Parenting Adult Children ~Narcissism Personality Disorder


Do you have any hope (techniques we can use)  for Narcissist to change?   I am dealing with a 50 year old son who we have diagnosed (finally)  and he is wearing us out emotionally and financially.

Thank you so much,

When I think about this situation I can't help but ponder on the word "control."He wants control of his life and is going about it all want to have more control, or influence, over him and he is not a child anymore, despite how he is acting, so you can't have it by taking it.  There is a principle I believe in..............No one is able to really control anyone but herself.

      However, this doesn't mean that you can't still have influence on your son. It just means that it is much more difficult now than it would have been years ago, when he was just a boy.

My suggestion to you is this.  Do not play any of his games.  If he seeks attention in a narcissistic sort of way, don't give in.  You have to decide what you will tolerate and what you won't.  Don't ignore him.  Instead, just describe what he is doing. He needs to hear how he is coming across.  Also, you must stay clam and keep the spirit of love with you, or you will not be able to touch his heart while doing this.  I would say something like, "Right now you are saying....................and doing.................and this makes me think/feel...............I cannot talk to you when you are behaving this way."  Then, just say, "If you me I would be more inclined to listen."  Say it with love.  If he lives under your roof, then he has to still accept your authority as a parent somewhat.

For more details on disagreeing appropriately with him maybe this article will help

The other thing to do is constantly work on what you can control; yourself.  Don't let him ruffle you.  You can choose what will affect you and what won't.  If he can't affect you, he will slowly start trying to seek positive attention from you instead of negative which it sounds like he is currently doing.

Lastly, despite his condition, you must treat him like a regular person if he is going to act like a regular person.  He is used to getting preferential treatment.  This is not healthy.  He needs to be held to the same standard as everyone else for success in life. He may never drop all of his narcissistic tendencies by the way side, but he will learn what actions get what responses from you, and this will encourage him to either keep up what he is doing or make a change.

Remember, the only thing you can control is yourself; your responses. Don't respond with anger, happiness,or jest to anything you don't want repeated. If you don't like it, stay calm and silent. Do not get affected.

I hope this makes sense. If he tries to seek attention from you or has a pity party and wants sympathy, don't participate in it if you don't like to. Don't let him manipulate your feelings. If you keep yourself in constant control, then he will learn new ways of communication even at age 50. I do think that a complete reversal at this point would be unusual. So be aware of that. The only way an old dog can learn new tricks is if he is motivated to. It is all his choice, and he doesn't see the world with the same eyes you and I do.

Just don't let it get you down or worried. At this point you have your own progression to worry about. If you worry about your own relationship with God and mastering your own behaviors, then he will be inspired by you.

Be sure to praise him when he behaves in a normal way. Tell him you enjoy his company or something like that when he is socially acceptable etc. He is obviously seeking praise with his narcissism, so use praise to mold him in a new direction.

It would also be a good idea for you be become aquainted with the Four Basic Skills which I teach in my seminars and highlight in my book. You need to recognize when you are choosing not to give no answers when you should, and when he needs to accept a no answer. This should especially help with the finances. I know it sounds harsh to make your son have to fend for himself financially, but you won't be there forever, so it could be one of the nicest things you do for him.

I hope this helps.




Aimee's picture

Thanks, wonderful advice! My Mother-in-law had BPD (Boarderline Personality Disorder) and your advice is right on the money. It took me and my husband a long time to figure out how to deal with her while still being kind and you describe what we have been doing for the last year. Our relationship has gotten much, much better with her, and I think it has helped her too.

You are inspiring!

Jonia's picture

I just have to tell my story...At age 53, I married a man who was 70 and severely narcissistic. He is also a Mensan (IQ in top 3%). He married me to take up where his deceased wife left off. He was walking all over her. I lasted barely over a year and in an absolute state of despair, I left him. However, I was acutely aware of God's hand in bringing us together so I did not end the marriage. It took a while for the dust to settle and then we started the rebuilding. I did not have the benefit of this discussion, but I carefully studied narcissism and accepted the definition of it being a developmental disorder. He was in the petulant little boy mode about 90% of the time and adult mode about 10% of the time. He seemed to be stuck somewhere in childhood and I felt that he might be stuck at about 7 when he was abandoned by his family and sent off to boarding school, thus missing some crucial parenting. So I set about reparenting him using the model in "Hold Onto Your Kids". Along with that and long term counseling, things are much much better and we are talking about getting back together after nearly 3 yrs separation. He has changed a lot in many different ways. He still dominates social situations and I'm looking for loving ways to help him see that because I still try to avoid being in social situations with him. The little boy shows up much less often now and he treats me much better. He keeps a careful budget for the first time in his life and reports every little budgeting and other successes to me. I give him 'gold stars' and praise him profusely, but I don't let him deplete me like he did when we were first married. We are still living apart, but I can honestly say that we are good friends now and moving in a forward direction. In the meantime, I'm still wondering what is God's plan in all this. Perhaps this discussion will help me continue to find ways to help him feel loved.

