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Narcissists can either be malignant or covert. And while the most commonly understood narcissist is the malignant or overt narcissist, I would barter that covert narcissists are worse because of how cunning and manipulative they can be.

A malignant narcissist is someone who is very obvious about their toxicity. They often boast about how great they are, constantly bring attention to themselves, and are always trying to manipulate everyone very openly. Covert narcissists, however, are far more quiet and passive-aggressive in their attempts, making it harder to understand what is happening.

And because children grow up, depending on their parents, needing them for emotional support and love, they get the brunt of the narcissist. Part of the covert narcissist’s reign of terror includes grooming, which is preparing their child to accept trauma.

1. They play the victim.

When their child doesn’t do what they want them to do, they play the victim. “I knew you would disappoint me, just like everyone else.” They will do whatever they have to, to make their child feel sorry for them.

2. They guilt trip.

Another way that a narcissistic parent grooms their child is to make them feel sorry for them. If their child feels sorry for them, they will willingly take the toxicity, because they don’t want their parent to be hurt. Narcissistic parent uses their child’s emotions against them.

3. They make passive-aggressive remarks.

Rather than blatantly tearing their child down, the covert narcissist will make small, yet powerful passive-aggressive remarks. “You know, if you put forth a little effort, your life wouldn’t be in shambles. What a shame.”

4. They make false promises.

Covert narcissistic parents make false promises to their kids, telling them anything and everything they think they want to hear. The only trouble is, they never follow through.

5. They idealize and devalue.

In one moment, the narcissistic parent may be showering their child with love. In the next moment, they are subtly tearing their child down. Because there are peaceful, sweet, and happy moments, the child doesn’t even believe they are being abused half of the time, even though they are.

6. They gaslight.

When the child says something about the hurt, the covert narcissistic parent will call them crazy, or make them doubt their reality. “I didn’t do that, you have such a wild imagination.”

7. They make you dependent.

The covert narcissist wants their child to believe they have to have them to survive, even as adults. In turn, they may not teach them how to thrive on their own, and when they need them, they make passive-aggressive remarks. “You are helpless, aren’t you?”

8. They threaten the smear campaign.

When all else fails, the narcissistic parent will threaten to ruin their child’s reputation. “Just wait till everyone hears how awful you are?!”

9. They control.

And above all, they play puppet masters over their child’s entire life. They don’t want their child to be able to make any decisions on their own, so they take control of every aspect of their life.