Say Goodbye to Counter Parenting: Try These Effective Strategies

Written by Daisy
Last updated:
Reviewed by Margaret
Counter Parenting

Counter-parenting occurs when parents continue their resentment after a divorce. They don’t forgive each other’s mistakes and maintain cold behaviors. It’s characterized by working against each other or even acts of revenge. As a result, children absorb this negativity like a sponge. As unpleasant as divorce is, it shouldn’t influence child custody cases. 

Let me explain in what ways counter-parenting is disharmonious to everyone involved.

What Is Counter Parenting? 

Counter-parenting works the opposite of co-parenting. Instead of ignoring differences for effective upbringing, one parent works against the other. In their mind, the counter-parent believes they are “punishing” the other parent. But at the end of the day, their children suffer the most. Such parents are usually narcissists who only demand control instead of upbringing.

Hostile, Oppositional, and Resistant Behaviors

As I stated, a counter-parent intentionally works against the other parent. They want to prove that they are raising the children better. Even if the other parent is doing a great job, the narcissistic parent works in opposition out of spite. 

Here are some behaviors shown by counter-parents:

  • Disobedience of court orders.
  • Allowing the children to do things the other parent is against.
  • Speaking negative statements about the other parent to their children.
  • Cursing the other parent in the child’s presence. 
  • Persuading the children to be insubordinate.
  • Blaming the other parent frequently.
  • Silencing the other parent during visits. 

Undermining Parental Authority

Narcissistic counter-parents place themselves in the center instead of the kids. Their sole intention is to win. They wish to:

  • Control what and who is involved in the children’s lives.
  • Become a favorite parent.
  • Earn the only authority over the upbringing. 

According to them, no one knows how to raise a child better. And if they resent the other parent, they attack their softest spot – their kids.

Factors Contributing to Counter Parenting

As with any other parenting style, many factors contribute to a narcissistic counter-parent. 

Here are some of them:

Relationship Problems and Marital Discord

If a parent feels worthless throughout the marriage, they can turn into narcissists. On the other hand, relationship conflicts can disrupt parenting dynamics as well.

Parental Personality Traits

A child being criticized or ignored by parents can become a counter-parent in the future. At the same time, too much praise can also lead to arrogant narcissism. Here are other parenting styles that develop counter-parenting:

  • Lack of warmth
  • Overprotective
  • Abuse or maltreatment
  • Minimal boundaries

Note: Genes can also play a role. 

Mental Health Issues

A narcissistic personality disorder is a severe mental health issue. These people demand continuous praise, attention, and control in all aspects. Parents with this disorder are unaware of others’ feelings.

Substance Abuse and Addiction

Long-term addiction or abuse can also make the parent become obsessed with winning. Not only “winning “and being better in upbringing but also in everything else.

Effects of Counter Parenting on Child Development

Counter-parenting can induce sufficient damage to children. Unfortunately, narcissism goes beyond frustrating personality traits. For example, Narcissist Personality Disorder is hard to cure. If it’s not treated properly, it can negatively influence children.

Here are the ways how kids can be affected by counter-parenting.

Emotional and Behavioral Problems

Children of narcissistic parents usually blame themselves for everything. They believe that the parent’s behavior is their fault. When the parent never accepts their mistake, children keep putting on blame. 

Self-blame can lead to anxiety, depression, self-doubt, and much more. When they become adults, these children develop people-pleasing and indecisive tendencies. Plus, they often engage in codependent relationships. They also find it difficult to be emotionally intimate with their partners.

Decreased Self-Esteem and Self-Worth

Having a narcissistic parent overshadows the whole childhood. Kids usually feel unworthy, ignored, or even invisible. All that happened because narcissistic parents revolve everything around themselves. 

They don’t allow their child to establish self-esteem. Resultantly, these children believe their needs are insignificant.

Increased Risk of Attachment Issues

Due to diminished childhood self-esteem, counter-parenting includes an insecure attachment style. Rather than being securely attached in relationships, children experience three attachment issues:

  • Fearful-avoidant
  • Dismissive-avoidant
  • Anxious-preoccupied

The toxic shame and worthlessness make them vulnerable to emotional predators too.

Long-Term Consequences

Long-term effects of counter-parenting might result in different mental health problems. These usually include insomnia, physical ailments, nightmares, and anxiety disorders.

How to manage a counter parent?

While having a counter-parent is disturbing, some practical tips can improve the situation. Here’s what to do:

Communication Strategies

Try to offer your children a safe and comfortable space so they can express their emotions. Improve your bond and communication with them in visits. This is how you can achieve your child’s confidence in you. 

Co-Parenting Agreements

Try to change your parenting style. Counter-parents have many chances to turn their kid against you. In this case, consider minimizing communication through parallel parenting or other approaches. This parenting style doesn’t demand much cooperation or communication between parents. 

