Sons of narcissistic fathers


Sons of narcissistic fathers

Narcissistic fathers are as toxic to their sons as narcissistic mothers are to their daughters. Since narcissistic parents have absolutely no idea about parenting and age appropriate behaviour, they will tell their very young sons “to stop crying and be a man”, call them names like “cry baby”, “Mummy’s boy” or even “don’t be such a little girl”.  This causes the son to try to suppress his emotion and put a brave face on everything, even physical injury.  Suppressed emotions will always have a way of coming to the surface albeit in a distorted, perverted and unrecognizable form.

Sons of narcissistic fathers are stripped of their self-confidence from a very early age. The narcissistic father (like the narcissistic mother) will constantly be in competition with his son, he will be condescending, arrogant, pompus and nothing his son does will ever be good enough. He will always flip any achievement by his son into something that was “thanks” to the father’s influence or he will dismiss it as irrelevant he will knock everything that his son does on the most pathetic level, it could be as benign as learning to tie shoe laces or riding a bike. He will always have learnt it earlier and done it better.  He will be very sneering towards his son, for example his son will show him a painting he just did and the father will say “that isn’t very good is it, it doesn’t look like a horse to me.  You know what a horse looks like why can’t you do better?”

A narcissistic father will compete relentlessly with his sons, even if he is teaching his son the rules of a game, he will not let his son win one point.  It doesn’t matter what the game is, it could be chess or rugby, if it is rugby the narcissist father will not give a second thought to physically hurting his son to gain a point (even though he is twice the size of his son).

The narcissistic father will demandrespect from his children, even though he has no respect for anyone else.  He will have a tendency to assume a very authoritarian approach to parenting (almost Victorian, children should be seen and not heard).  The narcissistic father will use shame to control his son and will lash out with the most damning of comments without any concern for the hurt and pain he causes.  Like all narcissists he is totally without remorse or empathy he can see his son writhe in pain or embarrassment and be totally unmoved, if it isn’t about him then it just doesn’t matter.  The narcissist father knows that his son is his captive and he uses this advantage to its absolute maximum.  He will treat him as his servant, there to do his bidding, he will bark orders and never show any gratitude or appreciation for that which was done for him.  He can leave his son hanging around while he indulges in his favourite hobby without giving any thought about his well-being. If his son asks him for something he will shame him again for being a nuisance and his son will internalize a sense of guilt for being a burden.

Pompous, arrogant and over confident he will have opinions about all issues (even topics that he knows absolutely nothing about).  He will deliver his opinions with such certainty that his son will find it very difficult to express himself let alone have a counter argument.  The narcissist father does not have conversations with his son, he delivers lectures.  He will criticise everyone (especially other men) and will consider them all to be stupid, even when he has never spoken to them.

If his son has a hobby or a sport, the father will tend to become over involved and micromanage the activity making his son almost irrelevant, the message being that his son will not be able to do it as well as he does.  The actual ability of the father is irrelevant to the narcissist, he will automatically assume superiority.

When out walking the father will always walk in front of his son to show his superior status, never beside him.  The father might also put his son in physical danger without giving it a second thought. These fathers are always emotionally aloof and will become irrationally irritated if any emotional demands are placed on them.  They will be very emotionally abusive and will sneer and deride any signs of weakness in their son, even from as young as 2 years.  The narcissist father will “forget” that his son is a child and will place adult expectations on him.  This type of father will constantly play power games with his son to show his control, without thinking (or probably even aware) about the consequences.  A narcissist father will always give his son age inappropriate tasks to perform.  This will make the child feel helpless, frustrated, humiliated and he will resent his father for putting him in that situation.  He might despise his father in childhood but will be unable to express himself.  Later in life he could have outbursts of uncontrollable rage and direct them at someone else, when he is really feeling his own sense of shame.  The feelings of resentment towards his father do not go away in adulthood because the narcissist father will continue to treat his son like a child when he is an adult and continue to bully and sneer at him.

It is very common for sons of narcissists to become narcissistic themselves.  This is because their emotional development gets arrested when they are very young, because their needs are not met.  A child will get his sense of self from their same sex parent, having a narcissistic father will inevitably create huge issues about being good-enough, worthy of love and acceptance.  No matter how loving his mother is this son will spend his life trying to gain his father’s approval, which of course he will never get. Any sort of acknowledgement by the narcissistic father will be met with a disproportional amount of gratitude from his son and in turn will make him try harder to please him.

