A narcissistic parent has an inflated sense of self-importance that requires constant admiration and attention from others, including their children. They often manipulate their children to ensure that their needs are constantly met. One of the ways that a narcissistic parent may exert control over their children is by choosing a "golden child."
What is a “golden child”? A golden child is chosen by the narcissistic parent to receive special treatment and favoritism. This can be because the golden child exhibits qualities that the parent values or sees as desirable, such as intelligence, athleticism, or attractiveness. The golden child may also be chosen simply because they are more compliant or easier to control than their siblings.
The golden child is usually appreciated based on their performance in school or activities to meet the parent’s ego and is usually loved by being “bought” through special gifts or zero consequences. The child feels they are special but it wreaks havoc on their self-esteem as they tend to end up with low self-esteem. Not only does it inhibit the child from having confidence, but they often end up with depression, anxiety, and stressed relationships with their siblings or the other parent.
Here Are 5 Reasons Why A Narcissist Picks A Golden Child:
1. Triangulation: Narcissistic parents tend to triangulate the child as weapons against the other parent for power. They will emotionally manipulate the child and use them as a power source to silence the other parent. Anytime the narcissistic parent wants to make plans they believe the other parent will not agree to they first ask the child to get an agreement. Then this coerces the other parent out of guilt to agree by stating “the child wants to do x,y,z”. If the other parent doesn't agree then they look like the “bad” parent to the child.
2. Divide and Control: Narcissists often need to control those around them to feel secure. By choosing a golden child, they may be able to manipulate and control this child to meet their needs and desires. This can also create division and competition between siblings, which the narcissist may use to maintain their power over the family. The more the narcissistic parent divides the sibling relationship, the more they are the center of everyone’s attention. Sometimes the narcissistic parent will also request special parenting time with just one child for further manipulation. We highly advise against splitting the children for parenting time.
3. Ego Validation: Narcissists often require lots of validation and admiration from others to fulfill their internal void. By choosing a golden child, they may receive the validation they crave by basking in the glory of their child's accomplishments and successes. This why you’ll see a parent be “super mom or dad” at school events, extracurricular games, etc but behind closed doors they neglect the child’s basic needs for love, security, and safety.
4. Fears of Abandonment: Narcissists may choose a golden child who they believe will be able to relieve them of their deep-rooted fears of abandonment. Keeping the child close and under their thumb the narcissist can ensure their own comfort and security are met by the child. Narcissists most often can not be alone and need constant reassurance that someone will always be there to care for them and their emotional needs.
The parent may also choose to go back and forth between the children pulling
one in closer for a few months only to reject and discard them when they get too close.
They will then do the same cycle with another sibling/child. The parent is creating the
trauma bond cycle with the children rejecting them before the child
can reject the parent due to their fears of abandonment.
5. Counter the Co-Parent: Narcissists may choose a golden child who is easier to control than their other children. This could be because the child is more compliant or has a personality that is less likely to challenge the narcissist's authority. By choosing a child who is easier to manipulate, the narcissist can maintain their sense of control over the child and the co-parent relationship. The narcissist will weaponize their child as a flying monkey and put them in the middle of the co-parenting dynamic to cause pain to the other parent. The child is often unaware of their manipulation, but it typically creates alienation from their other parent or a stressed relationship.
In conclusion, a narcissistic parent may choose a golden child for a variety of reasons, including reinforcing their own sense of superiority, creating competition and division among their children, and securing someone to depend on in the future. This can have a profound impact on the children involved, causing resentment, jealousy, and a sense of betrayal. If you need further assistance in helping set boundaries with your co-parent or helping your child to develop critical thinking skills, then set up a consultation to get the support you need.