Many covert narcissists tend to behave like children in some ways. I believe this is because they want to be coddled & taken care of like little kids. Not that everyone doesn’t have that urge to be cared for sometimes but they really take it over the top.
Do you know if the covert narcissist in your life is behaving childishly? Here are some ways to identify their childish behavior.
Childish adults don’t control their emotions normally. Healthy adults have a good perspective. Sure they get angry or sad sometimes, but it’s proportionate to the situation at hand. Childish adults aren’t this way. They get angry easily or cry at the drop of a hat, & their reactions are very disproportionate to the situation.
They lie. Granted, all narcissists lie. Childish ones however will lie even easier than their more mature counterparts. If they’re in a situation where they are uncomfortable, childish narcissists will lie to get out of it. Maybe they don’t want to attend their child’s Christmas play at school, so they say they have a headache in order to get out of it.
Blameshifting/blaming. Another thing all narcissists love to do is shift the blame to their victim rather than accept responsibility. Again though, childish ones do it even faster.
Excuses. When a normal adult is confronted about something, they accept responsibility without making excuses. Childish narcissists don’t do this. They make up excuses, often really lame ones. As one example, my late mother in-law was a covert & childish narcissist. She used to snoop through my purse if I left her alone with it in her home for more than a moment, like if I went to the bathroom. At one point, she left $40 in it. I told my husband this isn’t her trying to bless me- it’s hush money so I’ll let her keep snooping. As I listened from around the corner, he talked to her about staying out of my purse. She whined about having “alllllll this cash just lying around” & said she had to get rid of it. She didn’t mean any harm- she was just trying to get rid of some of that extra cash. Lame excuse, no?
They feign incompetence. Any adult who wants to be treated like a child will pretend they don’t know how to do things. They may try to do something & do it really badly or break something, so the people in their lives get frustrated & just do the task for them.
Everything is a crisis. Not every problem is a crisis, but childish narcissists act like they are. If they have a crisis, then they can call on someone (usually their adult children) to run to their side to fix the problem.
Parentification. Narcissistic parents are often very good at parentification. This is when a parent treats a child more as a partner than a child. The child is supposed to listen to the parent’s problems, often about such inappropriate topics as the parent’s marriage or sex life. The child is supposed to take care of the parent’s emotional needs (cheer the parent when she’s sad, calm her down when angry, etc) & sometimes physical ones as well (such as cooking for or doing the laundry). If both parents are narcissists, often the covert narcissistic parent will also expect the child to protect that parent from the overt one. The child ends up very protective of that parent, not only with the other parent, but in general. When that child grows up & gets married, if his new spouse has any complaint about the childish parent, the adult child will defend that parent to the spouse, often to the spouse’s surprise. Excuses are made, the spouse is shamed for daring to be upset with the parent & more.
To deal with these childish behaviors in your narcissistic parent, don’t indulge them. If your parent wants you to do something you know she can handle on her own, let her. Tell her you aren’t able to take care of it but you know she can handle it just fine.
If she calls, complaining about a crisis & you know it’s not really a crisis, put it in perspective for her. Use cold logic. Let’s say she’s upset because her mail hasn’t been delivered yet & it’s 2:00. It usually arrives by 10, so she is upset it’s not there. You can (calmly) say things like, “Mom, it’s still early in the day. It’s the Christmas season & the post office is really busy this time of year. They get behind sometimes. If it doesn’t arrive by 6, contact the post office in the morning.” Logic is a wonderful tool with narcissists. They can’t say anything when the facts are completely clear before them.
Use logic when she lies, makes excuses or blames, too. You can say things like, “I really don’t see how Susan doing that could make you behave that way. It doesn’t make any sense. Besides, I’ve known Susan for 10 years, & I’ve never known of her to do anything even remotely like that before.” When you use logic, always stay calm & state the facts clearly.
If your narcissistic behavior acts childish with emotions, such as having a temper tantrum for not getting her way, treat her like the bratty child she’s acting like! Tell her you aren’t going to talk to her until she calms down. If you’re on the phone, tell her you have to go. Use another phone to trigger your call waiting, so that way you can tell her your call waiting went off- you have to go. (it’s not technically lying- your call waiting did beep!)
Regarding parentification behaviors… this is a tough one. I honestly never found a way to stop my parents from doing it. Saying, “It hurts me when you talk about Mom/Dad like this” doesn’t work with narcissists. The one thing I found to be the most effective was to change the subject, especially back to my narcissistic parent. Since narcissists love to talk about themselves, let that work in your favor. Granted, you may not want to hear the latest gossip spoken about during her last bridge club but it sure beats hearing about 1,000 reasons she thinks your dad is a jerk!
There are ways to cope with childish behavior in narcissistic parents. These suggestions are the best ones I’ve found. Also don’t forget to pray. Asking God for help is the smartest thing you can do.