The two prominent and most vile roles assigned to children in the narcissistic family are the ”scapegoat” and ”the golden child”. Both roles are projections of how the parent honestly feels about them-self. The scapegoat represents the false self, the bad part of the parent that can do no right. This is the part of them that this parent abandoned during childhood, and replaced with a false self – a grandiose self that can do no wrong. This false self is the part of the narcissist that the golden – child represents.
For example: In a family of four, there may be two golden – children and two scapegoats. Or, there may be a superior golden child, and a golden child whom is picked to participate in both roles; scapegoat, and golden child (The mother may not have known which choice to make with this child).
The golden child is lavished with praise and attention. They can do no wrong in the eyes of the parent, and they are given the best of everything. They often come out the other side of narcissistic abuse feeling entitled, special, and better than their scapegoated sibling; whom of course, in their eyes, is the crazy one who will never be as good as they are.
The narcissistic mother projects onto the child all of their supposed wonderfulness, which means that for a time the child believes that they are truly wonderful.
This child’s misdeeds are always overlooked and projected onto the scapegoat/ or scapegoats. They are almost never disciplined for causing mental or physical harm to the scapegoat. In fact, none of the children are ever to blame for any mistreatment of the scapegoated children. If the scapegoat is mistreated by the favourite child, it always somehow becomes the scapegoat’s fault.
Some golden children see through the narcissistic parent at a very young age, and will decide to forfeit the role of golden child in an effort to preserve their relationship with their scapegoated sibling in adult – hood. However, a lot of them don’t, and often end up forming a nasty alliance with the narcissistic mother to bully and shame the scapegoat.
The child who plays both roles
When there are two golden children, sometimes the less favourable golden child will play both roles – the scapegoat and the golden – child.
I was informed about this one particular situation where a child playing both roles was played off against the scapegoat in a competition formulated by the parent designed to see who was ”good’‘ one week, and who was ”bad” the next week. This abuse played out weekly, and sometimes daily for the children’s entire lives.
The parent would literally sit down a couple of times a week and talk about how bad their children were. One week they would carry on that ‘Jane was such a bad child.’
The next week, the same parent would sit down and talk about how ‘Jane was such a good child, and Lisa was such a bad child.’ The abuse was always done in front of the children – and to this day the two adult siblings hate each – other.
The child playing both roles became so competitive with the scapegoat, and did everything they could to align with the narcissistic parent against the scapegoat in the hope of gaining the narcissistic parent’s approval. It did the trick.
The behaviour of the narcissistic parent towards their favourite child is parasitic. Friends, life long partners, and a life outside of the narcissist is often beyond reach for this child, who becomes so enmeshed by the narcissistic parent that they will often suffer from severe panic attacks and anxiety disorders.
It is highly likely that if this child marries, the narcissistic parent will get involved in the marriage – become jealous of the husband or wife, triangulate between the husband and wife, and could very likely become aggressive when they begin to lose the attention.
The most important fact for children to remember is that the narcissistic mother doesn’t really love any of the children, golden – child nor scapegoat. They aren’t capable. And when one scapegoat leaves, a new one must be found. Safety for the favourite child is subject to change.
Golden child as investment
The golden child is groomed and hoovered into a role that they never asked for. The narcissistic parent literally buys the child with the best gifts and schools that money can buy. They shower them with praise and attention in an effort to hoover the child into their toxic world.
The scapegoat shops at Kmart, and the golden child shops at Myer. The favourite child is eagerly given a huge wad of cash to go shopping with, while scapegoat can barely convince the narcissist to even give them fifty dollars.
The cost for the golden child is huge. Like a fly stuck in a spider’s web this child becomes engulfed by the narcissistic parent.
Narcissists are very calculating individuals. They never do something for nothing. There are always strings attached, and they always want something in return for their efforts. They usually love and hoover the favourite child in the hope of having their complete loyalty and adoration for the rest of their life.
What must be understood about the narcissistic parent is that they know exactly what they are doing, and the golden child has endured years of hoovering, love bombing and undue praise. They have done this so as they can manipulate, and play with this child’s emotions, in the hope that they never lose them. They have projected their own false self onto the golden child in the hope of owning them. And own them, they do.
The narcissist has just bought them- self a life time of narcissistic supply. The golden child will now walk on eggshells for the rest of their life.
Grooming is a very dangerous way to break down an abuse victim’s defences.
Grooming and hoovering are two very dangerous abuse tactics because they often keep a victim stuck in their role, stuck in a state of confusion and a complete FOG (fear, obligation and guilt). The false kindness presented to the victim means that when red flags arise – the victim looks the other way. It becomes a case of:
‘well, they do all of these kind things for me, sing my praises almost all of the time. So that terrible thing they just said about me to me, must have been a slip of the tongue.’
FOG – Fear, Obligation and guilt
Fear: The golden child is afraid of the narcissistic parent and tries to make concrete a bond with their abuser in the hope of staying safe, and continuing on in golden child status.
Obligation: Golden children often feel a sense of obligation to the narcissistic parent who is suffocating them emotionally, often because of the narcissistic parents hoovering, buying of the golden and the continued praise .
Guilt: The golden child doesn’t understand why they have this special position. However, how can one possibly think of leaving their suicidle, and now incapable parent (who drives them crazy, won’t allow them to have an identity, or life of their own) when this person adores them so much.
‘It would break their heart.’
Buying a child, and holding a child in such a high regard is a very manipulative, emotionally dangerous action. This is an abuse of power, and can ultimately backfire when the child reaches adult hood.
So what happens to the child?
The golden child, just like the scapegoat often feels suffocated and on the verge of a nervous breakdown. This child often feels as though they have no real identity. After all, to remain the golden child, they have had to refrain from having an opinion, and feelings or emotions.
Golden child syndrome leaves individual’s feeling anything but an individual because psychologically and developmentally the child has never had the opportunity to grow into a healthy individual. Instead, they have had conform to an identity chosen for them by the narcissistic parent in order to stay psychologically safe.
Golden children who make the decision to hold onto the role of golden child, often walk out into the world with a sense of entitlement, which makes survival in the real world difficult. Instead, they may become lost and confused when the people around them refuse to see the golden child as special, don’t take well to their rudeness, and don’t intend to buy their affections.
Like a mouse in the wilderness, the golden child is now vulnerable to the hoovering and love-bombing of future dangerous partners. In an effort to be praised and held in such high regard, instead of normal regard, they may go for what they know, and become entrenched in other dangerous relationships.
Like a child whom has come out of a fantasy world, they don’t know who they are, they don’t know how to be, and in all honesty, their toolbox is pretty much empty.
Adult golden children:
Both the golden – child and the scapegoat have had their identities stolen from themselves at a very young age. These two adult children would fare better if they refused the role given to them, and went in search of themselves; not whom they were brainwashed into believing they were.