CO-PARENTING WITH A NARCISSIST - 17 BEHAVIOURS TO LOOK FORWARD TO & TIPS ON HOW TO RESPOND
Updated: Feb 28
Co-parenting with a narcissist is not possible, even if a court says you must. If you can truly accept this statement and give up on all the emotive communication, and excess time you spend on stewing and analysing your ex’s actions, and even consider stopping the ongoing abusive mediation and litigation between the two of you, you are on the road to a more peaceful life. Remember the courtroom is their stage, they love it!
Sounds simple? It isn’t. This gut-wrenching realisation may only happen if you speak to a few survivors and gain insight into alternative techniques on dealing with these monsters. You can’t get this information from a textbook or your lawyer.
All in all, it can take a few years to ‘throw in the towel’ so to speak, as you mentally, spiritually, and physically change your behaviour, ethics, morals, guilt patterns, lifestyle and relationship with your kids. A Narcissist will never be able to do this. So, there is your silver lining.
This goes against everything your family, friends, lawyers, and family report writers have told you.
The Narcissist will not know what to do, as they no longer control you though parenting and the kids. As they never wanted the kids in the first place because they were just doing it to hurt you, they’ll get frustrated, the kids retaliate against them as they grow up and see what the Narc does and is, and then they generally leave the Narc’s home and come back to you… the more loving, understanding, and genuine parent. Time is on your side.
Tips for Surviving the co-parenting relationship with a Narcissist:
1. A narcissist has no empathy so show them no empathy back.
They are not your friend, treat them as if they were your past schoolroom bully. Don’t write back arguing with them and imploring for them to consider the best interests of their children. They don’t care as they use the children as pawns against you. So stop arguing, stick to the orders and let them tell their own kids that they aren’t allowed to do something. Don’t you do it for them! Remove yourself from the chess board. They are the bad guy, so let them take that mantle. It will bite them on the arse in the long run. They will end up being a lonely old adult with no love in their life, but they will still hold on to having that last say.
2. Medical issues are a game for the Narcissist and they love to emotionally slap you in the face.
They love to withhold information; leave you in the dark on doctors details, scripts, medication given etc. But expect you to provide everything to them. They’ll say things like…”start being a proper mother/father” to you when it’s their actions that have created the turmoil. Don’t deal directly with them on medical topics. You rise above their bullshit, provide the relevant medical details on text or email and leave the ball in their court to follow up if they wish. It is not up to you to keep them informed after providing this information. Don’t be their keeper. If you have the luxury and are doing up parenting court orders / consent orders, think about including these orders to help you in the future:
a. Nominate for a specific GP for the kids to be taken to by both parents;
b. Have an order that both parents are to follow all the recommendations of treating professionals; and
c. Standard parenting orders have the necessary clauses giving each parent the right to speak directly with medical institutes etc.
d. Add an order for all specialist fees to be paid 50/50 between the two of you as the Narc will rarely take their child to a specialist because they want you to pay for it and they don’t want to be involved anyway.
3. The Narc will threaten you a lot, especially with contraventions. They love to rattle your cage.
Wait till your child is sick and can’t spend time with them. It will be like the sky has fallen! Get a medical certificate send it to them and offer make up time when the child is better. No more arguments or negotiations. Let them lodge a contravention. You have reasonable grounds because the child is sick and has a medical certificate. However, if the child has a light cold, ear infection or something minor, send the child to them. Afterall, they are a parent and must take the good with the bad.
4. Put communication barriers in place and be boring towards them.
Low Contact (the bare minimum amount of contact you must have for the sake of the kids) combined with parallel parenting is the route to survival.
Think…do I really need to discuss this? Is this about the children and is it important; or is it just another trigger designed entirely to trap me? Does one of the orders answer this argument?
One word replies are gold or up to a maximum of 15 word replies are best. Use no emotive language, just facts.
A simple reply of “Thanks” to their rant stops them in their tracks because they don’t know what you mean. Also do not reply immediately unless it is urgent for the health and safety of your children. Take a few days or a even a week to respond. This slows down unnecessary communication and angst.
5. The Narc will implement triangulation techniques like bribing children / buying their affections… it’s okay to not agree.
An example might be with big ticket items like AFL tickets to the grand final on your weekend; or a weekend away; or attending a Pokémon Tournament… putting you in a terrible place with your kids deliberately to make you look bad. Say “no” and that’s it to the narcissist if you want to (it’s okay to say no) and leave it up to them to tell the kids they can’t go. They’ll soon get sick of throwing their money down the drain and it shows you are not a push over. Then tell your kids that you are sorry that daddy/mummy did the wrong thing planning it on your time with them and he/she is more than capable of doing such things with them on their time. And, question them as to why their mummy/daddy would do such a thing knowing they couldn’t go. Get them understanding the Narcs behaviour for what it is. Don’t cover up for the Narc to your children.
