Grandparent Grooming 2 – how to fight it

(Part 2 of a two part post on the psychological grooming of children by a narcissistic grandmother.)

If you are having problems with a narcissistic grandmother wheedling her insidious way into your child’s affections you need to not just understand how it is happening but what to do to counteract it. The fight back begins not by pointing the finger at your messed up mother-in-law but by taking a look at the climate she has created around the child, in the family as a whole. What has been done that has allowed this to occur? Tackle this and she is powerless forever.

So what has happened to create this grooming situation between NPD MIL and your child? I found this snippet on a online message board for people with PTSD resulting from abuse. The writer refers to an Oprah Winfrey episode where Oprah talks to child abusers in a recovery program about how they groomed kids.

“The perps identify these [the easily groomed] as people who trust easily (give it straight away rather than someone earning it – like a small child does naturally/healthily) and people who have had questionable models of ‘to what extent an individual is responsible for their own behaviour’…

…The molesters talk about recognising as molesters that kids who are in a family where denial is a central approach to issues display the type of neglect that makes the child especially vulnerable to abuse.”

Just to clarify the main points: the victims trust easily (they are not equipped to spot and call out untrustworthy or abusive behaviour in people), they have been exposed to people who do not and are not made to take responsibility for their actions and their family operates a pattern of denial of problems rather than openly discussing them.

This triad of features which increase vulnerability to grooming and abuse are all found in families with narcissists. Even the adult children of narcissists are crap at identifying unhealthy behaviour in others. That internal barometer which allows us all to gauge the appropriateness of someone’s behaviour has been meddled with if your mum is a narcissist. The adult child of a NPD MIL will see abusive and untrustworthy behaviour as normal. They do not get red flags flying up in their faces the same way that an adult with a healthy mum would. They can pass this unnatural leniency onto their kids. If dad or mum accept grandma being rude, obnoxious and needy then the kids will grow up seeing that as normal and not the warning signs of a jerk. This leads to condition 1

1: The kids are vulnerable to grooming if they don’t recognise poor/abusive/controlling/manipulative behaviour.

All narcissists refuse to take responsibility for their actions, they blame everyone else because their mental model cannot encompass the possibility of them being flawed. If they act badly it is always because someone else made them and it wasn’t their fault. If mum or dad doesn’t challenge this or worse, reproduces this behaviour in the home the kids will not have a good idea of when people are responsible for their actions (i.e. all the time!) Instead they will think bad behaviour can be excused and explained away by saying someone else provoked it and thus we get condition 2

2: Kids are vulnerable to grooming if they can be persuaded that they caused or encouraged the behaviour by an adult who won’t take responsibility.

Finally there exists the blanket of denial in narcissistic families. I’ve talked about this before in an blog post. Denial that the grandmother has a problem is very common in narcissistic families. Refusing to question or challenge her behaviour is denial, accepting her interpretation of situations and siding with her is denial, refusing to consider that her behaviour is hurting people or damaging is denial. You get the idea. Denial is rampant because without it she could not continue to operate. If everyone saw her behaviour for what it is, talked about it and the hurt it causes openly and held her fully accountable she wouldn’t have a hold on anyone. So lastly the third condition for grooming can be met in a narcissistic family,

3: Kids are vulnerable to grooming if they live in a family where weird, shitty behaviour is never acknowledged and everyone continues to act as if nothing happened and no one talks about how much it hurts.

Grasping the three conditions that make a child vulnerable to this manipulation is the key to preventing and undoing grooming:

1) teach the child that trust is earned and what trustworthy behaviour looks like (i.e. NOT grooming, secret keeping, threats, manipulation etc)

2) teach the child that everyone is responsible for their own actions (no one “makes” another person do or feel anything)

3) confront as a family the blanket of denial (not talking about it, not even admitting it) around the dysfunctional behaviour of their grandparent.

If this is done there is no way granny can weave her web around a child. It is all out in the open and discussed, healthy behaviour is understood and modelled and thus the grandparents unhealthy actions become obvious, even to a child.

Tackling the triad of grooming vulnerability

The reason small children automatically trust others is because they lack a full theory of mind. They project outwards onto others the motivations and interpretations they feel themselves and assume everyone else must be like that too. Thus if they are not able to think of acting deviously or selfishly then they will not be able to conceive of it in others. It is no coincidence that children start manipulating their parents at the same time as they develop the cognitive ability to see others and their feelings as separate. Grandma unfortunately never developed much beyond that point! A child cannot fully grasp how manipulative and devious another person can be until adolescence.

How do you tackle a child’s natural and healthy trust in others? There are books you can buy (on Amazon etc) which talk about the possibilities that others do not always mean well, “Not Everyone is Nice: Helping Children Learn Caution With Strangers” by Frederick Alimonti and Ann Tedesco is a good example. The child in the book is being spoken to by a stranger who offers her sweets and a ride home when her mum spots it and intervenes just in time. Then the family get home and look through an animal picture book and talk about how some creatures look nice, but are dangerous or poisonous and so some people can seem nice but not be.  That is your starting point. If you suspect grandma has been doing certain things like gossiping or secret keeping with the child bring that up in the conversation as an example without naming her. Does the child think that is nice? Is it trustworthy?

