Just about the worst-case scenario for a child is to have a narcissistic parent. They are far from the nurturing, encouraging stereotypes we have for parents. Narcissistic parents don’t help their children to become independent adults, they hinder that development. As with a narcissistic mother and her daughter, narcissistic fathers have a special relationship with their sons. They interact with them differently than with daughters, and they can cause a lifetime of damage.
Because of their selfish attitude and lack of empathy, narcissistic fathers often strip their sons of any self-confidence. They prevent them from becoming courageous and can make them into narcissists themselves. They might also become codependent and passive-aggressive because of the abuse.
There are, in fact, several ways a narcissistic father can damage their son for the rest of his life. It’s vital to understand the effects of the narcissistic father on their sons in order to prevent that kind of caustic damage and help the son live a more normal life. Read on to explore these 13 ways that narcissistic fathers can affect their sons.
1. Narcissistic Fathers Strip Their Sons of Confidence
As with any relationship involving a narcissist, the narcissistic father/son relationship begins with the idealization stage. The father is first enamored with his son and proud of what he sees as ‘his accomplishment.’
This typically lasts until the child begins to develop his own personality. As former victim’s services advocate in Los Angeles, Dianne Baquet notes, “They may accept the child for a few months, but as the child grows into a “real” individual, the narcissistic father begins to freak out because he has no idea how to bond with another human.” By that time, the father has set up unrealistic expectations for his son, and of course, no one could live up to those.
As the child begins to grow and develop into his own person, he can’t help but disappoint his toxic father. That’s when the devaluation stage of the relationship begins. The father feels let down and begins to criticize his son harshly. You can check out this video to see the characteristics of a narcissistic father if you’re unsure about yours.
That harsh criticism often continues into the child’s teen years. If anything, it becomes harsher as time goes by. The child simply can’t please his father, and nothing he does is ever good enough. The truth is nothing anyone does for a narcissist is ever good enough, but the son of a narcissistic father takes this to heart.
There are often three outcomes for the child. They either become codependent in their obsessive desire to please their father, they become a narcissist themselves, or they become rebellious and act out with risky behavior.
They experiment with drugs and other substances and end up addicted, they may leave home at an early age to escape the constant criticism, or they may continue to harbor toxic resentment toward their father.
They are also left without any self-confidence, and they often harm themselves as a result.
2. Narcissistic Fathers Prevent Their Sons from Becoming Courageous
Another way that a narcissistic father harms his son is by preventing them from becoming courageous. The way a child learns to be brave is to try things, fail, and try again. They need encouragement, however, to keep going.
Once they succeed, they learn that their effort will eventually pay off, and that helps them have more courage to take chances. They learn that they can fail and still succeed in the end. They aren’t as afraid to take those chances.
The narcissistic father, however, doesn’t provide the encouragement or positive reinforcement that a child needs to learn these things. It’s imperative that the father provide their child with that encouragement to keep going. You can check out this video to see the characteristics of a narcissistic father if you’re unsure about yours.
It’s also important that a father praises their child when they do finally succeed at something they are trying. The narcissistic father, however, lacks any empathy. Moreover, since he sees his son as a mere extension of his own identity, he feels as though his son’s failures reflect badly on him.
Therefore, the narcissistic father won’t provide his son with the encouragement to try new things because he fears the child will fail and he will look back. If the child tries anyway and fails, his father will criticize him relentlessly, which discourages the child from trying again.
If the child succeeds, the narcissistic father won’t offer any praise. Narcissists can’t praise other people because they feel that detracts from their superiority. The only time a narcissistic father will praise his son is when he can somehow take credit for the achievement.
The son of a narcissistic father, therefore, is often reticent to try things in life for fear of failure and ridicule if he does fail. He may stay in a mundane job as opposed to taking on a new challenge, for example.
3. Narcissistic Fathers Strip their Sons of Resolve
The narcissistic father is constantly reminding his son that he has little value as a person. This critical father will remind his son of his failures and tell him that he isn’t really good at anything.
