It is difficult to deal with a narcissist when you are a grown, independent, fully functioning adult. The children of narcissists have an especially difficult burden, for they lack the knowledge, power, and resources to deal with their narcissistic parents without becoming their victims. Whether cast into the role of Scapegoat or Golden Child, the Narcissist's Child never truly receives that to which all children are entitled: a parent's unconditional love. Start by reading the 46 memories--it all began there.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Thou shalt be an adult: The 10 Commandments of Dysfunctional Families Pt 3

From The 10 Commandments of Dysfunctional Families by Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A.
3. Thou shalt be an adult.

Sample Situation: Children were made to take care of their parents emotionally, physically, or sexually and to meet their parents’ “childish” needs for power, attention, sex, and belonging. The children submitted to avoid physical and emotional abandonment by their parents. Children in these environments can't really remember a “childhood.” For this reason, children were always expected to be adults.

Application: Being child-like and spontaneous is irresponsible and bad. You must act like an adult at all times and be responsible, even if you’re only five years old.

Motto: There’s no such thing as child’s play. It’s all serious stuff.


This is similar to parentifying but expands a bit. When your parent expects you to take on adult responsibilities, either emotionally or physically (like being a surrogate parent to your siblings or being the maid), that parent is parentifying; when you become responsible for your mother’s moods, when you have take care of her emotionally either because she will fall apart or fly into a rage if you don’t, that parent is parentifying…and it is dysfunctional. But there are some parents who take it even further, expecting adult behaviour and emotional maturity out of their children, and more.

One thing that used to puzzle me about my NM is how she would assign me a chore…something I had never done before…and expect immediate and flawless performance. “Go wash the kitchen floor!” and from that I was not only supposed to know to remove chairs, trash can, and rugs, I was also supposed to know to sweep first, pre-treat particularly dirty areas, what floor cleaning product to use, how to mix it up, apply it, rinse, and dry. And if I couldn’t figure it out and get it done in the same amount of time it would take her to do it (or less), I was stupid, defiant, a malingerer, or intentionally pissing her off.

You can reasonably expect an adult to be able to figure it out…or tell you if she needed some information. But if I complained “I don’t how,” NM would answer something to the effect “You’re supposed to be smart—figure it out!” or “I’m not asking you to build a rocket to the moon, just wash the goddamned floor!” One of the downsides of having a high intelligence and your NM knowing about it is that she presumes knowledge you don’t have, or an ability to figure things out despite a lack of applicable information.

In a dysfunctional family, children are expected to behave like little adults. When I was married to my NHusband, my six year old son wanted to learn how to play monopoly. My husband was recruited to make the game more than just the two of us, and we began to play. Less than 30 minutes later, my son retired to his room in tears as NH chortled joyfully over trouncing a six year old who had never played the game before. Minutes later, he was the upset one because I refused to continue the game with him, after giving him a set-down for taking unfair advantage of a child. His response? The kid shouldn’t play if he doesn’t know how and leaving the table in tears was the sign of a poor sport! That man truly expected that little boy to be an adult, both in his game strategy and in handling his loss.

If you grew up in a dysfunctional family, you surely can think of other examples in which you were expected to show adult judgment, adult skill, adult maturity when you were still just a child. I remember being put in dangerous situations, often because I was afraid to refuse—the penalty for refusal was certain, predictable, and once the punishment for my insubordination was over, I would still be tasked with whatever it was I had refused to do…crossing that busy 4 lane highway to buy bread and milk and cigarettes for NM, who was too lazy to fire up the car and do it herself, was no more dangerous than defying one of NM’s commands.

Sexual abuse is, at its very core, an abuse that forces a child into doing things appropriate only for an adult. And we are all aware of the more blatant kinds of sexual abuse of children but there are more subtle forms, things we may not initially think of as sexually abusive. Sexualizing children is inappropriate and in my personal opinion, programs such as Toddlers and Tiara encourage the sexualisation of little girls. When I was about seven, my NM was obsessed with turning me into a famous entertainer. I was cute, blonde, had a big singing voice and perfect pitch. I was singing in talent shows and county fairs and nightclubs and doing well—at least I assume I was doing well since NM was not berating or beating me after my performances (although she wasn’t praising me, either) and she was encouraged enough to take me to Hollywood to audition for parts in movies. I was not really on board with all of this, even though I pretended to be to spare myself her wrath.