Now you have their attention start to discuss the differences between doing something genuinely nice and doing a nice thing in order to win affections. Children understand this if you use friendship groups as an example. Can a mean kid win friends by handing out sweets? Can a new girl act friendly towards someone but then start turning them against their old friends? What about new neighbours, are they asking you round for drinks to be nice, or just so they can borrow your lawnmower? What about arguments between cousins or aunties where people try to win allies by being “nice” to others? They need to see that anyone can behave that way in any number of situations. You need to say you are worried this may be happening in your family.  It may be that NPD grandma is not trying to divide and conquer but is overly enmeshed with the grandchild. Then the conversation needs to be around what is reasonable contact with a grandparent.

Traditional fairy stories like the Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Anderson provide ample examples of poor decisions by parents and grandparents to start a conversation. Hansel and Gretel for example, seemingly nice old lady rescues children from weak father and evil stepmother. But she has an evil plan, to eat them. Clever children spot it and escape, father rebuilds his relationship with them. It’s a bit too much like a NPD grandmother treating and buying her grandkids affections isn’t it? These sorts of stories can start a conversation on who is responsible for what. Is the weak father responsible for leaving the children in the forest or did his new wife “make” him do it? Did the children deserve to be eaten for scoffing some of the gingerbread house?

Teaching children responsibility goes way beyond talking about stories and their relationship with grandma. The clear allocation of responsibility needs to be there in all sorts of ways. It is so easy to say “Little Johnny stop winding your brother up, if he thumps you it’ll be your fault” . Been there, said that. But that’s wrong, no one is making Little Johnny thump his brother, he can always walk away. Responsibility for actions needs to be modelled every day in the family. Dad can’t accuse the kids of making him loose his temper. It is so easy to fall into that way of speaking, especially in a family with a narcissist. Be on your guard for this sort of thing and call it out when you hear it. Correct yourself in front of the kids if necessary and they will follow your lead.

Another useful book is “The Huge Bag of Worries” by Virginia Ironside where a kindly lady helps a young girl unpack all the worries she is feeling and lugging around in a huge bag. Grandma’s behaviour and your reactions to it may well be causing worries in your child and this can then be talked about. You can get packs of feelings cards with different faces and characters on them which always get my kids talking about how they feel in different situations. If your child is upset about not seeing granny so much you need to work through a conversation where you ask and listen about why they feel that way. How do they feel, why do they feel it? What does granny do to make them feel good? Do they feel worried about granny if so why? How do they feel about mum and dad, why? Do they think mum and dad have been/are being mean to granny?

Once the child has been listened to and you have asked questions which probe around the topic of what has been going on with granny etc you need to explain what you are doing by setting new ground rules around contact with MIL. Explaining to your child is respectful, it will help heal any division your MIL has been creating. You do not have to explain to MIL. You are not asking for the child’s agreement either. Children feel most secure when the adults caring for them have firm and fair expectations which are reinforced reasonably. You are their rock. A dithery, indecisive parent who backs down or backs away from setting rules and expectations with anyone unsettles children and leaves room for a stronger willed person to step in and take over; cue the NPD MIL.

To explain what you are doing and why, you need to explain that their grandmother doesn’t behave normally. This strips the last layer of vulnerability away, the denial of the problem. What can you say? Some people are treated badly as children, some people don’t grow up like others, as a result they don’t know how to be understanding and kind. They don’t seem different on the outside but inside they think very differently. This shows in how they act. They treat people like toys. They can be very attentive and affectionate like a child with a brand new toy they won’t let go of, but this is not love this is excitement at having a thing to play with. They don’t ask the toy what they want, toys can’t think. They don’t ask or much care about what people want as they don’t believe other people really have proper feeling or thoughts either. Just like a spoilt child gets tired of toys and throws them away these people will end up using and badly hurting anyone who trusts them. Grandma has this problem. You want to keep the child safe from hurt in the future even though grandma seems fun now. She has hurt many other people in the past (give examples). You don’t trust her and you keep her at arms length (describe low contact, medium chill or whatever you do) so you need to protect the child until they are old enough to see the behaviour and protect themselves. Grandma will always be this way, it cannot get fixed. Part of the problem is that she believes she is always right. She is not a safe person. She is like the old woman in Hansel and Gretel. Don’t eat the gingerbread.

If your spouse is not in agreement that their mother’s behaviour is that much of a problem do all of this anyway. You are allowed to have a different view and they are your kids too. Your first responsibility is to their safety not to uphold your spouses’ family’s world view. This is hard, I know that. Divided loyalties are horrible and conflicting. Your spouse does not see the situation clearly and you don’t wish to hurt them and cause strife, but here is an opportunity to model taking responsibility. Your spouse cannot make you stay silent on this, you choose to. If you are concerned about your children being brainwashed by your MIL you need to take action. Hansel and Gretel would not have ended up at the wicked witch’s cottage is their parent hadn’t left them alone in the forest in the first place. Don’t be that parent.


Filed under Controlling behaviour, Denial, Describing narcissism, Effects of NPD on others, Examples of narcissistic behaviour, family roles, Helping your spouse deal with NPD mum, Manipulations, NPD MIL and grandchildren, strategies for managing NPD MIL

31 responses to “Grandparent Grooming 2 – how to fight it

  1. JDS

    Dear FCW,
    Once again, you have hit the nail on the head. I wish I could adequately express to you the difference your postings have made in my life, my marriage, and my children’s lives. I no longer feel crazy! Keep writing, please. You are a Godsend!

    I have gone to Low contact and the guilt is gone…my husband is FINALLY after 20 years together seeing the truth about his mother. After finding this blog while recuperating from cancer, I took the reigns after realizing killing with kindness was never going to work, and that I couldn’t tolerate what she was doing to tear apart the 5 of us. I struggled A LOT about telling my children the truth about her, the pervasive denial within my husband’s family, as I felt disloyal, but it was the BEST THING I EVER DID!!!!! I think my husband is seeing it because the kids are being forthright about her antics so now that it is more than just me saying these things, he is being forced to take notice. He knows I am a loyal person to the bone at the core so that has helped him trust I wouldn’t do anything to hurt him.

    I am intrigued about how the child of a NMIL has poor radar for red flags in other’s behaviors. My husband has always put me down for being a “realist”, so to speak, and prided himself for his “rose colors glasses” outlook and it would infuriate me because he made poor choices as a result of his denial outlook (as it felt to me) especially with the bosses he ended up working for. They were always out of control like his mother. Now I understand!!!!! I am not crazy!!!! I would tell him and forewarn him, but got accused of being negative or not being optimistic. The funny thing is all my friends would tell you I was an optimistic person and often call me for advice because I was so realistic. I used to feel so bad about myself because I didn’t have rose colored glasses. You have given me the confidence to believe in myself again.

    Thank you!

    • SoManyQuestions

      Hi JDS,

      My husband and I have the EXACT same dynamic. I just realized even his friends are in on it and have dubbed him Mr. Optimist. Flying by the seat of his pants accompanies the “rose colored glasses” outlook. I’m wondering if that is a learned behavior as a result of having an NM, a coping mechanism.

      And FCW, thanks for your timely posts since many of our children have had to visit grandma during school break. I’ve been processing your two pieces on the grooming grandma with interest because I have had the opposite experience. N Grandma has never really taken an interest in the grandkids. I have limited their interaction with her which certainly can explain some of it, but more so I think she adopts the persona of a 3 year old, and she sees the grandchildren as competition for attention/narc supply. She prefers the undivided attention of her adult sons. There is an expectation that they visit preferably without families in tow and spend a week or two entertaining her. I have never seen or heard of this before with all of the friends and families I have encountered over the years.

      Alabaster pointed out to me that this is probably tied to having been an inattentive mother in conjunction with spousification of my DH ( spousification is only directed at my DH and not his brothers). I had forgotten about the inattentive parenting aspect of narcissism since I didn’t have enough of the pieces to make the connection at the time. After rereading specifics of this trait and as I learn more about his childhood, I know Alabaster has hit the nail on the head. Thank you wise Alabaster 😉

      Knowing how NMIL specifically looks for adult narc supply, I am alert to grooming that may occur during their teen years. N Grandma attempted to pull my DD aside during a recent visit and discuss me. DH overheard this interaction, and both he and DD immediately shut that line of conversation down.

      FCW, as usual your posts have touched on our everyday experiences. Many thanks!

  2. MumStandsFirm

    Thank you for this series. It has confirmed that limited contact and being open and honest with our kids have been a necessary response to narcissistic grandparents.

    We’re lucky enough to have two of them: a queen and a waif.

    The queen has moved on to younger grandchildren. There’s nothing we can do about them. Their parents are either unaware or complacent/reliant/co-dependent on her. This is how she continues to conquer and divide. We made the difficult choice to do medium chill and be reliant upon her for nothing. We moved to a new city to limit the number if visits.

    The waif is simply powerless in the face of geographical distance and honest discussions about the self-destructive behaviour.

  3. Tania

    Thank you. This is so insightful. We have talked to our children about their grandmother as, we agree that it’s important they know that unkind behaviour from her will not be tolerated. We’ve explained that we think her behaviour is because she wasn’t loved as a child. It is a hard thing to tell your kids as naturally it’s heartbreaking that their grandma isn’t normal. Strangely I find it much harder to contemplate telling my sister in law, who is in complete denial about her mother – although deep down I think she does ponder on her mother’s lack of empathy. Do you think it worth broaching in laws? I am frightened by the potential fall out.

  4. Relieved

    Hi FCW, thank you for your two posts on this topic.

    I think it’s amazing what people will put up with under the guise of “family trumps all”.

    • Nicole

      Well put…I actually had a brother-in-law who got in our face (hubby and me), pointed his finger at us, and said “Family is Number 1!”. He said this because we avoided the in-laws due to high disorder and narcissism. Too bad my hubby did not counter attack his comment with, “My spouse is my family now, which makes HER Number #1 with me.”

  5. Yorkshirepud

    I couldn’t have stumbled across your blog at a better time! Having come from a distant family I initially loved the closeness of my husbands family. Sure there were lots of very odd things too and MIL only peaceful if everybody doing exactly what she wants but HEY it’s families right?
    To cut a long story short I’m at a point where I am OOTF although still struggling with guilt in particular. My MIL is demanding I hand over my youngest to stay with her and I feel like there’s no way in hell thats happening! My husband thinks I’m being difficult and we should let her. This blog is the strength I need!

  6. Jds

    Is there anyone else out there that just gets so sick of feeling alone being married to their detached spouse? Is it normal to wish you were divorced one week so bad your heart feels it might break from all the heartache to the next week feeling like you gotta hang in there for your kids. I simply cannot take when I need emotional support from the hectic life with three kids his travel schedules little family support and my health issues and he looks at me like I am a Martian because I just need a hug or his arm around me telling me things will get better. I have asked so many times it’s ridiculous to say what i need to feel loved like the counsellors tell u to do and it doesn’t resonate. I end up escalating and losing my marbles
    to Get any reaction and he almost looks as though he is biting his cheek not to laugh Or smirk or he is robotic and his reply to everything is what would you like me to say or do? I could drop him off on a deserted island without food make him swim through shark infested waters and he would find his way home and ask me how my day was. He is like a robot. It’s like I cannot let myself wish to get close to him because he is so limited in his emotions it’s absolutely painful. Is this how any of you feel married to the child of a narcissistic mother. It’s insane.

    • Al

      Yes, Jds. That is exactly how it feels. Even when she is not there making trouble. Her legacy is there.

      • JD

        Are there articles to combat the manipulation and lies that one’s spouse has learned from the narcissistic MIL. I honestly have been so confused by this behavior that I couldn’t put a finger on it, just that I always felt so terrible. Once I started seeing a counselor the emotional chaos is clearing up but now I feel so scared for me and the kids. We are going into family counseling soon, but I don’t know how the truth will ever come out because I have escalated to a mad woman at times out of sheer frustration and exhaustion. Any suggestions of what to read. I feel like I am in constant check mate.

    • Ago20

      Yes. I have a N MIL and my DH has a lot of emotional availability issues. Robotic. Brief. A lot of self esteem and pleasing issues, too. I want him to do career coaching because at this point in his life these are holding his great mind back in his career development, too.

      If anyone has advice on books and resources I can read to help us, as a family, cope with this… ???

      So far, he is in denial. “I love my mother”. However, he’s getting there, slowly.

      • There are some excellent books but I would hold off on career coaching (he has enough on his plate with such a dysfunctional mother) as that may come off as if you are disappointed in him which will do nothing to boost his self esteem. He is always going to love his mother but that doesn’t mean he can’t see her as a flawed, human person. He is entitled to a relationship with his mother that is on his terms, not yours. You are dealing with a man closed off from himself as the only way he could defend against the onslaught of such a needy, abusive mother. Imagine being subjected to her behaviour all day every day as a small child. Horrible. Please don’t undermine him in your attempts to address her awful behaviour.

        “When he is Married to Mom” is a good start, “Opening Up, the Healing Power of Expressing Emotion” James W Pennebaker may seem slightly off at a tangent but it is an easy read summarising a psychologists experiences with getting people to write and talk about their sometimes traumatic life experiences and what that does to improve their mental health and well being. Your husband may find writing a private journal helpful if he is not in touch with his feelings, well he wouldn’t be given the sort of mother he has who seems to go round telling other people how to interpret everything (your comment on the grandparent grooming post shows her telling your child how to view you).

        Couple’s counselling may help, if you specifically work on his uncommunicative behaviour. The problems with his mother will naturally emerge from this and it is a safer way to address them maybe, rather than suggesting individual therapy. Do make sure you go to a fully qualified psychotherapist. I live in the UK and the rules around setting yourself up as a therapist are a lot stricter then they appear to be in the USA and some other countries. I don’t know where you are from but go to someone who has some psychoanalytical background and fully understands how dysfunctional family patterns across generations can impact couples.

        Later when he is able to see his mother’s behaviour as problematic there are several books which hone in on certain behaviours, controlling, manipulating, emotional abuse, emotional blackmail, verbal abuse. Little is written specifically for men with narcissistic mothers (there is more for daughters of narc mothers) but a good general introduction that is not gender specific is “Children of the Self-Absorbed”.

        Denial can take a long time to chip away at, you may have more luck framing this as your attempts to address aspects of your relationship which you could strengthen and leave his mother out of it until he sees it for himself. Do be aware that working on his behaviour will inevitably lead to looking at aspects of your own behaviour too, one half of a couple cannot change without the other half confronting how they have been enabling the behaviour, this is never pretty but can really improve things for the future.

  7. Mandy

    Thank you once again FCW, I enjoyed these segments!

  8. pkdsquared

    I stumbled upon this blog in a NMIL hang over earlier this week and I am SO glad I did. It is tremendously helpful to know that my NMIL has clones (or scary, but it’s still a weird relief). I am lucky in that my husband saw his mother’s true colors pretty early on in our relationship. We also have the unfortunate situation of FIL being abusive and downright mean and a complete enabler.We have done everything you described as not working (even the whole him going over there and telling her the things she cannot do and how those things will be punished) and as of July 2014 had 0 contact. We cut her off after she made a scene at our daughter’s first birthday party and then became enraged when we wouldn’t drop everything and bring her over to her house so she could see her before a trip she was taking.

    The thing that set me off to find this blog is we moved back in October and she found us. She sent a box to our house (where she wasn’t supposed to know we were living) of all my husband’s childhood items with a very passive aggressive note (“I hope (wife) lets you keep some of these things”). She sent back baby photos of our daughter. My SIL (also 0 contact) also received a box with a similarly passive aggressive note that contained drawings my niece had done for my NMIL when she was a tot- written in crayon with cute misspelled words and all.

    I raged. I was so angry with her for being such a bitch. So heartless and vindictive and evil and cruel and awful. I wanted to drive to her house, pound on her door, cuss her out and then punch her. Seriously. The only thing that stopped me is that I knew that’s *exactly* what she wanted. She wants contact– any kind of contact. It’s sick. Operation Do Not Engage is still in effect, but oh, how I want to send her an awful email telling her that I hope she enjoys her lonely old age and that she can rest easy knowing that we’re horrible people and she was right about us all along.

    Anyway, I hope that you continue to write as this has given me so much peace to know that our outside diagnosis is correct. Maybe one day, since we’re not speaking to her, I can get in my final vent. 😉

    • Relieved

      Wow, pkdsquared. The focus on “stuff” is so interesting. Your mil obviously divests herself of an offender’s “stuff” when she is angry – as in, “you don’t matter to me any more – I don’t want your stuff”. My mil procures “stuff”. She even went so far as to break into a house my husband shared with a former girlfriend years ago to steal back presents and things she had given him to set up his house, as retribution for him not doing something she wanted him to do.

      Good luck with no contact. You are exactly right in refusing to respond, as any attention is good attention. My mil has gone no contact with us as she chooses to see us setting boundaries for how she interacts with us and our children as “abuse” of her and, according to her, she’s not going to take it any more. She only sees the children when she stalks them by finding out from third parties where they will be and showing up in public to approach them and say, “I love you”.

      I think your anger at the box on your doorstep shows that you still want her to love your husband and daughter, and probably you, and care about all of you, and that you’re hurt she doesn’t.

      I feel the same.

      Go figure.

  9. Oh my! You are totally describing my MIL. She only acts this way with our middle child, I just recently had to talk to my husband about something my son heard her say, about me, and my other two kids. He kept this secret for over a month! I told him secrets are not good, especially if they make you feel bad, so he told me. He is so scared she is going to be mad, I told him it was nothing he did, it has to do with her. I could go on, but thank you so much for these posts. I am going to have to do this by myself for awhile, as my husband just wants me to “drop it.” She has always done little things, that I have known were not normal, but when it comes to my kids..and bad talking me and their siblings. She will not poison him against me or his siblings. This is going to be so hard, she has a history of “temper tantrum” to put it nicely.

  10. Anonymous

    Hits the nail on the head. Only difference -my in laws are narcissistic PASTORS. My husband has been so indoctrinated into their belief system and as seeing his father and mother as ‘holy’ people that he cannot see ANY of their destructive behaviors towards me/us.
    father in law could comment on my weight and how deathly thin I look(“you look like a bag of bones”, “oh here comes the walking skeleton…” Etc etc) on a regular basis, but his excuse is that I am taking it the wrong way or being too sensitive.
    I could set a healthy boundary with them (we have a child) and tell them we are so busy once a week to get together is really all we can do and his mother will badger me every other day.. Every single week asking to come over, despite the fact that I am telling her over and over and over again that we are not able to see her more. – husband makes excuses for her and says you know how it is, it’s really not a big deal just keep saying no (THEY LITERALLY SUCK THE LIFE OUT OF ME by causing so much stress)
    When things blow up, (which they do every few months) his parents always blame us for not being clear enough even though we have told them and reminded them a million times.
    We have set serious restrictions already on our involvement with them because of it and have thought of moving away.
    His parents barged into my fathers hospital room where my dads dead body was 30 minutes after he died and next thing you know they are standing with me hugging me over his body ( I am infuriated just thinking about it.. Had no idea they were even called or coming down)
    I have sat them down kindly NUMEROUS times and expressed my need to feel as though my husband and I are making decisions for our own family (always right in the middle of every single decision debating us because after all they do have Godly wisdom and know what’s best ). They will dismiss me entirely and basically tell me that I am the insecure one and it is ok.
    Our most recent fall out came as the result of massive fighting between my husband and I (because I have been wanting to go to another church that his father is not the pastor of) for a long time. It inevitably ended up with me on the phone with his parents… They asked me in what ways have they offended me. I gave them many many reasonable examples (that ANYONE would be upset by). – his father raises his voice to me to tell me “I AM A SPIRITUAL MAN- MY WIFE AND I HAVE NEVER ONCE INTRUDED INTO YOUR MARRIAGE…” (are you seeing a pattern always trying to tell me how I should feel and what my limits are ? They are always acting as if they have the right to dictate what my lines and boundaries are for MY life).
    He went on to manipulate scriptures (always taking scriptures out of context) to tell me that he and his wife as my husbands parents actually have a RIGHT to do all these things as my husband is their child and they are training us up in the ways of the Lord ( these scriptures are meant for non adult, single CHILDREN)
    Needless to say I have finally quit their church and have decided to cut off all forms of communication with them for good as they are spiritually and emotionally abusive due to their extreme narcissism) it has made me question my own sanity many times and thankfully I have a great therapist that is there to remind me I am in fact not crazy only highly stressed due to extremely toxic people.. Or I was. I am so confident and happy with this decision and I know I will be a better mom for it.
    Thank you for your encouraging blog!!

    • Worried mother

      I am 33 and have only just twigged that my mother is this, but no body believes me, I’m the crazy aggressor apparently because I stand up to her,

      2weeks ago she really overstepped the mark and I flipped! Im still putting things together in my head but worse I am in constant battle with myself as I want to go to her house and beat 7 kinds of s***e out of her but that will only make me happy not anything else.

      Below I’m copy, pasting a section of an email I sent to my brother who has children in the hopes he will realise finally what they are, both his parents changed names for obvious reasons…

      (No subject)
      This message hasn’t been sent.
      Saved on: Mon 05/09/2016 10:36

      Hi, I’m coming to u not David, all I want to do is make sure you read the message, like I said to David up to u what u do with the information, David seems to belive I’m crazy and out to hurt people, and that’s fine that’s what he believes but all I want is to make you aware that there is something wrong there.

      I won’t bore you with all the details so below is the bit of the message I sent David that i believe relates to you and your boys,
      Sorry it’s bit long….

      So, mum and dad came to mine last week, Emily put them on the spot to ask for sleepover. Before she went I went through my usual list of, if she wants the light for bed she has it, don’t take her phone off her, she is allowed to take phone to bed it’s holidays etc, knowing they will be ignored as per usual, we got into a bit of an argument cos she was doing her usual I don’t do that blah blah blah!
      When she was leaving she gave me a hug and said “I don’t deliberately try to hurt her you know” I answered back “you better not”

      Normally she would take offence to that but no she accepted it and they left.
      I called Emily the next day to make sure everything was OK, now before I go on

      Mum and Dad, both very intelligent
      Both have common sense
      Mum has a degree in human anatomy and cell biology
      Mum was a science teacher for many years
      Mum knows and understands and can name parts of foot!
      Her degree includes this (I’ve looked it up)

      Emily broke her foot 15 weeks prior
      About break – Emily broke her first metatarsal bone at the vulnerable tendon point, this is the hardest of the metatarsal bones so hard to break and also the most vulnerable as it only has one tendon as opposed to the others that are attache by two. One either side. Had it not heald absolutely perfect, moved, slipped and or been damaged again it could cause all to slip, surgery, disability, arthritis, life long pain.
      Emily had only been cast and protective boot free for less than two weeks
      Walking without crutches for just over a week
      Emily is still even now -under hospital she’s getting another exray next month, in need of occasional pain killers, noticeably swollen, walking with an obvious unmissable limp! She is allowed and supposed to be using her foot but gently and she is to rest it regularly!!

      She knew all this

      Your mother decided My daughter had put on too much weight due to being off her feet so
      put her on the treadmill both days she was there
      Ten minutes of steady walking a pop
      No warm up or stretches first
      No safety clip as it was lost years before
      And left the room several times
      Your dad knew and did nothing
      She also forced her to “walk properly” Every time she noticed her walking with her limp!!!!!!

      Emily suffered for two days wen she got home even taking herself to bed in the afternoon for a sleep as her foot was aching so much,

      I flipped when I found out but as in total shock didn’t really click to the sinister motives,
      Once again I explained why it was wrong in an email, (face to face I wanted and still do rip both their throats out) and as usual she apologised for doing something I didn’t know about! My fault again.

      David please think about this, she purposefully, knowingly, deliberately put you niece in a situation where had she slipped tripped or stumbled WOULD not could, would have been disabled for LIFE!!!
      I have had no response or reaction so sent same to his wife, I’m worried that she might turn on the boys how can I stop her, this is narcissism isn’t it??

      Please help xx

      • Hi Worried Mother, your description is of a woman who thinks she knows best and has chosen to ignore what you said about your child. Taken at face value this is not narcissism but it’s not right either.

        Your mother doesn’t respect your rights as a parent and violates the rules you have in place for your child. If she cannot respect those rights your child shouldn’t be spending time having a sleepover. The word NO is in your vocabulary and should be used both to your mother and your child.

        Reading between the lines I think you have a long history with your mother of not feeling she listens to you. Would that be right? And you have allowed this to go on but now that it affects your child all your maternal instincts are riled up and out to get her. But piling in behind your maternal instincts are the years of hurt that you are feeling which is making this incident a very emotive one for you.

        The details of your child’s injury and recovery and what exactly your mother thought she was doing by getting her to exercise are neither here nor there, irrelevant to the point of your comment. The point is she doesn’t show you respect or listen to your requests. This may sound harsh but how about no contact until she learns that respect and your daughter has no say in the matter (no whining for sleepovers).

        You problem is with your relationship with your mother, to attempt to get the support of your brother and his wife may well cause more problems and it seems they are choosing to keep well out of it. Respect that. Implying that your mother is a danger to their children when what she did was 10 minutes of amateurish physiotherapy is a bit melodramatic, I don’t see any sinister motives in this single example other than someone who is a bit egotistical.

        Look at what it is you want from your mother, what is she actually capable of giving and how to work within those limits. If you know she will repeatedly ignore your requests and try parenting your child her own way then do not give her access to your child, simple.

  11. Ago20

    Thank you for the article. I think it’s a great one. Both parts are.

    I have a question. My oldest child is only 3. Is there a way I can prevent him from getting hurt by N MIL? He keeps asking about her and says he wants to be around her, but she’s been saying such pearls to him like “Let’s not yell mom or she will get mad”, “Mom always gets mad”, “Mom has too many rules, you should run away from home as soon as you can”, “No one will ever love you as I do”, “who cares about mom (when my child asked about me), let’s go an play with grandma”…. At the same time she’s disinterested in him. She never calls, is always busy, and refuses to babysit.

    • Hi Ago20, you are the parent, you control absolutely who they child sees and how they treat your child.

      Every single time she says something about you which goes against your rules or is inaccurate you correct her. “No that is not true, mummy will not be mad.” Then and this is crucial ask her why she said it “why did you say that MIL?” say nothing else. Do not attempt to offer a reason for her comment yourself. Asking a question in this way is a powerful way to gain control of a conversation because questions compel people to answer them. She is attempting to control the story being built up about you to your child, you get control back by calmly asserting how wrong she is, adding a slight laugh to your voice as you say “no mummy is not mad” is even more effective.

      The stark contrast between her divisive and undermining comments about you while she is with your child and her disinterest when she is not is classic narcissist behaviour. Narcissists do not see other people as real, their internal working model of other people is one-dimensional and flawed, a childlike sketch of a person.

      Imagine your 3 year old playing with a teddy bear or doll and “talking” for the toy. They project onto the toy some personality or need “dolly wants some tea” and then pours dolly a cup of pretend tea and lifts the little plastic cup up to dolly’s mouth. Narcissists have a way of relating to other people which is not much more sophisticated than this. When other people are in their presence they are like the teddy or doll, the narcissist has a sketchy “personality” based mostly on parts of the narcs own psyche that they project onto you and then proceed to interact with that false personality in ways which meet the narcissists needs. When you are not in their presence you slip from their minds and they have next to no awareness of your life and needs that go on without them much like a child doesn’t worry that teddy is lonely when they are not playing with the toy.

      Your child serves as a way to bolster your NMIL’s beliefs around her own parenting (which obviously has to be greater than yours) and her own importance (no one will love you like me) when she is with them but is of no relevance to her when she is not. This is actually good thing. It shows she is not singling the child out for any special attention, merely using them as she uses everyone else. If she was on the phone asking about the child all the time and nagging to see them I would be more concerned.

      If your child spends most of the time with you as the caregiver and has a secure relationship with you do not fear. The occasional poisonous visit from the old cow will not harm them. As soon as you think they understand that some people are not always nice (maybe when they have a falling out with a child at pre-school) start talking about how their grandmother is not a nice person. You do your child no favours at all by covering up or pretending around her nasty, unacceptable behaviour. In fact you are feeding them double messages which is one of the most psychologically damaging things you can do to a child. Don’t YOU be the one doing the harm in the way you respond to your NMIL’s actions.

      I also, with the benefit of years of hindsight, can see that her comments are all about her (she needs to be seen as special by the child) and not about you, she probably has zero awareness as to how hurtful saying “no one will ever love you like I do” would be for a parent to hear.

      Now finally, where is your spouse in all of this? Are they sitting around listening to their mother saying this about you and not reacting? That is unacceptable too. Get him in on the act, he should be having a word with his mother and making it clear that slagging you off to your child is absolutely not on. The two of you need to agree a strategy whereby if she does that she is told to leave, plain and simple. It cannot be allowed to continue and your child’s father must back you on this. You are the child’s mother that gives you an untouchable status as far as respect is concerned. Every culture respects a mother in front of their child, every. single. one. Anything else is abuse and it must stop.

      If he is unable or unwilling to do this he is effectively putting his fear of his mother’s disapproval ahead of his commitment to you which is no basis for a relationship. Maybe a few nights sleeping on the couch might persuade him to think twice about the relative status you have wrt his mother. You come top, end of story.

  12. Laura

    Life changing post. I’ve been no contact since May 1, 2016. I stood up to my Narc Mom on behalf of my 12 year old daughter whom the narc was trying to turn against me. I sent my daughter to live 600 miles away in protective custody. I only wish I had known about all of this sooner. My narc Mom had a spell on me, and I finally saw in my daughter’s eyes, the same sadness I felt as a 12 year old. The only thing i can tell anyone with small children with a narc Mom, get out now. I have two younger children and i have been able to save them. I am slowly recovering and looking forward to a future without that psycho bitch. I love my daughter and miss her everyday, but it’s better for her in the long run. I’m lucky to have a wonderful GodMom for my daughter. Lots of people aren’t as fortunate as me.

    • You have done a brave and wonderful thing in seeing your mother’s behaviour and the damage it was causing and taking the necessary actions to protect your child. Sometimes mother’s have to do drastic things to keep our children safe and you have done that, you are a courageous woman. I hope the time will come when you have contained your mother well enough that you can be reunited with your daughter.

      I hope you have been honest with your child and told her why she has been sent to live somewhere else, I think it is so important that we equip our kids with the knowledge needed to keep them safe from people like your mother and that means talking about it openly.

      • Nicky


        My mother in law is a narcissist. My husband an only child. Their bond is really missed up – and so am I for allowing myself to come to his country so she can run our lives

        I have made stops to her behaviour, and his too. However not enough. I feel weakened and not strong enough to deal, but I have no choice since I have five kids, the eldest 9.

        Boundaries and leaving takes courage. Well done to those of you who did!

  13. ML

    Thank you so much for writing this.

  14. Tori

    Thank you so much for this post and its comments. My husband could not believe that a mom could be disordered to this degree, and was only able to see her in correct light when it was too late. He’s often said that I was stubborn and cold toward my mom and she seems so harmless and nice, yet impulsive, snobbish and kind of stupid.

    Now that two of our autistic kids are in residential treatment centers, she gets nearly free access to our sons. The treatment staff says she’s so nice and supportive, but grandma is telling both my kids they are unloved, unwanted and only grandma can make their lives better. My husband and I are devastated that our kids treatment staff are now suggesting and legally pushing for my kids living with her because “it would make them happy”. This was never the plan. We could not have foreseen the destructive betrayal she is causing our whole family – as she poisons my kids minds with a smile and a video game, and social workers note this is a positive relationship.

    Advice: never ever believe you can safely manage the destructive grandmas behavior. It’s not my job to serve as buffer between her and my kids. Even if she begs and claims Shes only there to support you, it’s untrue. She will wait a long time for the right vulnerable moment to hurt you and your kids so terribly.

    Forgiveness does not mean reunification. Everyone will encounter a crisis at some point in life, and your personal information will become her twisted battleground. Cut her out like cancer!

  15. Pingback: I danni psicologici prodotti da nonni narcisisti: strategie di contrasto del grooming parentale, parte II – L'arte di salvarsi

  16. Steve Man

    I am year in to a divorce that 100% result of my narcissistic father-in-law and his daughter who refused to see or accept what he did to me.
    He stole my first born son and the end my ex said “she comes as a package” and walked out on the family. Her father set her up with some guy from another country and she went along like the good daughter she is.
    I use to tell her, she was in always a daughter before she was a bit wife. My oldest son, who was the picked “golden child” hasn’t seen me for a year. He things the new boy friend is great. The grandfather has put in his head that I mentally tortured him all his life. The 70 year old grandfather still sleeps with my 16 year old son. The ex flies to Europe while her parents take care of our son. His younger brother, who’s was not the golden child can see all this. After being called out, the grandfather told our 2nd son that ,”yes, he prefers his brother, they have more in common etc.”
    The oldest will soon get his rivers license. He has been promised a BMW by the grandfather. I was not asked or consulted.
    In the past, when. Confronted by me, he told me.” Decipline your kids anyway you want, as long as it doesn’t affect me”. His daughter, the one raised by this narcissist refused to see the problem and at the end said. “She comes as a package” meaning her father and walked out.

    This article was like reading my own life. I have sent it to all my friends.

    Thank you.

  17. rather not

    My wife always told me her mom was narcissistic but I thought she was exaggerating. Later my wife died. We have three kids, then age 6, 8, 10. My mother-in-law’s fake persona is of an over-the-top lovey-dovey grandma. My 10 year old daughter has a very solitary and reserved personality. My mother-in-law was upset that my daughter wasn’t being loving enough towards her, so a few weeks after my wife died my MIL told my 10 year old that her mother would be very upset that my daughter wasn’t more affectionate with her. To be clear, my MIL guilted my 10 year old girl into being more affectionate by leveraging the girl’s dead mother. Due to that and many other disturbing behaviors I moved to a different state and tried phone contact only. Then my MIL started in on my six year old son, making him cry on the phone. I paused all contact, and now she’s suing me for court-ordered visitation. I don’t think any judge in their right mind would make me send my kids for unsupervised visits, but my lawyer says it’s possible. Also, I found out later my MIL was consulting a lawyer less than a month after we moved away, then waited for 5 months to pass without contact before suing me. She never asked for contact in those 5 months, so I thought she had given up. Apparently she was just waiting for enough time to pass before she could sue. My lawyer bills are rising and my MIL loves the legal drama. I spend hours everyday working on my defense, not spending time with my kids. Anyone else in a similar situation? All the articles I read say to cut contact, but now I’m paying huge lawyer bills, massive stress, and reduced time with my kids.

  18. Violet

    Hi there,
    Thank you for writing this article.
    Is there anything I can do while my child is still too young to talk about this? I have a 7 month old and nmil is already starting the grooming process. My husband doesn’t get why I don’t want them alone together, but he does see a lot of her bad behaviour now. When I told him that I was afraid she’d turn her against us, he kinda brushed it off like “I’ll make sure that doesn’t happen”. But you can’t control what you don’t see, right?

  19. Paige

    I must commend you on the blog. This is my MIL exactly – total Narc. My daughter is 6 and she’s a very nice person. We keep our distance from MIL as much as possible and go in with a plan. My issue right now is when to allow daughter to talk to MIL alone and my daughter not speaking up because she’s trying to be a nice person. She doesn’t want to upset grandma. Like she goes “I miss you too” but she really doesn’t miss grandma. We’ve explained to her it’s OK to speak up against grandma and we support her. She’s OK to say no to her friends. Though of course, we ‘lie” to grandma too. I’ve had to talk to my husband several times because he was making things worse but now he’s getting it. Luckily she hasn’t had much physical alone time. So what do I say to my daughter? Should daughter feed what MIL wants by saying “I love you too” “I miss you too” Should I not give my daughter the phone? One time, my daughter lied to us because of MIL and I told my daughter next time she would be in trouble if she ever lied to us again even if MIL made her to do it. My daughter was so angry once she realized MIL made her lie to to us.

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