Many children suffer from serious emotional problems because they live with an egocentric parent. The child is ignored and used as an extension of the parent. Often this means that the child’s physical wants and needs, views and emotional needs are not being met.
The role reversal relationship
It’s all about the self-centered parent. The relationship is one-sided and directed by the parent. Such a parent commits the child to caring for him and feeding him. This creates a role reversal relationship that is inappropriate for the child’s growth, development and well-being.
Self-centered parents have many characteristics in their relationships with their children. These relational traits are well summarized by Nina W. Brown, EdD, LPC, in Children of the self-absorbed and by Lindsay C. Gibson, PsyD. in Adult children of emotionally immature parents. These parents manipulate the child to ensure that the spotlight of admiration remains on the parent. They lack empathy for the emotional needs of the child. They may show jealousy of any steps the child takes towards individuation – being their own person.
Children’s emotional responses
Children are affected by growing up with a self-centered parent. When a child is unrelated as an individual, a separate person from a parent, there are many emotional and psychological consequences for the child.
When a child’s individuality is not taken into account, it affects self-esteem and confidence. Low self-esteem can in turn create anxiety and depression, suicidal thoughts, substance abuse, and emotional behavior.
There are a wide variety of consequences children experience growing up with a selfish parent. Are there discernible patterns in their suffering? Homer B. Martin. MD, and I found that there are. Children react differently to self-centered parents depending on the child’s personality style. This style is created by how a child is emotionally conditioned within the family. We discovered that personality styles fall into two types––omnipotent and powerless.
Effects on Almighty Children
Almighty children strive to please selfish parents. The omnipotent label comes from the child’s unconscious belief that he is psychologically strong and capable of responding to parental needs and demands, no matter how inappropriate. These children are trained to be emotionally attuned to the needs and desires of the parent. It’s a tall order and an impossible job for adults, let alone a small child.
A child with an omnipotent personality acts as a complement to a self-centered parent. The omnipotent child will attempt to care for and fulfill the needs and desires of a selfish parent.
Since omnipotent children strive to do what dad wants or be what mom asks, they fail. Selfish parents ask too much and are capricious, easily changing their demands. When these children fail to please selfish parents, they feel guilty, berate themselves, and lose self-esteem and confidence.
Omnipotent children feel anxious, depressed, and believe they are of little value for having failed the demands of the selfish parent. This exposes them to emotional illnesses such as depression, school failure, social withdrawal from friends, suicidal thoughts, substance abuse and eating disorders.
Effects on helpless children
The other emotionally conditioned role for children in families is the role of helplessness. These children are brought up differently from omnipotent children. Helpless refers to their unconscious belief and actions of helplessness in their relationships. They are bred to be self-centered, like the self-centered parent. In this situation, there are two peas in a pod. Parent and child have the same personality.
A helpless parent and a helpless child compete vigorously. Each wants to be the best dog in the relationship. Everyone wants their own way. Helpless young children are often bullied by their selfish parent with belittling and name-calling.
At other times, they may be favored children, viewed by selfish parents as special. This happens because the parents project their own particularity and egocentric outlook onto the child. It’s like looking at yourself in a mirror.
Helpless older children and teens bully and fight with their helpless parent. This can create verbal and even physical conflict, as they both erupt with demands to work their way into the relationship.
Teens with helpless personalities may run away from home, self-harm, abuse substances, or get involved in legal issues. They are more likely to be outwardly unstable in their reactions to an egocentric parent than are children with omnipotent personalities, who limit their emotional reactions.
Difficulties follow in adult life
Unfortunately, the effects of living with a self-centered parent do not go away at the end of childhood. As children grow into adulthood, they continue to have selfish relationships with other people in the same way they were emotionally conditioned to do as children.
We have found that children with omnipotent personalities often marry self-centered mates. They focus on pleasure and caring for their partner. They neglect each other in the relationship. Often they walk on emotional eggshells, trying hard never to upset their companions.
Helpless children can form the same adversarial relationships with other selfish people. They will always be in a contest to make their way in the relationship. They may have frequent emotional outbursts and even physical altercations.
Hope self-centered people want to improve before they become parents. They can do this by honestly reviewing their own style of emotional conditioning.
How were you brought up? Have you been spoiled and allowed to have your way a lot? Have other family members given in to your requests, demands or tantrums, no matter how unreasonable? Do you expect others to respond to your desires and never thwart you?
If the answers to these questions are positive for you, then you were probably raised in a powerless role. Your job before becoming a parent is to undo some of your emotional conditioning.
Seek psychotherapy and work with a therapist. By doing so, you can be prepared to raise your children sensibly, listening to their needs and perspectives, and enforcing wise guidance and discipline. By undertaking the work of changing you, their childhood will not be all about you.
To find a therapist, visit Directory of Psychology Today therapists.