After one audition, NM instructed me to go to the producer, a sweaty, half-bald, paunchy old guy who smelled like onions, stale cigars and old sweat, climb up in his lap and kiss him as a thanks for allowing me to audition. I was repulsed and while I successfully resisted her cajolery and threats, I didn’t escape unscathed: I got a tongue lashing the whole way home (a two-hour drive) and a beating with The Strap once we arrived. In retrospect, I can see that NM was sending me to, essentially, flirt with him, to be precociously seductive. I was to suppress my own revulsion of his person and sit on his lap and kiss him—the kind of thing a young women might do to entice a man to do her bidding and hardly appropriate for a seven year old. The costumes she sewed for me were provocative rather than “little-girl cute,” and I had to learn to cock my head and wink or smile seductively…in short, to look and act like a tiny sexy, seductive adult. These were lessons I did not forget in later years, lessons which actually impeded my ability to deal with men in anything other than a flirtatious, manipulative, seductive manner.

Sexualizing children…placing them in positions in which they learn sexually suggestive behaviours at an inappropriately young age…is just one of many ways in which a dysfunctional family may expect children be behave as adults. Boys learning to drink and swear, girls are encouraged to flirt and be coy in order to get what they want—too often such behaviour is seen as cute and is rewarded when, in fact, it teaches children behaviours work against them in later years.

When a child is expected to act like an adult, whether it is to be precociously seductive or inappropriately restrained, the child loses her childhood and the joy that is supposed to be a part of it. Unsurprisingly, these children may grow into shallow, provocative Lolitas who see their personal power linked inextricably to their ability to seduce what they want out of others or into solemn, sombre creatures who take everything seriously, including light-hearted teasing. Expecting children to behave like adults, forcing them into roles for which there are not sufficiently emotionally mature, is no less an abuse than beating a child, because it stunts…even kills…who they really are inside, forever damaging their ability to achieve the potential with which they were born.

There is a reason humans have a long childhood—it takes many, many years for the human animal to grow, physically, intellectually, and emotionally, into adulthood. Forcing children to behave like adults short circuits the natural order of things and leaves them deeply injured.

Next: Ten Commandments of Dysfunctional Families:
4. Thou shalt keep secrets from others.


  1. When you said, "One of the downsides of having a high intelligence and your NM knowing about it is that she presumes knowledge you don’t have, or an ability to figure things out despite a lack of applicable information." I had to wonder if your nm was also attempting to set you up to try to bring you down, to try and remove any reassurance being bright would offer. If she was criticizing smart were you? (her thinking, not mine)
    Her request that you sit on the guys lap was her pimping you out...disgusting. I hope your daughter reads your blog one day and the light goes on and she realizes what you lived.

    1. Oh, I am sure she was setting me up to fail. One memory, indelibly imprinted on my mind was a terrifying episode in which she reacted to my saying that I had "tried" at something but had been unsuccessful, and that enraged her. It continues to stick in my mind because it was perhaps the first time I was absolutely clear that she was nuts...truly, certifiably nuts. I don't recall what I had failed to accomplish but I do remember her dragging me into the bathroom by my hair and making me stand by the sink while she turned the taps on high. She was screaming at me about how "trying" wasn't good enough, it accomplished nothing, how she never wanted to hear the word from me again--I was just to do it, no matter what. Then she pointed to the stream of water flowing forcefully from the tap and told me I was to do what I was told, and if she told me to tie a ribbon around that flowing stream of water from the tab, I was to DO IT without complaint, question, or saying I couldn't. It was totally crazy because we BOTH knew what she was saying was impossible and yet she made it very clear that if she demanded the impossible of me, I was to accomplish it without complaint (which she called "backsass"). Being set up to fail was "life as usual" in her household.

      My daughter has read my blog--at least the 46 Memories. She pronounced them lies and forbade her husband and son to have any contact with me, then sent a link to other family members, telling them the stories were lies and that when people read them and recognized us, it would make the family look bad. The inherent contradiction there apparently did not occur to her...if they were lies, we couldn't possibly be recognized, could we? And if we WERE recognized, then the stories would have to be true, wouldn't they?

      What has recently occurred to me is that my NM ultimately succeeded in her quest, back when I was pregnant with my daughter, 17 and unmarried, to take my child away from me. First she tried to take me to Mexico for an illegal abortion, then she tried to force me to go to a home for unwed mothers and give the baby up for adoption. I had to get a court's permission to marry because she refused it, and when the baby was born she cut ties with me, telling me that I had made my bed, now I had to lie in it and she would not help me, no matter how tough things got. I am sure she was hoping I would be unable to take care of my child and have to give her up to the state.

      I managed to eke out a living (although she and her husband owned businesses and could have given me a decent job) until her precious younger brother turned up childless and unable to adopt. After two years of legal shenanigans and subterfuge, she managed to get a guardianship of my children--she took the "baby" away from me as she had tried to do years earlier--and gave them to her brother for adoption.

      But it didn't stick, and eight years later the children were back in my care, so NM simply found another tactic--undermining--to achieve her goal. And so, in the end, she succeeded in taking my daughter away from me, which was her intent from the moment she knew the child existed. My daughter was so enmeshed with my NM and benefitted so much from that association, I do not believe she will ever admit to the do so would be to admit she's been lying herself, and what N would ever do that??

  2. If your daughter is a narcissist it does seem more unrealistic to think she'll awaken one day. Have you been able to get validation from anyone in your FOO?
    There's no-one in my foo that is introspective enough to grasp this concept, except one older brother, the golden child...ironically we became kind of close in our mid teens on...which INFURIATED my crazy mother, but he died in '95.

    1. When my NM's plot finally came to light, numerous members of the family changed sides, particularly those she had duped. My NM knew my grandmother would never stay silent on her own, so according to my grandmother, NM got a court order ordering her and my grandfather to not reveal anything about my kids. I never saw the court order but I saw no reason to disbelieve my grandmother, especially since she was the one who actually spilt the beans in the end and told me where the kids were.

      My uncle Gary, NM's older brother whom she ordinarily despised, was conned into perjuring himself in court to "save those poor babies." He later drove 1200 hundred miles to personally come see me and apologize for his part in it. My uncle Pete, NM's worshipped little brother and adopter of my children, was horrified when he found out what REALLY went on, that he had believed all of her lies, especially when he discovered she had withheld vital medical information about one of the kids (I am sure she thought they wouldn't want to adopt him and then she'd be stuck with him)--he had a brain injury as a result of spinal meningitis in infancy and behavioural problems as a result. His doctor had him on Dexedrine as a controlling drug--she acknowledged that he was on the drug in court, but claimed I was "drugging this poor baby" rather than tell the judge the truth.

      My aunt and uncle had no idea, but my daughter, who was 14, was already starting to show behavioural issues. She had them convinced she was the perfect child (in high contrast to her brother who had now gone 8 years without treatment or medication for his problems)--what they didn't know is that she was sneaking out at night by going out her bedroom window and climbing down a trellis and partying until the wee hours of the morning.

      When she came to live with me she was outraged that I caught on to her subterfuge, that she could not fool me...she actually convinced a family counselor (I had the whole family in counselling as soon as I got the kids back) that she was just fine with the change--and how the counselor could believe that I'll never know! But when I did not turn out to be the pushover my aunt and uncle were, the battle was on.

      The validation I first got was from my uncles...when NM died, her younger brother refused to attend her memorial service--he was building houses on a Reservation in North Dakota for Habitat and he said that was more important. My father and step-mother, my grandmother, both uncles, all validated me and condemned my NM, although my grandmother, I think, forgave her in the end.

      NM acted towards me like nothing ever happened! And continued, unknown to me to undermine me with my daughter. Like any unenlightened DoNM, I still wanted my mother's love and approval and it wasn't until she died and the depth of her--and my daughter's--perfidy was revealed in her will that I truly began to see reality, including the reality of my daughter. She should have been NM's child.

  3. I'm also gonna suggest there may be a genetic component here in addition to the obvious benefits of being "G'ma's Little Golden Girl" for your daughter. It's interesting to note at least some of us have full siblings who grow up into "MNMs all over again." By the time Nsis was in her late teens/early 20's, Dad had set her up with her own apartment in Manhattan, secured employment for her through his business contacts and her profound sense of entitlement was clearly in evidence. She took MNM's side completely when Dad initiated divorce proceedings ensuring she would forever remain "Mommy's Golden Girl," unlike me, who insisted I would continue to have a relationship with my father. Nsis was a nasty child, a nasty adolescent and later a nasty adult. She "rescinded" her threat to "Never see Dad again until his funeral" when Dad informed her of the Divorce proceedings (she would have been about 20/21) a few years later when Dad and S/M allowed her access to their lovely homes when she needed an all expenses paid vacation. My S/M (a great lady) was notably "absent" for these "visits" which ended abruptly when S/M discovered my typically sneaky Nsis helped herself to a picture of S/M-not the one visible in the frame, but the one BEHIND it. In the 15 yrs. of Dad and S/M's marriage prior to Dad's death, Nsis never ONCE met her face to face. Meanwhile, I was completely NC with her as I had been with MN Psychobitch (my personal "Two-fer" ;) ) Somehow it became MY fault that Nsis was not notified about Dad's death. My sense is Dad and S/M had discussed this and decided she would not have her "See you at your funeral" statement fulfilled. His death was sudden and frankly, neither S/M nor I thought of her and certainly, S/M would NOT like to meet Nsis at such a traumatic time. When Nsis called a few weeks after Dad's death and S/M informed her of Dad's death, her first statement was, "WHAT did TW GET?" S/M responded very evenly, "TW didn't ASK for ANYTHING." I didn't; that was up to his widow/my SM. Please consider your daughter may have more going on here than denial and economic incentive: How typical you can show them documentary evidence that refutes their beliefs and they were not even PRESENT when the events took place and STILL not make a dent in their sense of absolute infallibility: She sounds/behaves just like Nsis: They have this rock-solid, inflexible, never-mistaken, never mis-informed profound characterlogical "ALL ABOUT MEEE" that's not only illogical but impenetrable. (sigh. Sound familiar?)
    I know saying this doesn't relieve your heartache or in any way mitigate your frantic and heart-breaking attempts to protect your children. Our adult worlds are lived primarily in the "Grey Areas" between polarities: That does NOT mean we don't have absolutes or the ability to call evil/unacceptable when we see it/experience it. The world of MNs does not allow for elasticity, ever and their unshakeable sense of self-righteousness is exactly that. Genetics may play a role, but I remain convinced so do environmental factors. Willful and conscious denial of reality serves them well. My apologies for the length of this reply.

    1. Sorry to be so late in responding--for some bizarre reason either Blogger or Gmail sometimes fails to notify me there is a comment awaiting moderation and when I remember to go in and check manually, there are usually a couple that missed me--like this one.

      I would give more credibility to the notion that my daughter inherited a genetic predisposition except for one thing: until NM came along, we cannot find any seriously N family members. If, in her case, it is heritable, then where did NM's come from? I was half raised by her parents--if their child rearing techniques were such that they resulted in an N child, surely I would have seen something of it?

      My one uncle spent several days with me after NM's perfidy with my children was finally revealed. My uncle, who was terribly ill and died just a couple of years after our conversation, had been hornswoggled by NM's tearful tales and manipulations into perjuring himself in court, testifying against me. He was sincerely apologetic and drove 16 hours pulling his AirStream (a carabvan) to tell me just how sorry he was for his part in it and to beg my forgiveness. Then he stayed on for a few days and answered a LOT of questions about NM, his younger sister, and by the end of our convo it was clear that he knew of no one in the family who behaved like she did (or had, when she was a teen and young woman and the town scandal). She was, in his opinion, a "one-off." This makes a genetic component more difficult to countenance.

      It is, of course, possible but I suspect more of an influence--she knew my mother in the years they were, from my standpoint, missing. She had been adopted by my other uncle and his wife, who was a carbon copy of NM. So, from the ages of 6 through 14 she was either in my mother's control or that of my aunt. And before she came back to live with me at 14, she was already sneaking out of the house at night to go drinking, smoking, drugging and partying with an older crowd who probably didn't know how young she was...all without my aunt and uncle catching a clue.

      In fact, when my uncle contacted me to let me know the kids were with him, he just wanted me to take my son--they wanted to keep my daughter--because the boy was in trouble with the law and they didn't want to sell their boat or zero their vacation fund to pay for his legal expenses: they had applied for my son to have a court appointed attorney and were turned down because they did not need the financial help. The judge told them to sell their boat or to use the money in their vacation fund to pay for an attorney for him, and rather than do that, they decided to give him back to me! But they wanted to keep my daughter--she was a good little housemouse, kissed up to them by doing cleaning and setting her brother up to get into trouble (she told me this herself) to keep them focussed on him and his misbehaviour, making her look like a paragon beside him. Yes, he was in real trouble and on his own, but I suspect it had more to do with a brain injury he suffered in infancy from spinal meningitis and the fact that NM withheld this info from my uncle and aunt, so he had gone 8 years without treatment: the brain injury was specific to a depressed "impulse control" centre.

      And so DD had been setting up DS for at least a couple of years, had been snooping in Aunt's correspondence for at least 5 years (when I wrote to my grandmother, without my knowledge she was forwarding my letters to uncle and aunt...and daughter was snooping in my aunt's desk and reading my letters--DD told me this herself--and never letting on she knew where I lived, about her new baby brother, or anything at all about me. Cold blooded.

      Genetic? Maybe--she sure behaves like her grandmother. But NM presented her with the archetypal role model to follow, complete with a six figure reward for being a flying monkey...

  4. Violet, wow, what a sad mess your young life has been! Humans don't expect that a mother would work against their own child like yours did, perhaps that's why outsiders so rarely believe this abuse exists. It's not just being negligent, it's actually going out of their way to do harm while pretending they are normal loving mothers to the outside world. The fact that your daughter has been twisted and tainted against you is really heart-breaking...I really feel for you. It's a gift that you got validation from some people..that rarely happens!
    Thanks so much for sharing...take care.

    1. That, I think, is the chief difference between an NM and a Malignant NM--the MNM goes out of her way to work against her child.

      Mine was an ignoring NM for most of my life. If there was something she wanted, she would stop ignoring me in order to do what she needed to do to exploit me. Once she got what she wanted (or decided she couldn't get it and she needed to back off and regroup), she would go back to ignoring me. I had no idea what the dynamic was at that time and I welcomed her periods of attentiveness. I did not recognize until years later that they existed ONLY as a lead up to her trying to get something from me.

      The gift of validation, I am sad to say, did not come as support to me. My uncles felt bad for 1) being duped by NM and 2) doing something wrong as a result. The validation was rather a side benefit of their remorse...unlike NM, they both had a conscience.

      My daughter, I am sad to say, by the age of 14 was a willing player in NM's schemes. Like all Ns, her loyalty lay where it benefitted her the most. Her grandmother undermined me and she sucked up to her grandmother--and was ultimately rewarded with a cash legacy in the 6 figures. Interestingly, after NM died, my daughter started sucking up to my father (whom she had pretty much ignored up to that point) but his estate went to his wife and it's doubtful anybody will see a penny of that money except her children.

      My daughter recently divorced her husband of 22 years, a real enabler. She took everything--he ended up living in a tent in a park in Colorado in the winter! He filled me in on her reaction to my blog and how she alienated some family members from me again with accusations and lies. I guess in some families, it never stops.

  5. This is just heartbreaking and so indicative IMO of the likli-hood your daughter is an N as well. She knew which side her Financial Future was buttered on. Additionally, showing her all the documentary evidence you had regarding HOW she (and your other children) were abducted from you, your efforts to regain custody, keep in touch with them through the years etc. made not one bit of difference to HER. She flat out refuses to accept reality and flaunted her "Grammie's Special Girl" status at every opportunity.
    By the time my Nsis was in 5th grade, the daily upheavals between her and MNM became so intolerable, Dad brought them both to a Psychiatrist. (This would have ben in the very early '60's.) The Psychiatrist told Dad (who has always been a reliable reporter) they needed to be separated as they "were too much alike." (Smart man) Dad found a lovely, prestigious Boarding School within 2 hrs. of our house and Nsis was enrolled along with the DD's of other affluent families, politicians, "Hollywood Royalty." He ensured Nsis came home as frequently as she wanted for weekends etc. even though it meant he had to change his schedule often at the last minute to accommodate her and made all kinds of efforts to spend quality time with her. He sense of entitlement grew exponentially as she grew through adolescence and never stopped expanding.
    She treated Dad very cruelly. It's a long story and I won't bore you but ultimately, Nsis was put in her place as an adult at the time of Dad's death. Somehow, despite the reality I had terminated the relationship with her concurrently with MNM, the "outcome" was all MY fault as I learned from my S/M. She was a nasty, sneaky child, a nasty, sneaky adolescent and a nasty, sneaky adult. Sh is MNM all over again. I believe your daughter is your NM all over again as well.
    They flatly refuse to look at facts just as flatly as they refuse to engage in any type of introspection. They are constantly scheming, planning and take pleasure from inflicting pain on others. I'm so sorry, SV. I don't believe they ever change. As adults we are responsible for the choices we make. Many of us have had less than charmed childhoods. We don't perpetuate the the Legacy.

    1. Yah, I have begun referring to my daughter as NM's "Mini-Me." As a young child (up to age 6) she was a sweet, lovely little girl but when NM spirited her away, she came back to be as a sullen, stubborn, rigid 14 year old. I took the whole family to counseling as the experience of being "abandoned" by your mother (that is what she was told), adopted by relatives and then abandoned for real several years later had to wrenching. She told the counsellor she was "fine" and the moron believed her!! As a teen she was sneaky and underhanded, not only after coming back to me, but she admitted to some of her sneaky behaviour when she was still with my aunt and uncle. She is no better as an adult: she is controlling and grasping and has only the most fleeting relationship with the truth, coupled, apparently, with a complete lack of conscience or empathy --SO much like her grandmother it is eerie.

      I don't expect it to change.


I don't publish rudeness, so please keep your comments respectful, not only to me, but to those who comment as well. We are not all at the same point in our recovery.

Not clear on what constitutes "rudeness"? You can read this blog post for clarification: