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.
14 thoughts on “Sons of narcissistic fathers”
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?
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.
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
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
Just wanted to come back to this post over a year later. Thank you so much to making the website and making these posts.
I often comeback to you response as a reminder of the situation that life put me in. I need to remind my self that there is nothing wrong with me. And that I was raised under the delusion of some one who had a very weak sense of self.
I am in a much better place now since I have first read you article and your response. Thank you so much for making this content!
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
my ex is the worst type of nacissist you can find, i literly had to move 6000 mile away from him after 10 yrs of being seperated from him because he was destrying everything in my life then tried to have me killed. My main goal was getting my son out of the state n off to college before i could find a way to get out my self. now 20 yrs have past since i got away, my son continues to live out of state away from him but he visits him at least once a year yet he never visits me. I have not seen my son in almost 9 yrs , finances don’t allow me to visit him i have once. 9 1/2 years ago my son moved to Az due to work, he stayed w me for 3 months then got an apartment for about 3-4 months before his work took him to Australia for a year. when he came back to the US he went to another state work where his girlfriend lived. But when he stayed w me our time together was so sweet n his words were just as i remembered when he was younger, I thought he had out grown the negative traits he learned from having a narccissistic father. But there was definatly a disconnect of affection, when he would hug me there was absolutly no feelings coming from him n he didnt want me around his friends he knew people hear already….He found this place for me before i left New York…..but once he moved out he never came to visit me and he only had one day off a week..most of the time, so i would ride my bike to his shop and spend the day there on my sat off. He would never offer me a ride home i actually road my bike to the next town over so it wasnt like it was close n he had to come through my city to get to phoenix where he was living. Its like he loves me but he doesnot love me. He has grown to understand that his dad is a narcissist but he constantly makes these statements dad has changed, then the next thing u know hes telling me about an argument with his dad. Hes definatly confussed. When hes at his dads visiting he will not answer my calls nor will he call me. 2 weeks ago was my bithday n because he went to his dads for fathers day he didnt call me until the day after my birthday late at night on fathers day. More than likely while he was driving back home like he has done before. The more time goes by the less he calls me or answers his phone when i call. He either rushes me off of the phone or consumes the whole conversation that i never get to tell him anything i want to say. So im thinking of writting him letters or just stop calling all together, of course I REALLY DONT WANT TO DO THAT, but lately like the past 2 years he says things that bring up the pain i felt from his dad, i.m no longer skittish or jumpy with mood swings when dealing w difficult people. I just learned to think of my self first. I clearly understood his dads disorders when i was with him but did not know it was Narcissisim i just figured he was mentally sick n needed to control everything n everyone even the money i brought in he didnt work he faked a back injury n started drawing SSdisability because he told his friend i heard with my own ears he wasnt going to work n kill his self just to support a family. I had no where to go n no family around that would help me get away from him. well any way when i left him even though everything we had was because of me i let him keep everything it was the last step of a 5 year mental process to leaving him n NEVER to return as i had did in the past. My so called family after i left him became his army against me n even would say stupid things to my son about me LIES, so my son has seen me be disrespected by family the same way his dad did.
So if hes understanding that his dad is a nacissist n he has worked on his emotions tring not to be like his dad, doese he hate me because he feels im to blame for his dad? He will defend his dad even when his dad is not around, but he will quickly throw me under the bus to others using his dads lies that his dad speaks about me. Hes very secretive, his dad constantly questioned him about me n his dad still pays for his cellphone no need too my son makes very good money.So i think this might be the reason he doesnt talk to me much cause his dad will see my number n harrasse him. Although i have asked my son and my son claims for the past three yrs his dad stopped grilling him about me. Sadly its been 11 yrs since i left New York my ex texted me 2 months ago asking for two rings of his mothers he gave me when she died 22 years ago we were still together i was working on leaving him he was awear of it it was his mothers request that he give me all of her jewlery when she died she did not want her son to keep any of it, but he only gave me the two rings. I guess it was her way of saying sorry how she helped her son abuse and miss treat me for 20 yrsI was only 12yrs old when i met him. She did say before she died shenwas sorry to me but not in front of my ex. But she did tell him he was rotten n worse than his own father. His father was an alcoholic narcissist. What can I do to help my son on his journey of healing…because I am sooo tiered….Its been really rough physically n emotionally the past 11 yrs n now that i finally have some healing complete, i dont want to allow my son to remain sucked in by his dad then come abuse me w his words. The last fight he had w his dad was last year about his dad nigger calling n such after my son had returned to his dads house from a black lives matter march w police friends n my family members who are cops back home every night his dad would just go off about Niggers it was so bad what his father said that my son would not tell me, but he put his father in his place Im black his dad is white, But im fearful that one day his dad might make him snap n loose control. He says my son that he was so angry that he could have killed his dad and have no remorse. So again how can I continue to help my self and help my son regain a health relationship we once were very close. Its been 20 yrs since i left his father.