A narcissistic father will set his son up to fail.  Nothing would threaten him more than if his son was more successful that he was.  The attitudes and behaviour of a narcissistic father can leave his son with intimacy issues and they will feel it very difficult to build significant relationships with others (friendships as well as partners), they may also partner with someone who is abusive towards them because that is what their definition of “love” feels like: cold, hyper critical and emotionally unavailable.


13 thoughts on “Sons of narcissistic fathers”

  1. God this hit home. True and every single aspect. I’m an adult child of a severely narcissist father. My biggest problem is building meaningful relationships, from what I understand is that being authentic builds strong relationships however I have a very weak sense of self and it’s very difficult to try to build it as an adult. Do you have any suggestions on how to deal with these feelings of self-worthiness and help build relationships?

    1. Hi there

      I am not going to lie to you, it is a lot of hard work! We get our sense of self from our same sex parent (I have a very narcissistic mother, so I know where you are coming from). You literally have to reboot your hard drive, the Zen masters say “you should learn something new every day and unlearn something every day”, when you have narcissistic parent(s) you have to unlearn a whole lot more. There are some things that are core to your healing here are a few:
      How they treated you is not your fault (number one).
      Narcissists cannot process emotions and since they really have low self esteem, they project their negative feelings on to others and yes, even their own children – I would go further and say especially their own children because children are hostage to their parents and being young and innocent they are very easy to bully.
      All narcissists are bullies, but like to play the victim (all of the time)
      They have NO empathy and never consider other people or the damage that they are doing with their abuse.
      They ALWAYS have to feel “better than” everyone else and will create a false persona (which has nothing to do with reality) so that they can feel superior.
      They are pathological liars to everyone but more importantly to themselves. They are so good at lying that they actually believe their own lies.
      They suffer from the Dunning Kruger effect (they think that they are far more accomplished than they are)
      They set their children up to fail. This is because they could not stand it if their child did “better” than them at anything. From academic accomplishments to being more popular (and will often try to install social anxiety in their children)
      They interfere and ridicule their children’s relationships – from friends, lovers and family.
      They know no boundaries
      They constantly give out non solicited advice (usually negative and often to set you up to “fail”)

      There is a lot to learn and just when you think you’ve “got it”, you realise that they is a whole other layer of depravity that you never even thought existed. It is really horrible, there is a lot to learn. It is easy to become obsessed with the subject, I know I did. A lot of the “gurus” will tell you not to get too absorbed by narcissism, I don’t agree, I think education is key and how can you heal yourself if you don’t know what you are healing from?

      My suggestions would be:

      Be nice to yourself and show yourself compassion
      If you have got into unhealthy relationships in the past it is because that was your “love model” from your family of origin.
      Children of narcissistic parents develop maladaptive coping methods just to survive. These include people pleasing, taking abuse from others, addiction, putting the needs of others before your own needs, the list goes on and on. You know who you are and if you need to write a list. You wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t want to grow as a person, if you weren’t kind, if you were arrogant (a know all). So you see just from your short message, I know all that about you, you know so much more. It will be a painful (at times) journey – but you are worth it to yourself but also to the world.

      Good luck my friend and if you have any questions please just message me. I hope this was helpful and not too daunting.

      1. Hi, I’m financially dependent on him too. How do I start my therapy or get up on my own feet if he won’t pay for anything that he thinks is wrong

        1. Hi, you go onto the internet and look up all the answers (don’t believe everything you read) but there is plenty of solid advice. One piece of advice I will give you is to stop thinking that one day he is going to morph into a decent caring human being. That just isn’t going to happen. Look else where, reach out to friends, neighbours and extended family members. Your therapy starts with you. I have had a few therapists who just held me back, so it isn’t the golden solution – getting in touch with yourself and you hurts is the golden solution. You know who you are, you don’t need anyone else to tell you that. You have this and of course people like me are here if you feel a bit wobbly. Bon chance

  2. This was really helpful, and so resonant of what my partner is currently exploring in his relationship with his father, I’m grateful for your writing!

    As a previous commenter inquired about dealing with self-worthlessness, I’m looking for suggestions in how I can be of better support as partner in this process. I’m a child of a narcissistic mother, and one of the very real symptoms of narcissistic parents is codependency – my partner and I are both codependent, where we naturally focus on the people around us (mostly each other) and less on ourselves, in an undying effort to not repeat the pattern of narcissistic behaviour. However, I wouldn’t want our codependency to limit his self-exploration.

    Right now, my partner is in a phase of reevaluating his career path (having done previous roles in an effort to appeal to his father), and so it’s timely to ensure he feels worthy of making himself happy. Do you have any suggestions in how I can help?

    1. The best help that you can be is to listen and support him in his exploration of his self. So no unsolicited advice. Perhaps ask him questions like what he was passionate about as a child, what did he do for hours and loose all sense of time? It doesn’t have to be one thing, for example if he loves cooking that doesn’t necessarily mean that he should become a chef but maybe he just needs to focus more time and attention on it as a hobby.
      Narcissistic parents have no sense of their children boundaries (in fact they will actively and wilfully violate them), so narc parents will tell their children what to do and who they are. Not because they want the best for their children but because they want the best for themselves. So it can take a while to find our identities again. There is no time scale to this healing, it takes self compassion and calm. Block out what other people tell you you “Should” do because this type of advice or commentary is not about you it is always about them.
      Therapy helps but only if you find a therapist who understands narcissism and the effect that parental abuse has on a child even in adulthood. Don’t stay with a therapist because they are “nice”, that is not their job, their job is to listen and be helpful/useful. I hope this helps, if you have any more queries please don’t hesitate to ask.

  3. My son’s father is a narcissist. I only became familiar with this term or this description of human kind 2 yrs ago after falling victim once again to narcissistic abuse. I have done alot of self therapy which has helped in healing some wounds however I do suffer from extreme anxiety , panic attacks and have isolated myself after the passing of my mother. It’s been almost 6 yrs now. I’m not the loving caring comfortable laughing person I use to be 10 yrs ago or from what my son remembers though his early years . He’s 21 now and lately the way he treats me and the way he’s so dismissive and defiant towards me is unfamiliar coming from him but it’s definitely not an unfamiliar experience in fact it’s a huge trigger. I’m struggling understanding what is happening. I raised him until he was 16 then he went off with his father . In the past we would never disrespect each other in the last 3 days we haven’t spoke after a triggered event that occured while he was helping me install a fallen kitchen sink. The moment my anxiety amps up and I begin panicking his whole demeneor shifts and although he often does not say a word but his physical actions have been extremely distasteful. Iam no fool I know what ive been doing so much work to heal from and there is no way I’m allowing it from my own child. I don’t think he’s a narcissist but can you help me and tell me what is happening!! I’ve looked it up and gaslighting, stonewalling are just as close as I get but I know it’s more severe than just that.

    1. Hi there

      This must be a very disturbing development for you. At a guess, I would suggest that he might be picking up this type of behaviour from your ex. He is still young and will be easily influenced by that which is around him. There is one thing that is important to remember and that is how someone treats you is more about how they feel about themselves and therefore it is important not to take it personally (I know easier said than done). Very often people lash out at people who they know will not attack back, this is called projection. It could be that your anxiety triggers his own insecurities and because he is not good/mature enough yet to process his emotions he just puts them on you.

      When you are having a calm moment with him (and there is no silent treatment going on) I recommend that you broach the subject in a serene and measured manner. Ask him if there is anything that he would like to discuss with you and gently let him know that you do not find the way he treats you acceptable. People will treat you as badly as you let them. A lot of us make excuses for bad behaviour but abuse is always abuse and letting it continue you are in a sense abusing yourself by proxy. I hope this helps.

  4. The accuracy of this is frightening. I am 24 years old and last week found out my father is a narcissist. A friend mentioned the possibility and after reading the characteristics and behaviour patterns I’m actually shocked that I thought I had a normal childhood. I find myself reading other peoples experiences and remembering all the separate incidences with my father (for a man I saw 4 months a year) I cant even recall the amount wrongs he’s done to me and family. I realise that my childhood was not normal and by a long way.

    I know I have a lot of understanding to do and self reflection but I have some concerns that I would appreciate any form of advice.

    I fit the description of the narcissistic fathers son you described. Some parts I found myself disagreeing with but I am scared that’s I’m just in denial. I am very bad with me emotions you see. I don’t seem to feel things right away and feelings tend to creep up later and I think I’m bad at making the connections. My google search makes me out to be someone who represses there emotions. How would you suggest a way for me to process my childhood and I guess normalise myself?

    Part of me thinks that I have actually got over and dealt with this stuff growing up while also being unaware of my dads NPD (he had every single trait). But I know that this could very well be denial as I very much default to everything’s ok and try and focus on good things in life. Is it possible that I dealt with this situation growing up?

    Also I have read that a narcissistic fathers make narcissistic son (obviously this is a fear of mine) or codependent kids. Looking at my life so far I think I may have been a narcissistic kid. I was very insecure but covered it up with confidence. Fake it till you make it I guess. I was obsessed with getting attention and was the class clown. I also was a very short tempered kid and I could be very stubborn. I also thought I was always right in many circumstances. This behaviour carried on until I was 14/15. At this age I got into drugs and have continued to do them for the last 10 years. This is another symptom I came across of people with dads like mine. I wouldn’t call myself and addict as I am a functioning member of society I have a job and pay rent etc. But I am aware my usage is a bit high. This possibly being linked to my dad is a scary thought as this would mean I’ve been hurt a lot more than I realise. Is this probable?

    Finally another part of me feels that since getting into drugs. They kind of made me see the world differently? I was curious and ended up hanging out with quite dodgy crowds but I guess it gave me some sort of identity. I think at first this would’ve been a false sense of confidence but as I’ve grown up I feel like I’ve developed a lot. I think drugs just helped me break free from a sort of mental prison in a way if that makes sense?

    Since then I have gained confidence from things I am proud of and recently some against my dads wishes (this was before I found out he was a narcissist) I guess I gave up with pleasing him although I’ll admit I’ve always wanted his approval and on some level still do or did until I found out it’s not possible. I mediate, I’m vegan and I don’t think I have the old narcissist in me. Is it possible that I’ve grown out of it or maybe I just used to copy my dads behaviour patterns as a kid but learnt to be more normal once I became a teenager?

    If I have changed since I was young I am still concerned that those behaviour patterns I picked up from my dad as a kid Are still in me. I know I’m still quite stubborn but it’s something I work on and and I actively try to listen in conversation but I do still feel that need for attention and I do have random day dreams about being powerful or successful and being recognised for it. But I am aware that is negative and i keep it under control. Could I be a narcissist who is unaware?

    With regard to the codependent thing I do very much like to help people and I am also aware that I put others desires before mine. However I readily ignore my own desires do so. Not so much a people pleaser but I do allow people to have there way. I have just started addressing this as I was only realised this week that I’m like this. So I will be putting myself first sometimes. Is it ok to tackle this first?

    Sorry for the long post I didn’t know where to stop. I left out as much info as possible I’m honestly just a bit overwhelmed with thoughts and the 4 questions above I have not found answers to. Any help is greatly appreciated.

    1. Hi there

      Thank you for getting in touch. There are a number of quick answers I can give you for certain questions, such as:
      We all have certain narcissistic traits, it is the human condition but narcissism is on a spectrum people with fully blown NPD are cold, manipulative, lack empathy and see others exclusively in term of what the can do for them. They don’t mind hurting people and completely lack a conscience or any remorse.
      Narcissists have absolutely no capacity for introspection or self awareness. They are always right in everything they say and do, they have no accountability and would never admit to any weakness. So, the fact that you admit that you take drugs is something that a narcissist would never do (unless they thought it made them look “cool”)
      Narcissists think in a very binary black and white manner (prepubescent thinking) good vs bad, with me or against me etc.
      Narcissistic fathers can produce narcissistic sons but it is not a given.
      When you have a highly narcissistic parent(s) you will grieve the loss of that parent (even though they are still alive), this takes a lot of time and self care because it can feel like one step forward and two steps back (please Google the 5 stages of grieving).
      Narcissists are never grateful, so there is absolutely no point in trying to please them, it is just a complete waste of time and energy. They are called “emotional vampires” they will feed off your energy and give absolutely nothing back. (my own father died earlier this year, I spent a lot of time and energy trying to please him – his mantra was “if you would love me better/more I would be happy”, he died as he lived, a miserable old bastard he was never going to change. In the end I gave up on him and it was the best thing for me.
      Boundaries are really important, there are a lot of inane quote about giving and doing good things for other people but you can over do it. Takers do not know when to stop, they will suck you dry and spit out the pieces. You need to recognise when enough is enough. Some people might get quite aggressive when you put up boundaries but that is only because your boundaries do not serve them.
      Don’t focus too much on denial, as you learn more about narcissism any denial will slip away. I think the hardest thing for me at the beginning was to realise that some people are that mean, that self serving, that immune to the needs of others. It was a big throw away the rose tinted glasses moment. Morality for a narcissist is how they expect others to treat them, they have no personal moral compass