Flip the situation and ask them for a swap of time for an important occasion like a wedding, birthday, graduation; friend’s birthday party, a school disco or family holiday and you will be blown to smithereens. You’ll get back “How dare you plan things on my time!”
Plan and do everything you can with your kids without needing to ask for their permission or for a favour. A big thing to accept is that your kids are going to miss out on a lot, and they will work out in the long run why they missed out.
6. When you have the kids with you, enjoy them.
Don’t communicate with your ex as they want to take your attention away from the kids and emotionally destabilise you. Then they can say "you are out of control." Think about it …what real reason do they have to even talk to you when the kids are not in their home? None! Court orders tell them pick up times and dates etc. and if they want information they can get it themselves from the school, the doctor or other institutions.
Always plan things, have fun and special times and have non-verbal ques with your kids that are only done with you. Secret winks or handshakes etc. that the Narc can’t have with them because they’d never consider it.
Do your best by your kids when you have them. Then when they go to the Narc’s house, the way the children live it is out of your control, so accept that and enjoy your time independent from your children. Find something like an activity that gives you peace and do it during this time. It could be sitting on the beach or reading a novel or going to the gym. Just find it and do it.
7. One of the most difficult aspects of co-parenting with a narcissist will be witnessing the way they treat their kids.
Don’t be surprised for a male narcissist to call their daughter “fat” or “a fat pig” even when there is no weight issue. A male Narc calls all women “fat” or “fatso” and surprisingly under the Australian legal system this is not a form of domestic violence yet. It may fall under coercive control if the legislation is passed this year. Narcs do this to totally undermine the confidence, we as women, work so hard to build our entire lives.
The children will be afraid to say “no” to the Narc parent; and the Narc will always tell you that they don’t understand why the child’s afraid of them and then blame you, saying you are brainwashing them into thinking this way. Parental alienation is another bogus term they use against you, when they are doing it themselves putting you down.
Children in the care of a Narc will shut down and spend most of their time in their bedroom when in the Narc’s home and will continue to be withdrawn for a few days coming back to you. Remember a Narc does nothing fun with their kids.
Also, please don’t interrogate the kids when they come home. Give them as much consistency and stability as you can in your home so they feel that they can talk to you about their concerns when they are ready.
8. School uniforms are going to be an infuriating issue for you as the Narc is a thief on so many levels, not just clothing!
Back to school uniforms… They will keep the uniforms you paid for when the children come into their care because they never buy enough to cover the kids when they are with them. Also, they love the fact that they cause you to spend/waste your own money. When you ask for the items to be returned, they will lie straight to your face that they don’t have them and then ask for you to return their uniform, that you don’t have. They flip it to blame you.
A suggestion here is to put your name (not the child’s name) onto a label and sew it into the uniform. This way the Narc, firstly does not want your ‘labelled’ things in their home and the kids know which uniform belongs to which home and places responsibility on them to pick it up and put it in their bag when they see the label marked with your Christian name or maiden name. This takes it out of the Narc’s hands to keep the school shirt or the pants etc.
If you can make a parenting order that the two of you must pay half for all school uniforms, bags, caps and school expenses including fees and excursions you will be in a much stronger position when they pull this stunt on you, or you will end up submitting and paying the lot.
Undies are a similar subject. It’s like they must hoard all your underwear. When you upsize undies as your kids are growing they will keep the new undies and send you their old ones which are too small. Poor kids…they are sent to school in uncomfortable underwear because the Narc thinks this ticks you off! If only they knew we all thought expletives about how pathetic they are being.
9. For young children, the Narc does not like the ‘blanky’ or special toy that comes from your home.
They will immediately remove it and keep it at their house. They will tell you they don’t agree with the child having it, but they will give it to them in their home fully aware that it is the child’s comforter and relish in the fact that the child no longer has it when they are with you. So, don’t send it to their house. You are only responsible when your child is in your care to provide a safe, loving, and secure environment etc.
10. The COVID-19 vaccination is going to be a hotly contested subject when co-parenting with a Narc.
If it is not made compulsory for children, the Narc will take the opposing line against you just for the drama. Expect this, as they take the bi-polar position against you (counter-parenting) on absolutely everything anyway.
If you want the vaccination because you want to travel overseas or you have an elderly person living with you or maybe you are in a high-risk category – the Narc will ensure they don’t agree under equal shared parental responsibility just to keep you in fear of the illness coming into your household and possibly killing someone you love or you.
We will have to wait and see how to deal with COVID-19 vaccinations as the government decides our fate before I can give you any tips.