With this kind of negative feedback, it’s hard to imagine any child could develop the resolve to do anything. No matter what the son of a narcissistic father might want to do with his life, for example, he will always hear his father telling him he can’t do it.
Like his constant criticism, this makes the child reticent to try anything for himself. He doesn’t develop the skills to try, fail, and try again. He can’t envision himself ever succeeding because his narcissistic father is telling him that he will never amount to anything.
Because the narcissistic father lacks empathy, he doesn’t see how this kind of treatment will affect his son. He doesn’t realize that he’s robbing his son of the tools he needs to become a successful adult. But then again, the narcissistic father doesn’t really want his son to become independent.
Like all narcissists, this kind of toxic father needs an endless supply of adoration to prop up his own self-esteem. He envisions his son as such a source. He sees his son as part of his own identity, so there is no need for him to be independent.
Without any resolve, the son of a narcissistic father will likely drift through life without any sense of purpose. He won’t believe in himself, and he won’t have the resolve he needs to grow into his own person.
4. Toxic Fathers are Often Physically Cruel
Narcissistic fathers are often physically cruel. They may be physically abusive, of course, but beyond that, they may be physically cruel in other ways. They may, for example, push their son to do more work than they are physically capable of doing.
Their son may be too young to do the kind of work they are trying to get them to do. It sets their son up for a sense of failure when they can’t seem to achieve the physical prowess their father seems to think they are capable of doing.
A narcissistic father may, for example, push their son to work out at the gym with weights that are too heavy for him, given his age and physical stature. The narcissistic father doesn’t have the ability to see that he is pushing his child too far.
Narcissists believe themselves to be superior to other people, and they often pass that belief on to their own children. They tell, for example, that they are from a special family, and therefore, they can do things that no one else can do.
They push them to do things, too, and they build in them a sense of entitlement. This often causes the son to himself to become a narcissist. He is told all his life that he is better than other people and special.
That, in combination with his inability to do the things his father tells him he should be able to do, can ultimately cause him to become filled with shame and self-loathing. He’s not living up to his father’s expectations. He has no idea those expectations are unrealistic.
As a result, like his father, he comes to see his true self as flawed and develops a false self-image he infuses with grandiose ideas of superiority. That’s narcissism.
5. Narcissistic Fathers Humiliate Their Sons
One thing narcissistic fathers never fail to do is humiliate their sons. They see their sons as reflections of themselves, part of their own identities. When their sons don’t perform to their unrealistic expectations, they often crush them with humiliating criticism.
They don’t care if other people see that. In fact, if other people are witnessing their son’s failure, such as they might at a baseball or football game, for example, the narcissistic father wants the other people to see that the son’s failure is not due to anything the father has done.
He wants to show everyone he is not responsible for his son’s humiliating failure and that he is just as shocked as he is sure everyone else is. It’s all about image to a narcissist, and when they believe that someone has made them look bad, they respond with fierce, humiliating criticism.
They can’t risk other people seeing that they are flawed, which is what they believe down deep inside. They also lack empathy and don’t realize the effect of their criticism on their son or other people who may witness the interaction.
The constant public humiliation makes their son even more reticent to try anything new or do anything in public with their father. It also often irrevocably damages their son’s identity and sense of self.
The child might become a narcissist as a result or simply give up and drop out on life. Such a child will almost certainly have problems with self-esteem that can lead to other bad habits like drug and alcohol addiction. It’s a vicious cycle that the son is also likely to pass on to his own children.
6. Toxic Fathers Make Their Sons Feel Helpless
A narcissistic father will hardly ever praise his son, and in fact, he will often angrily step in and take over a task while criticizing his son at the same time. He will make his son feel inept and helpless.
He will hammer into his child’s head that he is not able to do anything for himself. From the narcissistic father’s point of view, the child is not living up to his expectations, and that requires devaluation as a response.
The narcissistic father feels as if the son is purposefully trying to embarrass him or contradict him. He doesn’t have any empathy, so he can’t see how his harsh criticism is crippling his son.
