While good things can happen in relationships with a narcissist parent, that does not mean it is good for you in the long term.  It is important for you to recognize what a healthy relationship looks like and make sure you do what you can to make all of your relationships healthy.

Did you have a narcissistic parent?  Did they treat you well or poorly?  Do you have some good memories?  Have you been able to set appropriate boundaries and recover your relationship with you narcissistic parent?  I would love to hear your story!  Feel free to comment below, or if you are not comfortable commenting publicly, you can message me here.

Blessings, hugs, and prayers for you,



If you found this article valuable, I think you will also find the following articles valuable:

Can Narcissists Love Their Children?

Will a Narcissist Hurt Their Child?

How Can You Tell if Someone is a Religious Narcissist?

Can Two Narcissists be in Relationship With Each Other?

Understanding the Tactics of a Religious Narcissistic Father 

Dealing With the Trauma of a Religious Narcissistic Mother

When Narcissism Becomes Pathological

Will God Punish a Narcissist?

What to do When Your Narcissist Threatens You

The Bible Used as a Weapon Against You:  You Can Overcome! 

What Does the Bible Say About Abusive Husbands?

The Link Between Spiritual Abuse and Narcissism

Why Narcissists Want to Apear Godly

What Healing From a Narcissist Looks Like

Why Narcissists Love Going to Church 

How Religious Narcissists Think

Are Narcissists Evil?

Narcissistic Behavior:  What to Look Out For

Praying for Your Narcissistic Husband

Are Spiritual Narcissists Overt or Covert? 

Religious Trauma Syndrome:  How to Preserve Your Spiritual Journey

How to Navigate Religious Narcissistic Parents

What Happens to the Soul of a Narcissist?

How to Heal From a Spiritual Narcissist

Can You Maintain a Relationship With a Spiritual Narcissist? 

Can Narcissists Have a Spiritual Awakening?

How Will God Judge a Narcissist?

When the Church Says to Move Back in With Your Narcissist

What Can we Say to a Christian Friend Who’s Divorcing?

Why Does God Hate Divorce? 

12 Ways the Church Helps Narcissists Abuse Their Victims

When Your Church Believes the Narcissist’s Lies

23 Reasons Why Narcissists are Drawn to the Church

What Does the Spiritual Narcissist do When You try to Leave?

When the Church Doesn’t Recognize Narcissistic Abuse

Will the Church Support Divorcing a Narcissist?

Are Narcissists Demon Possessed?

What Does the Bible say About Narcissism?

Can a Narcissist be a Christian?

Can a Spiritual Narcissist Heal?

What is Spiritual Narcissism?


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Hi! I am the founder of Navigating Religious Narcissism after being raised under a narcissistic mother and married to a narcissistic man for 31 years. It is my prayer that I can be as valuable on your journey to healing and peace as were so many who crossed my path of healing.

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