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.


6 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.

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