11. Extra-curricular activities for your kids will be basically non-existent.
The Narc hates having to do something for someone else and having to travel or pay for anything like tuition, sporting, membership fees, football shoes etc. Hence, if you want your kids to be involved in out of school activities, you’ll have to do your best to book them into practice that doesn’t fall on the Narc’s days.
Also, if your child is really good at something, like playing the guitar and your child did this activity when the two of you were together, they will probably not support the child continuing it post separation. No one can be better than them at anything as they see themselves as superior.
12. Co-parenting with a Narcissist will make you paranoid about making everyday decisions for your children.
Because they have conditioned you to panic over just about everything in fear of the retaliation, parenting with the Narc is mentally challenging. My advice – parallel parent on the daily decision making and say F-you, leave them out of it, don’t even ask for their opinion and just make the decision for what’s best for your child. When the child is in your care, you don't have to inform the other parent what you are doing. Take your child to that party or funeral. Your life is not open for opinion or debate. Plus the Narc tells you nothing about what they are doing...potentially because they are doing nothing with their kids.
13. The Narcissist will always be late to changeovers as they love to make you wait for them.
It's a control thing. Shrug it off, always be there for your kids. You are not waiting for him like he thinks, as the Narc is not the centre of your world, your child(ren) are. Speak to a friend on your mobile or catch up on emails while you wait. Be productive.
14. The new partner being called Mummy / Daddy by the children
This is like waving a red flag at a bull with the Narcissist. Blended families with young children under 5 years old are going to be facing the issue of who they call mummy and daddy in each home if you or your ex has re-partnered. There are two different scenarios to look at here:
a) The child themselves off their own bat, may start to call the step parent mummy eg "mummy becca" usually because other children in the same house are calling Rebecca "mummy". This is done to fit in and feel a bond with the family unit. Then this child goes to the Narcs house and refers to "mummy becca." Expect all hell to break lose and the Narc ill not even consider that the child has done this on their own volition.
Furthermore add to this for a little more frustration, if when you were together in a relationship with the Narc and had another child of yours living with you, I bet that same Narc told your other child that they must call them "mummy/daddy" to have the podium against the biological mum. So double standards.
b) Then there is the Narc when they re-partner, they will have your child call the ring in" mummy / daddy " to piss you off, even if the new partner doesn't want the title.
So what do you do. Logic and normal blended families understand this occurs and life moves on. Either choose to ignore the Narc's rants on this subject or stop the mummy/daddy labels being used with new partners right at the very beginning. If the Narc throws this subject in court, a Judge will likely put in a order to fix this dispute and it will more than likely be around prohibition of the children referring to anyone else as mum or dad.
15. Telephone Contact with the child
The tactics taken by a Narcissist is going to depend on the child's age. For instance, if your child is fairly young (under 6) the Narc will bitch and complain if you have the TV on during the phone call / skype or if they are playing with a toy. The Narc does not even think that a child of this young age will not sit in one spot and speak to them for 10 minutes and that having a TV on is a form of keeping them on the couch for more than 60 seconds. Developmentally they don't speak for long and don't have much to say. You will receive communications about how inappropriate you are being deliberately leaving the TV on; or that you are making loud noises to distract them from focusing their attention on the Narc. You are more than likely making lunch or dinner or watching your own TV show. Anyway, my opinion to stop their badgering is to give them exactly what they want.. turn off the TV, radio etc and then leave the child to walk away from the skpye call on the ipad or the mobile after the 60 seconds cause they are bored and want to play with their toys of watch TV. This way you have done exactly what was asked and it backfires in their face.
As for older children, the Narc wants them to be in their room, with the door closed because they believe you listen to every call. Complete paranoia! Again because they think that they are your entire world and you hang off every word. The Narc will sometimes ask them to walk around the house on Facetime so that they can see your home etc; a form of internal stalking through your children.
Turn the tables and your calls to the child when they are in the care of the Narc will include:
The child not being given privacy to talk to you, the Narc will listen in the room
The TV, radio etc will always be on
They will hang up the phone if they don't like the conversation you have having; or just because they feel you have been on the phone too long (like 2 minutes).
Generally not matter what age the Narc will also:
In Facetime calls sometimes they will even put their face on the screen not saying anything but just so you know they are watching you.
They will not allow you to call outside of the court ordered times even if you are 1 minute late; but they will call outside of the ordered times and demand you answer them.
They will leave you messages that they will contravene you if you don't answer their calls and send text messages seconds later questioning why you didn't answer the call and demanding a call back. As you are to be at their beck and call all the time in their head. They don't care if you are in bed sick or on the loo or even in an accident or driving a car. You are to answer their "god damn phone call"
My response.....keep living your life. Do your best to answer their calls within the court ordered times and take the approach that their relationship is with their child, not you so who cares when they call. You are the parent needing to display empathy towards your children. Put them on to their child and walk away. Let the child hang up on them. Always take the higher ground. Don't respond back to them with any form of communication on this topic. All that needs to happen is the child/parent phone contact.
16. Anonymous vexatious calls to Child Services
Often the Narcissist gets so mad at you, as you are not bowing down to them, that they will contact Child Services, or scheme a way to have a mandatory reporter do it for them. The allegation(s) will be so vile and unthinkable that no doubt you will cry, be completely embarrassed and mentally be so beside yourself wondering how the hell to get out of this mental warfare. It is abominable that the Narc does not even consider what their actions do to their own children, or someone else's children. All they see is you and how to manipulate you. They want you to know they can get to you anytime, anywhere and they don't care how.
When you receive the call from the police or DOCS, stay calm and go to the necessary interviews as soon as possible. The truth will set you free! Your children are always going to be the ultimate line of defense for you if this grenade is thrown.
Specialist interviewers know when children are being abused. You will not be told what the allegations are until after the interviews have concluded, so don't tell your children anything before they are interviewed. Also, try not to assume what the allegation is as a Narc's actions are unthinkable; and please do not talk to your kids about your thoughts on what they might have alleged. This type of information is not for children's ears, it is very damaging. Just inform your children that they are going to a meeting with you and leave it at that.
The police interviewers know how to speak to children and they will let your kids know that everything is okay and that they are not in trouble. They will do this with you in the room and you must stay calm, be happy, smile and agree with the officer so your children feel safe. This initial introduction is best coming from the investigator, not you, because as soon as a child knows they are speaking to a police officer they get immediately worried that they are in trouble.
Unfortunately due to Privacy Laws you will never be informed who made the allegations, but you know deep down where they originated from. Make sure you inform the police or Child Services about the long term coercive control tactics being used against you by your ex. This way it is noted on your children's file for any future false despicable claims. Because trust me.... more will come.... they never stop this disgusting reprehensible behaviour and they know they are protected by the Privacy Act. You will never find out it was them and even if you did they can't be prosectuted for deformation un the Act. In my opinion, this is a definite weakness in the Child Safety Act as this behaviour is a form of domestic violence and coercive control aimed at keeping you in fear of losing your children.
None of this is about you being a 'bad parent,' as you are not; it is a disturbed mind at work who is consumed with hurting you.
17. Tape Recording Communications
Don't be surprised if the Narcissist is taping changeovers and telephone calls with you or your children. They may not do it each and every time, but they plan for certain bits of information to be transacted to get it on tape to use against you, maybe in court or to the police. This is a litigious tactic and often done when in a parenting matter or even planning a civil DVO application.
The Narcissist may have placed a tracking software program on your phone, ipad or computer wifi network so they can record you from your own mobile devices, or access your emails or download everything on your devices to find out information on you and your life, your location and financial details.
This is stalking, harassment and domestic violence. If you believe this is happening get in touch with an IT security expert and have them run checks on all of your devices. Better still throw out any devices they may have had access to and buy new ones and then never leave the devices anywhere near the proximity of your ex. Set up a specific email address to communicate with your ex and have a difficult password attached to it. Organise a separate mobile phone for the kids to talk to their parent that only accepts in-coming calls. This phone is only used for the purpose of accepting calls from the Narc and is put away at all other times. Never let the kids ipad used in your home go to the Narc's residence. These days with schools using ipads, take up the rental program at the school so that the ipad stays at the school. Don't have your child take the ipad from home to school to use as the Narc will get a hold of it and go through it each time to see what they can use and they'll probably plant trackers on it. Also, disconnect your current wifi provider and get a new one with a new ip address.
In terms of taping conversations or changeovers, this is easy ... say nothing or keep things short and pleasant. But best not to talk directly to the Narc on the telephone. Know they are out to trap your kids into saying what they need to get on the phone. This is hard to stop.
An example of another extreme Narc maneuver on this subject... I know of a parent who had changeovers taped on camera, then the Narc purposefully instigated a confrontation to get it on film, then edited it to make the 'good parent' look bad by deleting the initial aggressive actions of the Narc who provoked the good parent by pushing them over with the baby in their arms.
Don't get worked up over this behaviour... family court doesn't like children being taped and in most litigation, courts know the crap parent's get up to to discredit the other so they rely on third party reports, not the 'mud being thrown' by the Narc. However, if this is happening and you are in court for parenting orders, please ask for an order for the prohibition of any type of tape recording of changeovers or telephone calls with the child or between the parents.
If you are co-parenting with a Narc and need some guidance contact McKenzie Friend. We may just be the change you need to get your life back.
This article is not intended for people co-parenting with a violent NPD or mixed with a psychopath.