Family Therapy and Counseling

If the counter parent is showing narcissism, family therapy becomes difficult. Narcissists don’t display empathy or accountability. However, if their selfishness isn’t too intense, there’s hope for recovery.

Parent Education and Training

If a parent is not too self-centered, they can learn to be a better parent through education. Ask for help from a licensed practitioner to get the best possible results and a happier family.

What Is Parallel parenting?

In this style, the parents have a different approach to their kids. Parallel parenting means parents don’t attend the same child-related events. Communication happens only through a co-parenting app, texts, or emails. 

It’s different from co-parenting, where communication can be more versatile.

However, parallel parenting includes restricted communication by the written word. Parents who adopt parallel parenting need to be aligned on parenting approaches. In short, they are focused on parenting separately. 

Ahead, we will discuss information on this particular parenting style. 

Parallel parenting examples 

Parallel parenting offers an effective solution for cases with high conflicts. It also benefits parents with malignant narcissistic, borderline, or hostile personalities.

With parallel parenting, each parent takes responsibility for specific duties without requiring approval. Only essential issues receive discussion, and communication is limited to minimize emotional reactions.

Parents assign particular parenting duties. For instance, the father handles medical appointments or hobbies. On the other hand, the mother organizes religious activities while minimizing contact. 

How to start parallel parenting 

As stated earlier, a co-parenting plan enables some flexibility. Contrary, parallel parenting prevents communication between hostile parents. To smoothen things out, try going through family court to officialize the arrangements.

Follow these steps to develop an effective parallel parenting plan:

  1. Decide how to split time with your children 

This involves mentioning the days each parent will have custody of the children. Additionally, clarify where the children will spend special occasions, birthdays, holidays, and vacations.

  1. Decide the start and end times of the visits

Include specific pick-up and drop-off times for each parent to avoid confusion. For example, the father can have the children from Sunday at 7 PM until Thursday. The mother can have the children from Thursday school drop-off until Sunday at 7 PM.

  1. Determine the address for pick-up and drop-off

To minimize communication between parents, choose pick-up and drop-off locations beforehand. These locations should be neutral. It could be a parking lot between both homes, making it easy for the kids to switch vehicles.

Depending on the level of hostility, it may be necessary to ask a third person to shuttle the children. This person could be a trusted friend or relative.

  1. Discuss how to cope with cancellations 

You also have to be ready for cancellations. So, write some guidelines for handling such circumstances. Make it clear whether a parent can make up their time. If yes, mention when the parent will be able to do so. 

For instance, the parent can spend an additional holiday or gain an extra day in the week with the children.

  1. Make a plan to tackle disputes 

Yes, parallel parenting aims to minimize disputes. But no plan can be flawless, particularly if a parent is difficult. Request the court to appoint a mediator, also known as a parent coordinator. This will erase the unpleasantness of arguments. Schedule a meeting with the mediator instead to cope with the problem.


What are the 3 types of co-parenting?

Three prominent co-parenting types exist in post-divorce relationships: cooperative conflict, and parallel parenting. Repeated conflicts and poor communication between parents characterize conflicted co-parenting. This parenting style is disastrous for children and leads to negative outcomes. 

Parallel parenting has minimal communication and almost no sharing of childbearing responsibilities. They are emotionally disengaged from each other. 

Lastly, cooperative co-parenting is the most effective. It included joint coordination, planning, and flexible schedules.

Signs you are co-parenting with a narcissist 

  1. They repeatedly gaslight you. 
  2. They undermine your efforts as a parent.
  3. They don’t respect boundaries and ignore your rules.
  4. They criticize you in front of kids.
  5. They expect kids to fulfill their own needs.
  6. They lack empathy for you and your children.
  7. They rarely accept their faults.
  8. They isolate the kids. 

How do you co-parent with a covert narcissist?

  1. Set a legal parenting plan.
  2. Refer to court services.
  3. Hold strict boundaries.
  4. Parent with empathy.
  5. Don’t speak badly of the other parents in front of the children.
  6. Don’t engage in emotional arguments.
  7. Expect difficulties.
  8. Consider counseling 
  9. Document everything.
  10. Opt for parallel parenting.
  11. Don’t let go of your perspective during disputes.


And that’s it! We’ve reached the end of the guide on counter-parenting. You now know why the counter-parenting style should be avoided at all costs. To make a pleasant upbringing, adopt parallel parenting or other approaches. And always, but always, put your kids’ happiness over your ego.

Thanks for reading!

Photo of author
Daisy Martinez, a Certified Financial Planner and mother of two, blends finance expertise from Ohio State and Anderson School of Management with hands-on parenting insights. Founder of "" and "", she's passionate about guiding parents in financial and parenting realms.

Get a freebie every week!

Join 40,000+ parents and teachers , and you'll get a freebie in your inbox at least once a week, along with tips, information, and other resources!

Subscribe to the Mamallove newsletter: