Parental alienation is an extreme form of emotional abuse, forcing children to listen to, watch, and engage in, the full-blown mental abuse of the alienated parent. Alienating parents’ deliberately slander, and maliciously put down the alienated parent in an effort to destroy their relationship with the children.
If a child asks the alienating parent to stop denigrating the alienated parent, or outwardly disagrees with what is being said about the other parent, they may be raged at, disagreed with, ignored, or may even have love with-held.
Alienating another parent is a serious form of child abuse; which takes years for the adult children’ of parental alienators’ to work through. These children are lied to daily about the alienated parent, and brainwashed into believing that the alienated parent (usually the nicer parent) is actually abusing the alienating parent.
Why alienate another parent?
In the eyes of the parental alienator there are many benefits to alienating another person. Blaming somebody else for all of the problems within the family, means that the alienator doesn’t need to take responsibility for their own behaviour. By blaming their own behaviour on somebody else, this parent can perpetuate their own victim state as the bullied martyr who has to persist with such a difficult, dysfunctional co-parent.
Severe parental alienators’ want their children to feel sorry for them, because they need the children’s continued support in the fight against the alienated parent.
Alienating another parent means that narcissistic supply is endless, the alienator is guaranteed a life time supply of attention, will always be the person in the room with the most attention, and will forever have a scapegoat.
Over time the children slowly but surely begin to side with the alienating parent. Through the children, ( the alienating parent’s little puppets) this parent will make chaos where once there was none.
Parental alienators’ of the more severe kind are very sensitive individuals. They can’t handle any criticism. Any slight to their ego, and they will pull out of their little bag of tricks, survival skills that small children use to tackle similar situations.
Where and when can parental alienation occur?
Parental alienation can happen in the family home, right in front of the alienated parent, in the family home while the alienated parent is out of sight, in the alienating parent’s home if they are the primary caregiver, or at the alienating parent’s house during weekend visitation.
Parental alienators’ can be of either gender.
Three different types of parental alienators:
Dr Douglous Arnell, in his book, divorce casualties: ‘Protecting your children from parental alienation,’ describes three types of alienators’.
Mild: Naive alienators’ are unaware of what they are doing, and are prepared to change.
Moderate: When triggered, the active alienator loses control of appropriate boundaries, and loses their temper. When they calm down, they don’t want to admit that they were out of control.
Severe: Severe parental alienators’ are committed to destroying the other parent’s relationship with the child.
In the case of the severe parental alienator, no treatment exists, other than removing the child from the alienator’s care.
What is the parental alienator’s motivation?
A typical scenario:
Action: The alienating parent leaves the children unattended in their home for hours at a time. When the alienated parent becomes upset about this reoccuring problem, the parental alienator discusses the alienated parent’s reaction with the children, and uses this reaction to play ‘poor me.’ The parental alienator tells the children that the alienated parent has unfairly attacked them.
During reoccuring conversations with the children about the alienated parent’s behaviour, the alienating parent will always leave out what they have done to illicit such as reaction.
Continued scenarios similar to the above will continue to transpire, which will leave the children upset, confused, and feeling as though they need to resolve the problem for the alienating parent, and to protect this parent from the alienated parent.
What is wrong with the parental alienator?
The narcissistic parental alienator: Narcissists’ are very sensitive people. So sensitive in fact, that the smallest slight against their false self makes them crash, and endure what is known as a narcissistic injury. Narcissists’ split frequently, and see people as either all good or all bad. When a narcissist experiences a breakup with their children’s parent, this parent will immediately fall off their pedestal, and will be perceived as all bad.
The psychopathic parental alienator: The psychopath engages in parental alienation to win. Every situation in the psychopath’s life is about winning. This drive to win means that they consistently put their foot in it. Psychopaths often lose custody of the children for many reasons; not just parental alienation.
Parents’ with personality disorders are extremely sensitive people, and cannot handle any criticism. Criticism to sensitive people feels like a major rejection. Rejection to people with personality disorders, is a fate worse than death. To fight against the rejection, these people usually act with an air of superiority. With this air of superiority they will reject everybody around them with continued put – downs, and arrogant behaviour.
It is not uncommon for an alienator to:
For example: The alienating parent may engage the children in their disagreements with the alienated parent:
‘Look at what your mother does kids. Are you watching her. This is what she always does.’
Parental alienators’ will show the children private emails, and text messages that the alienated parent has written to the alienating parent.
For example: The alienated parent may email the alienating parent (instead of engaging directly due to the drama it causes) to ask if they can return the children’s soccer-boots next time they pick up the children, because without their soccer boots, the children will be unable to play in the next match. The alienating parent may take advantage of this situation, show their children the email, and claim that the alienated parent is bullying them, putting them down, and directly insulting them, again.
Severely disordered alienating parents’ will allow their children to listen to voice messages left for the alienating parent, especially messages which are stern, or show emotion. The alienating parent will pick the alienated parent’s emotions to pieces, and feign victim hood.
For example: If one of the teenage children is bi-sexual, the alienating parent may tell the child that the alienated parent doesn’t agree with their child’s sexual preferences.
The alienating parent will want the children to see them as the fun parent, the joker, and the parent who allows the child to do whatever they like while in the alienating parent’s home.