His son learns to be helpless because everything he tries, his father criticizes him and takes over. His father doesn’t let him try and fail and try again, nor does he let him even finish trying. He intervenes because he is fearful his son will embarrass him.
There is nothing a narcissist hates more than being embarrassed. It’s much more than just a socially awkward moment. To the narcissist, it’s a statement of his true nature. That is not something he can tolerate.
So the narcissistic father takes over before his son can mess it up. He teaches his son to be helpless because he never lets him try.
7. Narcissistic Fathers Can Make Their Sons Aggressive
The narcissistic father is so harshly critical of their son as they grow into their own person that the son often becomes aggressive as a defense mechanism. They learn to respond in an aggressive way to shut down criticism or to counter their own father’s aggression.
As they grow older, that aggression can become a real problem for them in school, in their work, and in their interpersonal relationships. They can easily become abusive, and they may even carry out aggressive crimes like an assault against people they feel have wronged them.
It’s really a defense mechanism they’re using to cope with the internal shame and sense of helplessness and ineptitude their narcissistic father instills in them. Rather than turn away in passivity, they strike out at anyone who might make them feel less than, just like their father always did.
It’s a recipe for an eventual disaster as the child becomes increasingly aggressive and even dangerous. It’s not uncommon for such damaged sons to end up in jail or worse.
8. Toxic Fathers Can Make Their Sons Passive
If the son of a narcissistic father doesn’t become aggressive, he may give up and become exceedingly passive. They are constantly telling their sons that they are incapable of doing things or can’t do them well.
That can cause the son to simply give up on trying. They opt instead to just drift through life with little reaction to what is going on around them. They’ve learned to be helpless, and they’ve learned through years of emotional abuse that they can’t make a difference.
They come to believe the lies their father has told them about how disappointing they are, and they give up trying. They don’t have any ambition or drive to improve themselves. In fact, they may show very little emotion at all.
The children of narcissists must learn to recognize their parent’s moods and suppress their own emotions to avoid conflict. They can learn this so well that they numb themselves to any emotion whatsoever.
This is extremely damaging to their sons and can easily prevent them from ever achieving any real success in life. It can cause them to stagnate early in life and simply accept whatever comes their way without trying to improve the situation.
9. Narcissistic Fathers May Make Their Sons Passive-Aggressive
Sometimes, a narcissistic father causes their sons to respond to life in a passive-aggressive way. Passive aggressive behavior is when someone expresses their negative feelings in an indirect way instead of openly talking about them. This creates a disconnect between what the person says and what they do.
An example of passive-aggressive behavior would be if someone knows you’re self-conscious about your weight, but they continue to call attention to it with a back-handed compliment. They might say something like, “I see you’ve lost weight. How much more weight do you need to lose?”
It seems like they’re complimenting your weight loss, but they’re also calling attention to the idea that you still need to lose more weight. There are a number of different passive-aggressive behaviors a son might exhibit toward his narcissistic father.
He might, for example, be habitually late. Lateness is a sign of disrespect, and it is likely to bother a narcissistic father very much. Sarcasm is another example of passive-aggressive behavior that the son of a narcissistic father might adopt.
People who are sarcastic will say mean things and then play them off as a joke. They make you feel you’re too sensitive if you didn’t see it was just a joke. There are a number of other ways a person can exhibit passive-aggressive behavior, and it’s very common for the children of narcissistic fathers to use this as a way to get back at their father’s abuse.
10. Narcissistic Fathers Turn Their Sons Into Codependents
It’s very common for the victims of narcissistic abuse to become codependent. Codependency develops in childhood when a child learns to ignore their own needs in favor of catering to the needs of an abusive parent in order to keep the peace.
It’s common for the sons of narcissistic fathers to ignore their own needs so that they can focus on pleasing their father. They are never able to please their father, but the best they can hope for is to avoid criticism.
So they do everything they can to sense their father’s mood and respond to his needs before he erupts in a narcissistic rage. Of course, the narcissistic father expects that his son should do exactly this. Narcissists love codependent because it’s exactly what they want from the people in their life.
That doesn’t mean, however, that they will praise them for their efforts. Narcissists never offer up any praise because they believe it detracts from their own superiority. A narcissistic father will only praise his son if he can somehow take credit for the son’s achievement. For example, if his son wins an award at school, he may say something like, “Aren’t you glad I pushed you to study hard?”
He puts the spotlight on his own effort instead of on that of his son. Once a son becomes codependent, that’s a pattern of behavior that will follow him into his adult relationships. It’s not uncommon for the codependent children of narcissists to marry narcissists as adults.
11. Narcissistic Fathers Make Their Sons Feel Like They are Not Enough
One thing that almost all children of narcissists express is feeling like they are not enough. A narcissistic father hardly ever praises his son, never encourages him, and harshly criticizes him throughout his life.
It’s no wonder that son would feel as though he is not enough. It becomes clear early in life that he can never do enough to please his toxic father. There are some strategies you can use to end an argument with a narcissistic father, as you can see in this video, but a child doesn’t know. What’s sad is that a narcissistic father’s son will carry this feeling into other parts of his life.
As a result, he may be obsessive about his work. He becomes a perfectionist who can’t leave well enough alone. He will never believe that he has done enough or has done something well enough to let it go.
His perfectionism can cause problems at work because it can interfere with his ability to get projects done on time, and it can cause problems with coworkers.
He can also carry that perfectionism into his personal life. He may reject many potential romantic partners because he continuously finds things about them that his father would label as a flaw. It can leave him lonely in his old age.
The worst thing of all, however, is that it leaves him feeling as though he is not good enough on the inside. He will never feel as though he has value just because he exists. He will always believe he must continuously demonstrate his worth.
12. Narcissistic Fathers Cause Their Sons to Have Problems with Intimacy
Narcissists have problems with intimacy because they know they can’t let someone get too close. If they do, they will see their flawed true self. For that reason, they keep everyone at arm’s length.
The son of a narcissistic father, however, learns that they can’t let anyone in because that person may make them feel bad about themselves. They fear the criticism that they have always received from their father.
They don’t want to get close to someone else because they fear they will see all the flaws their father has told them about for years. They are ashamed of who they are, and they don’t feel like they deserve intimacy with another person.
The son of a narcissistic father may also become a narcissist himself, and if that happens, he will avoid intimacy for the same reasons his father did; he doesn’t want anyone to see his truly flawed self.
Either way, it leaves the child feeling lonely in life and keeps them from getting too close to anyone.
13. Narcissistic Fathers Fill Their Sons with Shame
Finally, all of these behaviors that the narcissistic father exhibits toward his son serve to fill his son with shame. They harshly criticize them, humiliate them in public, rarely offer praise, and then only when it serves their purposes, and they teach them helplessness.
Just about everything a narcissistic father does to his son fills his son with fear and shame. If his child doesn’t become a narcissist, he will likely become codependent.
Either way, his child will suffer the effects of narcissistic abuse for the rest of his life. It will take intense therapy to help him recover, and even then, he is likely to still have problems with depression, anxiety, and shame.
Shame is one of the most destructive emotions an individual can carry around, and the sons of narcissistic fathers often feel its effects for the rest of their life. It makes them hesitant and fearful, and it keeps them from pursuing things they consider worthwhile. It hampers almost everything they do in every part of their life.
A narcissistic parent is just about the worst type of parent a child can have. The nature of the father/son relationship means that a narcissistic father can inflict severe damage on his son. He will teach him that he has little value as a person and leave him emotionally vulnerable for the rest of his life. He will most certainly use the emotional triggers he creates to manipulate and control his son.
I have developed a 5 Step Roadmap to Heal Emotional Triggers that can help prevent any narcissist from using someone’s emotional triggers against them. This free guide will help you identify, defuse, and even heal the emotional wounds that created those triggers. That will give you control over your emotions and keep a narcissistic father from manipulating you ever again! Just click on this link, and I’ll send this handy guide directly to your inbox.
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