Nicholeen's picture


Thank you for sharing such a personal story. I am sure it will give comfort and hope to many other people who live with similar children or spouses. You obviously have a great heart. May God bless you!


Anonymous's picture

I truly need help dealing with our daughter. I have never seen how anyone can throw people away like she does and blame everyone except herself. This has taken a toll mentalky and inancially. She has a 6 year old son and he is our life. I know she loves him. Her choices in life are to party and use as many people as possible. Once they are of no use to her she just walks away. She tries to make sure that she can keep complete hate towards me so she has someone to blame. I am the one who says: I need your car payment money, you still owe me for some credit card debt. We pay for her sons school, clothes, food ect ect. She spends her money partying. She works and does great at her job. I need help p,ease. I am depressed all the time and I feel it is ruining our marriage.

David Eggertsen's picture

@Anonymous @Anonymous Have you considered getting the Implementation Course? Or possibly the support group. Either way you could ask your questions directly to Nicholeen and get direct answers. Not to mention learn the Teaching Self-Government system. Seems to me that the answer to your problem would take a lot more than once simple comment response. =)

One major thing I would say though is that it your daughter obviously needs to have a vision and understand the cause and effect of her choices long term. There are ways parents can simulate cause and effect in order to teach their children so that they will make good choices. It almost always comes back to vision. What is your daughter's long-term vision? What is YOUR long term vision? For most people, taking a step back and looking at the big picture is enough to have the desire to change.

Christy's picture

My son started displaying aspects of narcisissm in his mid twenties, after being a really great kid and young adult. I really think it was due to the trauma of seeing his only parent, with whom he was very close, become disabled. Others might have reacted differently, but he became angry, sarcastic, arrogant, etc. to me. It got worse and worse and he has related perspectives that are very distorted, even inventing things in his mind. To others he seems charming and intelligent, but I believe to some extent he is an empty shell inside, a totally different person. He has rejected me and when I rarely speak to him he can not control himself from becoming angry over slight things, raising his voice, etc. We are basically estranged and he has even spoken badly about me to members of my family of origin, something he never would have done when he was younger. Naturally all of this has caused unspeakable pain to me. I have actually attempted suicide over this on several occasions; it is like having a child die. But I am taking it day by day and after attempting to resolve things repeatedly and failing, the only thing you can do is take care of yourself and try to move on with your life. I googled this site because I am wondering if there is possibly a genetic link to narcisissm; he now reminds me of his father, whereas when he was younger he was actually a sensitive, wonderful person. Of course the pain never goes away....

Cyndi's picture

I stumbled upon this page out of pure luck. I had no idea that this disorder existed and felt that my situation was at best unusual. My situation almost exactly mirrors that of the previous poster Christy. My only son used to be my best little buddy. He would talk to me about his problems and seemed to show some concern for my welfare especially after my divorce. This changed drastically when he turned around 20 when he began to distance himself from me and I just could not understand why. He also spoke very badly of me to my ex-in-laws even to the extent of making things up to make me look as bad as he could. On the very rare occasions that I did speak to him he was arrogant and ill tempered and only because he needed me to do something for him. On the last occasion it seems I did not jump quick enough and he really let me have it. He told me he hated me, that I was the cause of all his problems, I was pure poison, and that he never wanted to see me again. he even implied he wished I was dead. It was a rage that I could never understand and still have a very hard time accepting. If I had done something to deserve this I would still find it hard to accept but at least I would understand. He has kept his word though; I haven't heard from him in almost a year. I do understand your pain Christy, I live it everyday. And yes, it does feel like a death because I guess in a way it is. Having no other family except him makes my pain almost unbearable. Not that it does any good but I am someone comforted that there is some explanation to all this and that I am not the only mother going through this.

NeaBen's picture
The conversations on these pages are like a cool spring. As I read, I catch myself holding my breath!!! For once and the first time I feel my "secrets and fears" have been aired before. SO thank you, all you brave people! I have been in the US for 20 years now and not a day passes where my ravaged brain and heart have not double guessed my desparate move to give my 2 precious kids "rani beti and raja beta" a life and the opportunities I tanked my whole life for. I am still put in a corner so to speak as the worst thing that ever happened to them. This has been very challanging inspite of me being an Rn. I just regoogled and came upon this site. My faith has been greatly challenged, I think this is my way back...I will definately be a frequent revisitor and share a whole lot more. In the meantime....its not U......think about it and don't loose hope....Take Care.

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