When with the alienating parent, the children may:
An example of good cop/ bad cop: A teenage child may be disciplined by the alienated parent and given consequences. The teenager goes to their ‘good cop’ parent for support, and confides in them about the incident. Instead of backing the alienated parent, the alienating parent may say something like:
‘You know your mother has anger management issues. You need to learn to ignore her.’
Alienating parents are well known for setting up the alienated parent. They plan these incidents out very carefully, and make sure that their children are there to become a part of the conflict they are about to create.
For example: The alienated parent sends the alienating parent an email highlighting a problem they both need to discuss when appropriate. The alienating parent contacts the alienated parent to discuss the problem. While discussing the topic, and in the middle of what is becoming a small disagreement, one of the children pipes up in the background and accuses the alienated parent of being in the wrong.
The alienating parent deliberately had the children with them when they made the phone call, and kept the phone on speaker so as the children could be witnesses to the discussion, and see for themselves how difficult the alienating parent is.
The severe parental alienator either lies outright to the children, or only tells half truths.
For example: If the alienated parent puts up a boundary because of the alienating parent’s inappropriate behaviour, than the boundary is spoken about to the children by the alienating parent; not the behaviour that lead to the boundary.
Example: The alienated parent may decide that they can no longer invite the alienating parent to anymore of the children’s birthday parties because the parent continues to belittle the alienated parent to the guests’ at the party.
The alienated parent uses this new boundary as an opportunity to play the victim, and to become outraged by the alienated parent’s treatment of them.
However, not once throughout this entire scenario has the alienating parent told the children what they did to contribute to the alienated parent’s decision.
If the alienated parent shouts at their child, the alienating parent paints the parent to be someone with anger – management problems, and behavioural issues.
If the alienated parent becomes upset with their child, the alienating parent will tell the child that it is not okay for their parent to be upset with them, to snap at them, or to speak to them in any way that makes the child feel uncomfortable.
Speaks negatively of the fun activities the children engage in with alienated parent:
The alienating parent may say things like:
‘Be careful while camping. I’ve heard that there are a lot of snakes out at this time of year.’
‘Why do you have to go so far away? I worry about you when you go on such long trips with daddy. You know he can’t drive for long without getting tired.’
Why has the alienator become this way?
Creation of a little soldier:
Common behaviours in children which signal they have been turned against the other parent:
What happens if the children expose the alienating parent?
If the children expose the alienating parent, this parent will deny the accusations, feign victimhood, and claim that the children are now turning against them as well.
Question: Why is it exactly that the scapegoat child cannot trust their golden child sibling?
Answer: The golden child is committed to misunderstanding the scapegoat child, and in believing the smear campaign against them; the one full of lies.
What I am about to write about is not inclusive of every golden child. Some golden children do not exhibit any of the traits relating to this article and have the integrity enough to see right through the narcissist, tell the narcissist that they are in the wrong, and to stand by the scapegoat’s side. It is likely that if the golden child honours their scapegoated sibling in this way, (which is highly unusual) both children will be discarded from the family for having dared challenge the narcissist.
When I write about narcissism, I write about what I have witnessed happen in families where there is a narcissistic parent. The particular situation I am about to discuss runs rampant throughout narcissistic families’, and is more common than not.
My primary belief about the golden child (who forms a nasty alliance with the narcissist against the scapegoat) is that they are completely unaware of what they are doing and that they have been completely brainwashed by the narcissist. However, that being said, the golden child still makes an executive decision to aid the narcissist in their smear campaigns of the people who expose the narcissist, challenge the narcissist, or who simply have a difference of opinion from the narcissist.
Why does the golden child choose to side with the narcissist?
The narcissist lives and breathes to influence the golden child’s perception of the scapegoat. Through daily put-downs of the scapegoat, exaggerations, and half-truths about the scapegoat, the narcissist will gradually erode the golden child’s perception of their scapegoated sibling. At times mind control sessions will occur on an hourly basis (not daily, hourly).
As the scapegoat becomes older, more defiant and defensive against the abuse, the narcissist will begin to fear exposure, and will suddenly turn the tables on the scapegoat. This is when they will tell all kinds of outrageous lies about the scapegoat, and work especially hard to turn the golden child against their sibling.
By the time the scapegoat exposes the narcissist, the narcissist (who knew this was coming all along) has already pulled one over the scapegoat; and now nobody in the family will believe the scapegoat when they begin to the claim that there is something wrong with the family system.
A close relationship between the scapegoat and the golden child?
A close relationship between the scapegoat and golden child, will in fact, inevitably be destroyed by the narcissist. This will happen because the narcissist has been moulding the golden child’s perceptions of the scapegoat since birth. Eventually, the golden child will completely forfeit the close relationship they may have with the scapegoat (if they were ever close, to begin with), and will act out the narcissist’s contempt of the scapegoat through their body language, verbal language, and utter nastiness.
Any signs of anger or emotional confusion from the scapegoat about the treatment of them during the devaluation phase will be perceived by the narcissist and the golden child as symptoms of a severe mental health issue within the scapegoat; instead of a pretty normal reaction to vile abuse.
The narcissist’s intent is to push the scapegoat over the edge, so as all eyes are off them, and on the scapegoat instead. All of this happens because the scapegoat brings to the forefront the narcissist’s shortcomings.
The golden child’s relationship with the parent:
The golden child is bought by the narcissist, given the best of everything, and doted on daily. They are also continually groomed and hoovered by the parent, told just how entitled or special they are, and are reminded by the parent just how similar they are to them. We mustn’t forget that this child represents to the narcissist all of the goodness in them.
The narcissistic parent will encourage the other siblings’ to also adore the golden child too, to do everything for the golden child, and to love this child until no end.
This child is always right, never punished for harming the other siblings’, and their misdeeds are shoved under the carpet. All of their misdeeds are projected onto the scapegoat, and the scapegoat becomes the golden child’s fall guy early on in the piece.
The scapegoat’s relationship with the parent:
The scapegoat is despised in childhood. Some theories suggest that the scapegoat is the whistleblower or the truth teller in the family. However, the narcissist will claim that this child is treated differently for obvious reasons. They have apparently always been a difficult child; while of course, the golden child wasn’t. However, if the scapegoat was as adored, and never disciplined to extreme measures, like their golden child sibling, then the scapegoat child would have nothing to be upset about now, would they?
Excuses are always made by the narcissistic parent to explain away the abuse of the scapegoated child.
These claims made by the narcissist are most likely true. However, the narcissist is prone to exaggeration, and these behaviours are fairly normal in children; some more so than others. The narcissist cannot tolerate ordinary child-like behaviour because in their eyes they are entitled to have complete control over the child. In the narcissistic family, normal childlike behaviour such as squabbling between siblings, or a bit of back chatting is used against the children. The children who refuse to be seen and not heard are assessed by the narcissist as being problematic. For example; crying is pretty much prohibited in this family system, or explained away as crocodile tears and attention seeking.
The scapegoat grows up living in the golden child’s shadow. When they get upset about it, and have the audacity to have an argument with the narcissist about the issue, they are told that they are insane, have mental health problems, and are out of control. They may even be told that they are very similar to other people that the narcissist deems as crazy, such as relatives or friends.
The narcissist hopes that by denigrating this child they will be able to control the child. This tactic usually goes the other way for the narcissist. Instead, the scapegoat becomes distressed at the accusations hurled at them, and one day discloses the abuse.
Meanwhile, the golden child sits back and feels very special while this is happening to the scapegoat. The abuse of the scapegoat not only keeps this child out of the limelight, but it reinforces to the golden child what a good child they are, and what a bad child the scapegoat is.
Lets get one thing Straight: The golden child isn’t any better than the scapegoated child. They just haven’t been scapegoated; that is the difference.
Cinderella Syndrome: So, here we have a very real case of ‘Cinderella syndrome,’ which of course the golden – child revels in.
Abuse in silence:
A lot of the narcissist’s abuse towards the scapegoat is done behind closed doors, in private where other family members’ are unable to directly witness events which signify extreme abuse. Acts of subtle abuse, on the other hand, are committed in front of the entire family and are accepted by these family members as a consequence of the scapegoat’s behaviour. These family members’ have fallen prey to the brainwashing tactics of the narcissist, and now also believe, along with the narcissistic parent that the scapegoat’s normal childlike behaviour, is the behaviour of a child with something seriously wrong with them.
”It all depends on what the narcissist wants people to hear”
Abuse of the scapegoat is also initiated very subtly in front of the neighbours, friends, work colleagues, or even the coffee shop owner. Often, friends’, colleagues’, and family members’ accidentally perpetuate the abuse by telling the scapegoat that they are cheeky, should smile more, or that they have a sour persona. This reinforces to the scapegoated child that they are the problem.
Common phrases made to the narcissist’s minions:
These comments are said day in day out, sometimes five or six times in an hour. It is no wonder that the golden – child has a distorted perception of the scapegoat. They’re under the spell of mind control.
These continuous despicable comments eventually turn everybody against the scapegoat. So when the scapegoat acts out and claims that they are being treated unfairly, everybody, including the golden child, just thinks to themselves, ‘they’re crazy.’
A consequence of the scapegoat’s position in the family is that it enables the golden child, along with the other siblings, to blame their poor behaviour towards the scapegoat, on the scapegoat. Somehow, in some way, the scapegoat will always be blamed for the abuse hurled upon them.
The mind control that the narcissist has over the golden – child is a sure investment to the narcissist. Whenever the narcissistic parent requires the golden child’s allegiance against the scapegoat, the golden child will provide the narcissistic supply that the narcissist is asking for.
The narcissist has no empathy and no conscience; which means that they have absolutely no issue whatsoever with pushing the scapegoat over the edge emotionally. This way everybody will look to the scapegoat’s unusual behaviour, and focus on that rather than the narcissist.
Why must the scapegoat child never completely trust the golden child?
The golden child and the scapegoat child are sometimes good friends in childhood; best friends even. However, in most cases, the golden child will not accept that the scapegoat has been abused beyond belief. Deep down they too have internalised that the scapegoat is the crazy person, not the reverse.
They honestly don’t get it, and how could they? Most of the time people cannot empathise with an abused individual unless they’ve experienced something similar. Not once does the golden child ever question the impact the severe emotional abuse inflicted on the scapegoat, by the narcissist, may actually have on their sibling.
The scapegoat must never ever fully trust the golden child, under any circumstances. At the end of the day, it is most likely that when it comes down to it the golden child will always align with the narcissist.
What the scapegoat needs to understand about their relationship with the golden child:
The relationship with this child was never real and never had a chance. Relationships can’t exist when there is mind control involved or the likes of a dangerous manipulator.
The entitlement of the golden child:
The golden child believes they are so much better than their scapegoat sibling, who just cannot behave (apparently).
The golden child can be very two-faced. With entitlement can often come nastiness. Their specialness makes it ok for them to sit and laugh at the scapegoat behind their back, smear the scapegoat’s name, and continually put the scapegoat down.
The golden child has a sense entitlement, and they believe that everybody should treat them in a special manner.
The golden child:
The sad fact is that the golden – child doesn’t care. Its all about the survival of the fittest in this family, and if the golden child needs to turn on their sibling to keep in favour of a vile human being. Well, so be it.
It is absolutely imperative that scapegoated children, even in adulthood, never fully trust their golden child sibling; because unbeknown to the scapegoat child, the golden-child, even in early childhood, has taken on board the brainwashing tactics of the narcissist. Deep down, regardless of a friendship with the scapegoat child, or not, the golden child will always believe that the scapegoat is fundamentally floored.
This is what the evidence suggests about the scapegoat in the eyes of the golden – child:
The golden child has witnessed the scapegoat:
Golden child as judgemental:
The golden child is very judgemental and does not understand that these reactions are very normal reactions to a disgusting amount of psychological abuse.
The development of an alliance between golden child and narcissist: A scenario
In adulthood, the scapegoat may begin to tell people about their abuse, including the enabling parent. When they do this, and the truth becomes uncovered, the narcissist will take the scapegoat out, and destroy their relationships with the other siblings.
How does the narcissist use the golden – child to take the scapegoated adult child out ? A scenario
Narcissists are very revengeful: They will plot for months, or even years to get somebody back for some supposed slight that didn’t happen as they see it (like a scapegoat pouring their heart out to a family member about being on the receiving end of severe mental abuse).
First, the narcissist will hoover the scapegoat into the family by love bombing them. The scapegoat will find it odd that the person whom they have exposed is now making them soup, buying them things, and suddenly being very kind to them.
The scapegoat will believe in their mind that they have made amends with their parent, and that the parent has forgiven them for exposing the truth. However, they will notice that the tension heightens when they enter the room and that their siblings are acting strangely around them. The scapegoat will know for months in advance that something is wrong; they just won’t be able to put their finger on it.
The final showdown may happen at a function, or while the scapegoat is visiting the parent, who appears to want them around. I have heard many stories where a scapegoat is vilified in front of everyone at a function; only to have the scapegoat’s original suspicions clarified. The tension they originally felt around the family was very real. The narcissist had been sitting around with the help of the golden – child smearing the scapegoat’s name to the entire family.
Mind control is in full force: Finally, one of the children will have enough (most likely a golden child sibling – (there can be more than one) and blast the scapegoat. When the scapegoat questions the parent in private, their supposed slight of the narcissist will most likely be mentioned to the scapegoat as a reason as to why the discard occurred. The other children will most likely never know that this was all a revenge plot by the narcissist. At this point, the golden child will show no remorse for what has happened.
Redeveloping a relationship with the golden child:
I personally believe that the golden child has already shown the scapegoat who they are, and that the scapegoat should really take this into account. The golden child cannot be trusted, and they have most likely shown this to be true on several occasions.
Possibilities for a relationship may occur after the narcissist dies. However, the scapegoat will never be able to trust the golden child again, because when it suits them, they’ll just turn against their scapegoated sibling, as a way to avoid all accountability for their own vile behaviour. The only element that will change in this scenario is who they side with.
Until the golden child’s perception of the scapegoat changes, which is unlikely, the scapegoat may need to sever all ties with the golden child and kiss the relationship goodbye.
Characteristics of the narcissistic parent vary considerably. However, the general consensus is that narcissist’s are obsessively preoccupied with themselves. Absolutely everything revolves around their emotional state, their insecurities, and the activities which are of importance to the narcissist.
Narcissists have a ‘sense of entitlement’. This in itself is the hallmark trait of narcissism – and a major reason why narcissist’s are so damaging to their children.
Narcissists believe they are entitled to:
Narcissist’s honestly believe that they are entitled to special treatment, they can do whatever they like without consequences, and that social norms and boundaries do not apply to them. They have absolutely no problem asserting this apparent human right to be the dominant being in the room, and the only dominant being in the room, to those around them.
However, the behaviour of the narcissist becomes especially devastating when there are children involved. The years of damage done to these little people is often irreparable, and will travel with them well into adulthood.
The narcissist is extremely arrogant. They perceive themselves as being superior to other people, and better in every way.
Complete lack of empathy
Narcissist’s have absolutely no empathy. It is not uncommon for narcissistic parents to not even comfort their child when they are in physical pain.
Narcissist’s can only think about their own distress. If the child is upset because they are frightened, nervous, or in pain; the narcissist will often appear to be completely annoyed that the child has needs, and requires their emotional support.
Feelings often mesmerise narcissists, and also confuse them. Narcissist’s don’t experience a wide variety of feelings; and are often limited to rage, anger and jealousy.
When the child becomes upset, they are often told that they are being ungrateful, a naughty child, or a troublemaker. There will be absolutely no comfort for this child. Instead, they will most likely be rejected in their time of need, and made to feel bad because they dared have a feeling.
Talks about themselves all of the time
The narcissistic parent talks about themselves all the time. Even if the conversation doesn’t start out about themselves, it will always end up back in that direction.
The narcissistic parent will engage in:
It is not uncommon to be on the phone with a narcissist for two hours or more without getting a word in.
Demanding of all of the attention
The narcissistic parent will often create drama in the lives of the children, and the enabling parent just to get some attention. If one of the children is getting too much attention from the enabling parent, the narcissist will often become jealous, and envious of the child for having a good relationship with the other parent.
It is not uncommon for narcissistic parent’s to:
Critical of their children, day in day out
The narcissistic parent is critical of the children day in and day out. The children continually hear how bad they are, how demanding they are, and how rude they are. The narcissist will often slot very subtle, sly remarks into the conversation- even at times when the parent and child are having a lovely time. On these occasions, the parent will throw in a sly nasty remark, belittling the child, just as a subtle reminder for the child to know their place, and to never get too comfortable.
Child as an extension of the narcissist
The child of a narcissist does not have their own identity, and it unlikely that they will become their own person ever; even in adulthood, unless they entirely remove themselves from the narcissist at some point.
Children of narcissist’s are complete extensions of the narcissist. They must believe what the narcissist says to be the truth, adore the narcissist’s ideas – and share and believe in their ideas or values. The child never learns to completely seperate themselves from the narcissist, or anybody else.
The children continuously need to do regular risk assessments of what they are about to say to the narcissist, before they even speak or act.
In adult life, the children of narcissist’s can often become overly sensitive to the moods of others, hyper-vigilant, peacekeepers; and may even spend their lives trying to please everybody else around them.
Children as bad, and the reason for all of the narcissist’s problems
The narcissistic parent consistently takes their anger our on their children. It is not uncommon for the narcissist to say things to children such as:
The narcissist is always right, and cannot accept a difference opinion. If the child challenges the narcissist, they are often raged at, psychologically derailed – and, in some extreme cases they may even be asked to leave the premises.
Becomes envious of the child’s independence
Being a young adult in a punitive, narcissistic house – hold can be very difficult for the child of a narcissist, and even impossible to maintain.
The parent is often domineering, interfering – and may even try to stop their children from having intimate partners. The parent often becomes more and more dominant in their child’s life than ever before, once they realise they are losing their control over the child. As the child becomes more and more independent, the parent literally tries to become a part of the child.
Children of narcissist’s often deny their natural desire to want to have a partner, because they know all hell will break loose once the parent finds out.
The fear of telling the parent about having a partner can almost be emotionally paralysing to the adult – child. The narcissistic parent will instantly rise to their feet and begin pacing the room wondering if the person is good enough, why their child needed a partner in the first place, and why they had to choose this one.
It is not uncommon for these parents to absolutely panic and lose the plot when their adult child begins to start dating.
In fact, any decision made by the narcissist’s adult child may well be questioned, probed at, picked to pieces – and be deterred from by the narcissist’s adult child, towards the end of the conversation.
These young adults often panic while informing their parent about their new job, the new partner, the new car, or the decision to defer from uni; all due to the absolute interrogation from the parent.
These parent’s often stalk their children when they go out and have a drink, look for them when they go out with friends, hunt them down if they stay out too late, and ring endlessly until they come home.
Narcissist as parent
Narcissistic parents often see their duties as parents in two different ways.
Some narcissists will:
The other extreme is the narcissist who:
Separates people into pairs
A narcissistic parent views everything in black and while; there is no grey area. This lack of grey means that wherever there are two people, there will always a ‘good,’ and a ‘bad’ person.
The narcissist will never deal with their grievances with their children directly, like healthy parent’s do. Instead they will discuss with every other member of the family the problem they are having with their child. This forces the other person to become a part of the triangle.
often, the parent has only told the other children a very small amount of information in regard to what is going on. They may have lied, exaggerated, and belittled the other sibling for no good reason. Triangulation depends on one person sitting in the middle controlling the information flow.
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.
There are many theories which try to explain why exactly the scapegoat is chosen by the narcissistic mother or father to endure a lifetime of scapegoating, abuse, triangulation, alienation and mental torture. Some theories claim that the position of the family scapegoat is relative to birth-order, and is usually the position of the second child, due to the reality that the narcissistic mother can only really love or hate. Hence, the concept that the first child is loved and the second child is hated.
Other theories pose the idea that the scapegoat is the most empathetic child in the family unit. Abuse urks them – which is why they challenge the narcissist. The scapegoat is often the whistleblower, truth-teller, and the only child who has the guts to question the narcissistic parent’s chronic abuse of the children. This theory addresses the concept that the scapegoated child unknowingly threatens the narcissist’s false self. Narcissists’ are notorious for becoming enraged when asked to look at themselves, or to face the reality that they are not perfect.
However, I believe that many factors can contribute to a child becoming scapegoated. The child may represent to the parent a wrongdoing. For e.g; the child may be the baby of an affair, or the parent may have experienced an emotional trauma at the time of the child’s birth. Reasons such as these mean that contact with the child will continually cause regular narcissistic injuries to the parent – because the mere sight of the child continues to force the narcissist to come into contact with their real – self, the inner self full of shame that they abandoned in childhood. The narcissist is incredibly insecure, and can’t handle being faced with difficult feelings. Any threat to their self-esteem, even one of their children, will in time, see the child discarded.
Other reasons for scapegoating a child may include
I believe that the child does not necessarily become a scapegoat because they are the truth-teller. Instead the scapegoat is a threat to the narcissist, and the family system as a whole, because of their democratic values. This quest of the child to remain autonomous, to have a different opinion from the narcissist, and to challenge the narcissist means that this child is not under the narcissist’s complete control, and is now a threat.
This totalitarian regime cannot have anybody in it who may challenge the family system, and engage in conversations with the more conforming family members of the family unit about the family dysfunction. The scapegoat refuses to conform and could bring down the family system as a whole, with the truth. Scapegoat’s don’t necessarily disclose the truth of the dysfunctional family to outsiders, or to insiders. However, their autonomous behaviour is very threatening to the narcissist, because it means that they wouldn’t be afraid to disclose the truth if it came to that.
In my opinion, scapegoats often ends up exposing the truth of the family system to outsiders because they have been scapegoated, and psychologically abused for their democratic, empathetic, caring traits. The years of mental anguish felt by the scapegoat due to gas – lighting, goading, and other crazymaking behaviours endured because of the narcissist, are some of the reasons why any scapegoat would want to rock the boat and blow the narcissist’s cover.
The golden child’s reaction to abuse
The golden – child often approaches the narcissistic parent’s abuse differently from the scapegoat. They decide that because they are already adored, and can do no wrong, that they will simply do no wrong. Doing no wrong to the golden – child means that they will not succumb to the abuse. After all, they have watched and learned from the scapegoat what not to do. The golden child either consciously, or unconsciously makes the decision to avoid disagreeing with the narcissistic parent’s opinions, and to behave as an extension of the narcissist. Some golden children will also quite happily aid the narcissist in abusing the scapegoat in an effort to keep their role.
They may as well. After all, there are a few perks. If they go along with the narcissist they will get that new car in adulthood, trips overseas, and anything else that they really want.
However, this childhood safety mechanism destroys their relationship with the scapegoat later on in adulthood.
The scapegoat’s reaction to abuse
The scapegoat has never been bought to begin with, unlike the golden child. Their achievements haven’t been praised – and a lot of scapegoats, unlike the golden child, have never even been told by the narcissist that they were loved.
While the golden child’s first steps were being treated as though they’d just walked Mount Everest, the scapegoat was being physically squashed by their angry sibling, listening, from underneath their sibling, to their mother jeer the sibling on, to hit the scapegoat even harder.
So, of course, their reaction to the abuse is to have big emotional outbursts and to question the parent about the abuse. This in itself, is a symptom of severe emotional trauma.
The scapegoat’s intuition
The above scenario gives the scapegoat the awareness that something is dreadfully wrong within the family system. However, the problem the scapegoat has is that the rest of the family carry on as though nothing is wrong.
Another huge issue surrounding the scapegoat’s abuse is that the more loving parent (the enabler) isn’t there to see a lot of the vile acts posed upon the scapegoat, that the other children see. This parent usually does defend the scapegoat to a degree when the narcissistic parent is being particularly vile.
So, quite naturally the scapegoat can feel the parent’s sickness. However, the hoovering and the love bombing that the scapegoat also endures on occasions gives the scapegoat relationship amnesia.
Furthermore, the scapegoat becomes so confused with this up and down behaviour from the narcissist that they begin to blame themselves for the relationship breakdown – which is why the shame begins to suffocate their soul because they don’t understand why they can’t fix this relationship.
This is because one minute the narcissist is putting on a huge surprise party for the victim, (who by this stage, feels too ashamed to go because they know the narcissist has smeared their name to the same people who are coming to the party) and the next minute they are packing up the scapegoat’s belongings and putting them on the doorstep, because the scapegoat disagreed with the narcissist’s opinion.
The scapegoat by this stage is so traumatised that they can’t even remember why they were thrown out of the home. However, they do remember the parent putting on this big party for them – and all they can think of is that they must be the one in the wrong because occasionally the narcissist does these amazingly wonderful things for them.
When does the scapegoating begin?
Scapegoats are scapegoated from the day they come out of the womb, and they are never given a new role, not even in adulthood. It doesn’t matter how much they try to become everything the narcissistic mother or father wants, they will always be at fault in the eyes of the family.
The scapegoat bonus
The mistreatment of the scapegoat is their ticket out of the family, and into health and emotional wealth. They are usually the first adult- child in the family to go and get help. Often they are pushed into therapy by their parents because the parents convince them that they are so crazy that they really should go to therapy.
The therapist’s viewpoint
By the time the scapegoat is sitting in therapy opposite the therapist, they literally feel that they are evil, which is the very reason the scapegoat came into therapy. The scapegoat goes into therapy often telling the therapist that they’re mad, that they are the troublemaker in the family, and that they need help.
If the scapegoat is given a good therapist to work with, the scapegoat will soon be informed that there is nothing wrong with them and that their parent is emotionally dangerous.
In time, they will be most likely advised to go no contact with the parent.
However, the aftermath for the scapegoat is often emotionally horrific. The scapegoat comes out of the narcissistic family an absolute nervous wreck. They hate themselves, have internalised the narcissist’s shame, experience chronic panic attacks, severe trauma, and are often diagnosed with complex post-traumatic stress disorder.
Some scapegoats end up with borderline personality disorder, dissociative identity disorder, or other serious mental health issues. This is the result of being gas-lighted, goaded, and baited by the narcissist over and over again in the hope that the scapegoat will explode, just so the narcissist can tell everyone how crazy their child is.
Scapegoats are trained in childhood to live in absolute fear. They are afraid of defending themselves, expressing their opinions, or demanding fair treatment. This attitude of worthlessness, fear and shame is carried into adult life. Other people can immediately sense that the scapegoat is a pushover, and a magnet for abuse, rejection, and bullying. The scapegoat has lost their voice, their credibility, and they are viewed by the entire family as the crazy one because the narcissist brainwashed the entire family into believing this false truth.
The pain is insufferable; to be rejected so coldly and denounced by a mother or father is soul destroying, and a form of soul murder.
The consequences of having a voice
The scapegoat was annihilated by the narcissistic parent a thousand times over for having a voice. Their identity has been stolen, and their voice thrown away, because of the rage endured from the narcissist for having a voice in the first place.
In childhood the scapegoat never knew which way the pendulum swung. It was forever changing, and messed with the scapegoats fight, flight, freeze and fawn responses. So, it is no wonder the scapegoat has emotional issues, random explosions and depression – all symptoms of complex post-traumatic stress disorder.
The scapegoat internalises the parent’s rage, which was spilt all over them for no good reason, and may even mirror that rage straight back at them. Unfortunately, emotional explosions from the scapegoat are interpreted by the narcissist, and their minions as a symptom of a severe emotional problem within the scapegoat, rather than a normal reaction to an extreme amount of abuse. The sad reality is that the family members who have not been targeted by the narcissist often sit back and laugh or belittle the scapegoat behind their back.
In all of this, it is very likely that not one of the other children in the family will ever have the guts, or the integrity to question the narcissist about the vile abuse of their sibling. Why? Young children look the other way because they’re frightened of the narcissist, whereas adult children decide to turn a blind eye, even when they know its the wrong thing to do because they don’t want to be thrown in the discard pile with the scapegoat.
If the other adult siblings stand up for the scapegoat, they will be denounced as well, most likely lose their inheritance, and will possibly never be spoken to again by the narcissistic parent. Unfortunately, the scapegoating of this child is completely aided and abetted by the other children in this survival of the fittest setup.
A parent who does this to a child lives with a huge deficit – being humanity itself. They have absolutely no empathy for the children they scapegoat (there can be more than one) and no idea the damage that they’ve done. The scapegoat’s trauma travels with them every single day of their adult life and relates to every aspect of their life, especially social interactions.
The sad reality about the scapegoat is that they are often the kindest family member, the most creative and psychologically in tune.
1.The narcissistic parent needs all of the attention in the room
The narcissistic parent must have all of the attention in the room at all times. If the narcissist believes for one moment that somebody else in the family is about to steal the limelight, (whether it be their child, sibling or even the enabling parent) the narcissist will most likely shame the victim, or invalidate the dire circumstances which have arisen for the victim.
The narcissistic parent may even try to out do the victims dilemma by creating a dilemma of their own that diverts the attention away from the victim, and brings the attention back to them.
The shaming process and vile discard of the family member needing attention will often involve the adult victim being thrown out of the family home, in what can sometimes be a domestic violence situation.
Often the teenager or adult child of the narcissist will be asked not to return to the family home until they decide to apologise for the event which took place.
The narcissist has absolutely no empathy for the misfortunes of others. Be it physical abuse or assault, the narcissist will feel nothing but contempt for the victim of abuse, believing that they do not have the right to steal away their attention.
In the mind of the narcissist they are the one who has had the harder life, and how dare you assume that you are entitled to take this aspect of them away from them by asking for attention. In their eyes they are the true victim.
Narcissist as attention junkie
Some narcissists are so addicted to attention that they will even set up situations to gain attention at their children’s expense. It is not uncommon for narcissistic mothers to lie to the enabling father about how their child behaved while their father was at work.
This is in a bid to create drama, which of course the narcissist thrives on, because drama is attention. The mother will exaggerate the child’s behaviour, or lie about the child’s behaviour in a bid for narcissistic supply and pity. This scenario allows the narcissistic mother to be the centre of attention again, a position where she is able to feign victim hood and make claims that she has such bad children and doesn’t know what to do.
Again, there is no empathy for the emotional damage these lies will create for the child.
This lack of empathy pinpoints a major deficit within the narcissist. Not only does the narcissist lack empathy, but they also lack humanity – which sits at the very core of their true self, and officially makes them emotionally, and sometimes even physically dangerous.
2. Must be in control of all of the information in the family unit
The narcissistic parent will use particular methods to ensure that he or she is the only person with the means to control all of the information in the family unit.
Like a puppeteer, these methods will ensure that he or she has complete control of the actors in his or her performance.
The divide and conquer method: This method of control allows the narcissistic parent to maintain complete control over their children, by encouraging dissent between them. This prevents the victims from uniting in opposition against the narcissist who must use a lot of smoke and mirrors to deflect from their emotionally dangerous behaviour.
‘Mary Jane doesn’t want you to borrow my books Bob.’
‘Bob doesn’t like it when I give you lots of attention MaryJane.’
Bob: ‘Can I borrow the lawnmower mum.’
mum: ‘Mary-Jane doesn’t want you to borrow the lawnmower Bob.’
Bob most likely walks away thinking, ‘who the hell does that sister of mine think she is.’
The narcissist is planting seeds in Mary Jane’s mind about Bob being inconsiderate, and potentially an enemy to MaryJane. This will at some point create dissent between Mary Jane and Bob.
These lies which may have a hint of truth, are in effect most likely going to create a divide between MaryJane and Bob. These two may end up having a big fight over something unrelated in front of the Narcissistic parent, who gets to sit back and watch the show.
Why doesn’t the narcissistic parent want the children to get along?
The narcissistic parent does not want their children to get along because this parent doesn’t benefit by their children having good relationships. If the children had good relationships, the parent would not have drama, which means a lack of narcissistic supply, a lack of attention, and the possibility of the narcissistic parent coming undone.
3. Will eradicate anybody who isn’t afraid to bring the narcissists shortcomings to their attention
Anybody who disagrees with the narcissist’s opinion on any given topic has to go. It is not uncommon for a narcissistic parent to throw a teenage child, or even an adult child out of the family home for having simply disagreed with the narcissist’s opinion.
The scapegoat child is usually the truth teller in the family, the most abused, the most distressed about the dynamics in the family, and the first to see through the narcissistic parent. They are also the most democratic child; and the child most willing to challenge the narcissist about their abusive behaviour.
The exposure of the narcissist’s shortcomings threatens the narcissist’s false self, and could possibly ensure that the narcissist becomes in touch with their real self, whom they abandoned long ago. This is the ashamed part of themselves which reveals all of their shortcomings, and holds them accountable.
The scapegoat holds the truth, and could very well disarm the narcissist, which could shatter the narcissist’s relationships with others when they finally realise that the human -being they have loved and trusted for years on end, is in fact an abuser.
In these cases the narcissist will formulate a very calculated plan to eradicate the scapegoat. The narcissist will severely smear the scapegoats name, tell terrible lies about the scapegoat, or use mind control techniques to brainwash the other siblings into thinking that everything is the scapegoats fault. The other siblings will ultimately accept the narcissists stories as gospel, and will often proceed to shame the scapegoat over a period of months before the final showdown, and discard.
4. Has a Golden child and a scapegoat
The narcissistic parent can only love or hate. There is no middle ground. They hate one child, and adore the other – which is incredibly painful for the child who is hated and given a life time role of being the ‘family scapegoat.’
With mind control and brainwashing, the narcissistic parent will manipulate the scapegoat’s sibling’s to bully them consistently, and side against them in both childhood and adulthood. The children happily engage in the scapegoating of their sibling.
The scapegoat is often the second child of a narcissistic parent, and can do no right. The other children are never at fault for shaming or abusing the scapegoat. However, if the scapegoat defends themselves against the other children the scapegoat is still at fault. Therefore the scapegoat loses their credibility and their voice in the family unit.
The scapegoat often exhibits an incredible amount of emotional distress in childhood over how they are being treated. However, when they show their emotions they are then pathologized as being crazy, angry, insane, and neurotic by the narcissistic parent, and the other siblings.
As a consequence the scapegoat often feels as though they are crazy, that they are bad – and they usually experience a lot of self-hate due to all of the rejection and abuse.
The family will never release the scapegoat from the role as the crazy person, and they will forever try to goad and gaslight the scapegoat back into their role. Psychologists often advise the scapegoat to leave the entire family, and to stay away from anyone who has anything to do with the family.
The benefit in this mess for the scapegoat is that they usually seek out therapy first, and are the first child out of the siblings to find true healing.
This is a great outcome for someone who usually goes into therapy with a lot of self – hate and shame.
The golden child
The narcissistic parent encourages all of the children in the family to adore the golden child. The golden child represents to the narcissistic parent all of the good things in the N parent, whilst the scapegoat represents to the parent all of the things within themselves that they hate.
In adult – hood some of these golden reject the role and refuse to be the golden child any longer. However, other golden children have no idea that they are even the golden child – and they just think that they have this ability to do everything right.
However, some golden children truely believe that they are the special child. They believe this at the expense of the scapegoated child/ or children, and will ultimately align with the narcissistic parent to abuse their scapegoated sibling.
This golden child has an investment in continuing on with this role. It is very common for the narcissistic parent to buy the golden child, and to continually compliment the golden child in the hope of being forever bound to the golden child.
The Golden child continues on this destructive path at the expense of their emotionally destroyed scapegoated sibling, whom most likely cared for, and nurtured the golden child at a point in the golden child’s life.
In the mind of some scapegoats, the golden child has taken on this role at their expense, and they often feel incredibly betrayed by their golden – child sibling.
A harsh reality for the scapegoat and the golden – child is that the golden – child will never know how much the narcissistic parent has absolutely humiliated and psychologically annihilated the scapegoat/ or scapegoats. How could they? After all, the golden child has had a much more ‘love and light’ type experience compared to the scapegoat.