      The journey into learning about narcissism is a long and tedious one (but also vital), just when you think that you have a handle on it you realise that there is another layer that you didn’t grasp. There is a tendency to want to binge watch youtube videos and compulsively read any article you can get your hands on, I know I did. However, in hindsight I would recommend that you take it slowly, let the information sink in (your intellect will absorb it quicker than your body)
      Nobody is perfect, so educating yourself isn’t going to make you come out squeaky clean, it is an on going process but you have started your journey and a lot of the confusion will be replaced by comprehension.

      I hope this helps and if there is anything else you want to ask, you know where I am

  5. I am the daughter of a narcissistic mother and all this sounds very familiar to me. I was very afraid to become like her and that I would treat my future husband the way she treated my father. So I married a man who was like my mother, deeply narcissistic. I divorced my ex, the father of my children, 20 years ago. Coparenting with him was hell but I did the best I could to protect my children from his narcissistic abuse. Now they are adults and these last few months I have been confronted with the reality that I could not protect my children. Each in their own fashion are acting out their childhood trauma. My oldest son is doing the same thing I did when I was his age, he is unable to bring forth his own potential. And for the last 2 years he has been living with his girlfriend who turns out to be a full blown narcissist ( I didn’t meet her till 6 months ago because of covid). At first I thought she was charming but within a couple of days she made me feel I had to walk on egg shelves and that I was unwelcome in my own house ( they stayed with us for a month) She treats everybody, including my son, as her servant. He is her narcissistic supply. I didn’t comply. Years of therapy and working on myself I am just not able to play that role anymore. So now I am the evil mother. Since my son has gone back to his own place he has not contacted me. He only twice has answered my phone call. He has made it very clear that he doesn’t want to have much contact with me. It is very hurtful and it specially heartbreaking to see him how he continues this toxic codependence /narcissism dynamic that has been in our family for generation. It has brought a lot of grieve up for me. And yes fear too. Have I lost my son?

    1. To be perfectly honest with you, the short answer to that is – as long as he is with her and under her control “yes’. Narcissists have a way of grinding people down by perpetual invalidation, extreme judgement and criticism of others and isolating their “chosen one” from any sort of support from family/friends so that they have more control. Your son’s girlfriend will lie, cheat and do anything to make her feel “better than you”. Why? because you pose a threat to her control and sense of superiority. All completely delusional of course but why let the truth get in the way of feeling superior.

      I am sure it is very painful to see/experience and I feel your pain and the fact that as a mother you cannot protect your child from a toxic situation. However, there is a possibility that his girlfriend will “find” someone who is richer or more useful than your son (in her mind) and she will “think” nothing of discarding him. That would/could be extremely painful for him and if it does happen, he will need all the support he can get.

      You are not the “evil mother” it is the goodness in you that poses the threat to his girlfriend.

      I have a brother who used to come and visit me in my house and would always eat all the best food in the house, treat me as a nuisance for being in my own home and then leave, but not before he deposited a really horrible atmosphere behind him. It is the way narcissists are. I am not saying that their behaviour is acceptable in any way but you need to accept that that is the way they are and not take any guilt or shame for the way that they treat you. They are the ones that need help, but they will project it on to you.

      I hope that this is helpful and if you have any other questions please don’t hesitate to contact me.

      1. As difficult as it is to hear, your answer is helpful. Thank you! Deep down, I know he has to go through the experience of going through a relationship with a narcissist to come to his own liberation. He and I used to be very close till after their visit. He actually mentioned to me that he felt uncomfortable in this relationship and was thinking of breaking it of. It is very clear also to him that there is no love lost between his girlfriend and me. This Thanksgiving has been the first time since the last visit that I am together with all my children again. I am very close with all three of them but for the first time there is barrier between my son and me. We both know and feel it. I am going on a one on one trip with him next weekend. Do I mention that his girlfriend is a narcissist? Or do I just mention that she makes me feel the same way I did with my mother and his father?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *