How to Set Boundaries with Narcissistic Parents

Growing up with a narcissistic mother, I didn’t have any boundaries. I guess it’s not that I didn’t have any, but that I didn’t even know they existed.

My mother would come into my room without knocking. She often went through my things and threw them out or donated them without my consent. She would read my notebooks, eavesdrop on my phone calls, and look at my screen whenever I’m on the computer. She also often made inappropriate comments about my body.

I thought all of that was “normal”. But when I finally got away from the toxic situation at home, I realized just how not normal it really was.

All these years, I didn’t notice that my boundaries were being violated over and over again. Even as an adult, my mother continued to cross the line on many occasions.

If you have a narcissistic parent like me, you probably don’t know what it’s like to have boundaries or how to set them. It’s especially difficult because they continue to violate them without regard for how you feel. However, having healthy boundaries is essential for your well-being.

Whether you have a narcissistic mother, father, or another parental figure, here are some tips on how you can set some boundaries with them.

Narcissists and Their Lack of Boundaries

Setting boundaries sounds easy in concept. But when you grew up having none or were taught to let them constantly be overstepped, it can be really difficult.

Narcissists typically don’t respect other people’s boundaries. So if you have a narcissistic parent or parental figure, they likely repeatedly violated your boundaries. Or you never got to make any in the first place. 

Narcissists tend to violate boundaries because they think they’re superior. They think they’re above rules and limitations. They don’t care about your privacy or personal space. Or they don’t even notice they’re violating them in the first place.

You likely had to ask permission for everything you had to do, even for the littlest things. I still feel like I need to ask for permission to eat nowadays.

However, that is the narcissist’s way of maintaining control over you. What easier way to control you than to make your personal boundaries completely nonexistent?

Narcissistic parents may often go through your things, snoop through your phone and computer, walk-in on you without knocking, and ask you personal or inappropriate questions. And worse of all, they usually don’t stop when you tell them to. If anything, they double down. So what can you do to deal with that?

Setting boundaries with narcissistic mothers and fathers

narcisstic parent looking at daughter

Although many narcissists share similar traits and abuse tactics, there are some differences between narcissistic men and women.

According to research, men typically have higher levels of narcissism than women. And narcissistic women tend to be more easily startled, rattled, or emotionally hurt than men. So depending on whether you have a narcissistic mother or father, how they respond to you setting your boundaries may be different. Your sex may also affect how they respond.

For example, research also shows that females tend to battle other females and males with other males for dominance. In terms of the parent/child dynamic, narcissistic mothers usually have more issues with daughters than sons. And narcissistic fathers usually have more issues with sons than daughters.

So depending on whether you have a narcissistic mother or father and whether you are a son or daughter, may affect how your parent responds to you setting boundaries with them. However, please note that you or your parent’s sex does not necessarily determine whether they have or don’t have certain traits. It’s best to use your own judgment.

In the end, regardless of your sex, narcissistic parents and parental figures will try to violate your boundaries and manipulate you in whatever way they can, whether it’s through guilt-tripping, stonewalling, gaslighting, threats, or straight-up demands.

You are allowed to set healthy boundaries for yourself

You are your own person. You are the one in control of your life. Not your mother nor your father but you.

When you are raised by a narcissist, you learn that your needs are unimportant. You learned that you don’t deserve to have boundaries or you’re not allowed to voice them. Your mother or father is supposed to always come first.

Even when you no longer live with your parents, they may still walk all over you and continue to disrespect your boundaries.

You likely feel worthless. Maybe you don’t think you deserve to have boundaries. Maybe you think it’s selfish. But regardless of what you believe (or what you were made to believe), you are allowed to set boundaries for yourself.

Narcissistic mothers and mother figures typically see their children as extensions of themselves. They might not even realize you need boundaries in the first place. Rather than see you as an individual, she might see you as her possession instead.

As for narcissistic fathers and father figures, they tend to be more controlling and dominant. They may feel like they have the right to violate your boundaries because they are your parent, and are superior. To them, you’re just a child that doesn’t deserve to have their concerns voiced and met.

But you are worthy of respect. Just because they’re your parents doesn’t mean they’re allowed to violate your boundaries. And it definitely doesn’t mean that it’s okay.

How to Set Boundaries with Narcissistic Parents

Determine your boundaries

First off, simply determine what you want your boundaries to be.

This might sound simple, but when you’re raised by a narcissistic father who might constantly criticize you in front of other people or a mother who never knocks when she enters your room, you won’t exactly know what boundaries are.

So in order to be able to set boundaries, you need to think about what you want and how you can verbalize them.

Do you want your narcissistic father to stop belittling you? Do you want your mother to start knocking before entering? Do you want your narcissistic parent to stop telling you how to parent your children?

Your narcissistic parent likely does a lot of things that make you uncomfortable or upset. And you don’t have to take that. You have the right to voice your concerns and what you want.

They’ll likely not respect it anyhow. But you still have the right to voice your needs. So take a moment and think about how you would like to be treated.

There might be a lot that you want. But try to start off with one that’s the most important to you. If you bombard them with boundaries, they will only feel attacked and will likely ignore your wishes.

Start with one that’s important to you and see how that goes before setting more.

Approach your narcissistic parent with care and caution because almost anything they perceive as a possible slight against them will result in a not-so-pretty situation.

State your boundaries directly, briefly, and consistently

When stating your boundaries, try not to beat around the bush. The more direct you are, the more effective it usually is.

Be clear about what you will and will not tolerate. Let them know where you draw the line.

Make sure your boundaries are non-negotiable. Try not to discuss, argue, or elaborate on it. Simply state your boundaries and keep it brief. If they want to discuss further, try to cut it short.

Also, try your best to remain consistent. When you’re inconsistent, it might seem like you’re uncertain or unconfident about your own decisions. This will give them a chance to poke at your vulnerabilities. So prepare your boundaries ahead of time and stick to them.

Set consequences you can and will enforce

One of the most important things about setting boundaries is to set consequences for when those boundaries get violated. Without consequences, boundaries are pointless.

When setting boundaries with your narcissistic parents, you can tell them what happens if they don’t respect your boundaries. Maybe you don’t talk to them for a bit. Or maybe you won’t visit them if they continue to treat you a certain way. Or maybe you’ll no longer help them with anything.

Having any kind of consequences is to make sure your boundaries are respected, especially when it comes to narcissists. If they don’t suffer any consequences, why would they respect your boundaries?

Narcissists don’t react to statements. They don’t care what’s considered right or wrong. They don’t and won’t listen to reason. But they do care about how it will affect them.

If violating your boundaries causes certain things they dislike or things that inconvenience them, they might stop doing it because it negatively affects them.

When determining consequences, make sure it’s actually something you will be able to follow through with. Because if they don’t suffer any consequences for violating your boundaries, they’ll just do it over and over again.

Enforce your consequences

When and if your parent does cross the line, enforce your established consequences.

This won’t be fun and will be very difficult.

Standing up to your parents who have controlled basically all aspects of your life so far will be scary and threatening. But remember, this is necessary for your well-being. And if relevant, it is also necessary for your family and friends’ well-being.

Narcissistic fathers might not want to listen to any of your boundaries. They might react aggressively, like “how dare you”. As for narcissistic mothers, they may start playing the pity card and begin guilt-tripping you. Either way, your narcissistic parent will find a way to make it a “you” problem. But stand your ground!

Stand your ground

When you try to voice your concerns or state your boundaries with a narcissistic parent, they’ll often turn it around and make it your fault. They’ll say you’re too sensitive or you’re being selfish. Or they’ll say you don’t love them.

Basically, they’ll do whatever it takes to continue to violate your boundaries. They’ll try to push, negotiate, and argue. But stand your ground. Never back down from the consequences or let them change your mind.

These are your boundaries. You are putting your foot down. Show them that this is non-negotiable; it doesn’t matter what they do. Show them that you are serious about this.

You will feel tempted to give in because you likely did many times before. But try your best.

Remind yourself that most narcissistic people lack self-confidence. Therefore, they attempt to make others feel small to feel better about themselves. So if you stand your ground and assert your boundaries, it’ll catch them off guard.

As their child, they’re used to beating you down. But if you show them that they can no longer do that and confidently say so, it may help.

Standing your ground also applies when they get close to crossing the line. Call them out on it.

It may be tempting to let the small things slide, but that’s what they’re hoping for. They will push, inch by inch, until they cross the line.

You can answer any genuine questions they have. But try not to fall for their pity parties, guilt trips, accusations, threats, gaslighting, or interrogations.

And remember, the more you try to explain or defend your boundaries, the more they’ll have to argue and manipulate you with. Again, it’s best to stay brief and direct with them. Then, shift the subject to something else or excuse yourself.

Don’t argue

When setting your boundaries, your narcissistic parent will likely try to start a fight or at least some sort of conflict. And when they do, as tempting as it may be, try your best not to fight back. Remember, they thrive off of drama.

Talking back in any way is ammo for them to use against you.

If you feel an argument or conflict coming on, excuse yourself. If you can’t, do your best to ignore them and don’t show them any reactions. Hopefully, if they think they can’t get to you, they’ll eventually stop.

Know when to let go

Unfortunately, a lot of the times, consequences don’t help, especially the first few times you try to set them. You can follow each and every advice out there to set those boundaries, but your narcissistic parent might just keep violating them. At times like that, when it seems like nothing helps, it may be time to consider cutting contact.

Going no contact with a parent can be very difficult. It’s hard saying goodbye to someone you’ve known your whole life and may be attached to. So if you’re not ready for no contact, you can also consider limited contact or taking a break from them..

Stop contact for a few days to a few weeks before establishing contact again to gauge where and how things are.

However, if things never seem to improve and are only making your mental health worse, please reconsider cutting contact or establishing very low contact to the point they can’t negatively affect you anymore.

When you’re no longer interacting with your parent, they can no longer violate your boundaries or abuse you.

Also, when you do decide to go no contact, take time afterwards to practice self-care, learn to set healthy boundaries in your other relationships, and begin healing from your childhood trauma.

Consider seeking professional help. A professional can help you with this process. They can help you learn to process the abuse you faced, develop healthy coping skills, set boundaries to protect yourself, and practice self-care.

Conclusion

When you set boundaries with your narcissistic parents, you become the one in control.

You’re likely used to putting your mother, father, or other people ahead of yourself. That’s how you were raised and it wasn’t your fault. But it’s time to do it differently.

Putting yourself first and voicing your boundaries is not selfish. It does not mean you’re not kind or that you’re a brat or ungrateful or demanding. It shows that you know how to protect yourself and that you know you’re worthy of respect.

If you’re not used to setting boundaries, it will be uncomfortable at first. You might ignore your own wishes in order to avoid conflict. But regardless, the narcissist will have a way to create conflict, so don’t let that be the reason why you won’t set boundaries.

You may also feel embarrassed, ashamed, or guilty doing it. But it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Remember, you have the right to do what’s best for you. You have the right to keep yourself safe.

Written By: Estee

Having been raised by an abusive mother, Estee developed an interest in mental health to better learn, understand, and manage the effects the abuse had on her. She holds an Associate’s Degree in English and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology with minors in Sociology and Health. Her experiences inspired her to create Hopeful Panda, a blog dedicated to individuals with abusive parents. In her spare time, Estee enjoys cooking, learning, exploring, gaming, drawing, writing, and spending time with her family.

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