Parents who are narcissists are nothing like the stereotypical, loving, and supportive parents we tend to think of as good parents. In fact, narcissistic parents are the opposite of that.
In particular, a narcissistic father is selfish, demanding, and harshly critical of his children. He can bully his sons and ignore his daughters. He only cares about his own needs and is often abusive. That’s why you need to set firm boundaries with a narcissistic father, but how do you do that?
Setting boundaries with a narcissistic father means defining your boundaries, making them clear, and enforcing them without any negotiation. You shouldn’t argue or justify your needs, and don’t expect him to change or apologize. It’s helpful to get yourself therapy and avoid emotional topics.
Dealing with narcissistic parents is a special passion of mine, and I know that I can help you set clear boundaries to protect yourself from emotional and physical abuse. It’s important because a narcissistic father can do lifelong damage to his children.
That’s why you need to understand how he will treat you, why he’s that way, and if he will ever hurt you physically. Knowing that helps you to set and enforce strong boundaries.
How Does a Narcissistic Father Treat His Children?
As researchers at the University of Southhampton and Bournemouth University note, “…narcissists’ low empathy predicts unresponsive-caregiving towards their child(ren), which in turn predicts low optimal and high non-optimal parenting practices.” Simply put, narcissists don’t make good parents.
Narcissistic fathers exhibit a number of behaviors, from harsh criticism to icy aloofness. They are also likely to treat their sons differently from their daughters.
A narcissistic father views his sons as competition and can push them to do things they aren’t really ready to do. When they fail, he can be mercilessly critical of them. That can result in lower self-esteem and problems with self-confidence as they become adults.
Narcissistic fathers are often harshly judgmental of their daughters. The following video explains how they treat their daughters in detail. They hold them to unrealistic standards, and they are cold and distant, particularly if their daughters don’t meet those standards.
For both sons and daughters, a narcissistic father is selfish to the extreme. He often doesn’t get them anything they want, and sometimes, he doesn’t even provide them with the basic things they need. He is too busy getting himself what he wants and taking care of his own needs.
As with other people in his life, he is also manipulative with his children. He will use gaslighting, lying, and triangulation to get them to do what he wants them to do. What he really wants is for them to be focused solely on what he needs.
He also expects them to shower him with adoration and praise, something known as narcissistic supply so that they can prop up his fragile self-esteem. When they don’t, he can erupt in an explosive rage.
Why is a Narcissistic Father So Self-Absorbed?
Narcissism develops when a child’s normal psychosocial development is interrupted. The developing narcissist comes to be filled with shame and self-loathing. He sees himself as hopelessly flawed.
“Children of narcissists learn that love is abuse. The narcissist teaches them that if someone displeases you, it is okay to harm them and call it love.”
― M. Wakefield, Recovery Coach, Author, and Educator
As a result, he buries what he believes to be his flawed true self, and in its place, he constructs a grandiose false self-image. He needs that false self to interact with the world around him, but the problem is that it can’t support the grandiose ideas he has infused into it to make himself feel not only perfect but superior to other people.
That’s why he needs to manipulate other people to support his false self-image. He needs them to supply him with adoration and praise so he can feel as though the world also believes he’s superior.
This situation makes him hypervigilant regarding possible threats that might expose his truly flawed self. This is why he becomes so self-absorbed. He only has the ability to consider his own needs, and thus, he ignores the needs of those around him, even his own children.
I have heard of narcissistic fathers who are so self-absorbed they actually refuse to even provide the things their children need to stay healthy. This could result in various health problems if the children’s mother doesn’t step in to provide for them.
Will a Narcissistic Father Hurt You Physically?
Narcissists can sometimes become physically abusive. They don’t have any empathy, so they don’t realize how their behavior affects other people. They are always able to justify their actions, even physical abuse.
They also are famous for blame-shifting. They know how to blame the victim for bringing on any hurtful behavior from the narcissist. It’s not their fault they hit you, it’s somehow yours.
Perhaps you said something that you know would trigger them or even just distracted them from doing something they wanted to do. Situations such as that can give them the justification they’re looking for to be as bad as they want, even if that means physically hurting their own children.
It’s important to remember that a narcissist can justify just about any kind of behavior. They can’t accept responsibility for doing something wrong, and so they find a way to blame the person they’ve hurt.
“Dysfunctional parents do not apologize. It is one feature that the children of narcissists would instantly agree on. They will lie and justify themselves, but never accept they did anything wrong.”
― Diana Macey, Author and Narcissistic Abuse Survivor
This is not something anyone should have to live with, but unfortunately, young children may have little choice in the matter. If your mother is codependent, she may not be willing or able to stop your father from physically hurting you. He may also be physically abusive toward her.
If your father is abusing you physically, it’s something that you can’t really tolerate. There are several things you can do, but the most important thing to do is to get yourself to a safe place where he can’t get to you.
How Can You Set Boundaries with Your Narcissistic Father?
The real key to managing a narcissistic parent is to set and enforce strong boundaries. That’s more difficult if you’re under the legal age of 18, but there are still some things you can do to prevent his emotional abuse.
“Boundaries are a part of self-care. They are healthy, normal, and necessary.”
― Doreen Virtue, Theologian, and Psychologist
Each of the topics we’ll discuss is a vital part of giving yourself some space from the abuse and helping yourself to heal from the abuse you’ve already suffered. These tips have worked for me, and I know they can work for you too.
Of course, if you’re older, you can be more firm in how you set and enforce your boundaries, but it can be difficult, even for the adult children of a narcissist because of the abuse they’ve endured. I’ll provide you with different ways to implement the boundaries you need to set with a narcissistic father.
You deserve to have a father who supports and loves you, but that’s not what you got. Your father is not able to provide the healthy, loving support that healthy fathers give their children. Understanding that is key to helping you heal.
Your father is not like other fathers, and once you know that, you can stop expecting him to give you what you need to be healthy. You can instead start providing that for yourself, and it all starts with boundaries.
1. Don’t Argue with Your Narcissistic Father
Arguing with a narcissist never does any good. Narcissists perceive your attempts to convince them of your side as a weakness, and they try to exploit that.
Moreover, they can’t take responsibility for anything they have done that may be an error. That would conflict with their grandiose ideas of perfection and superiority.
That inability to accept responsibility means that no matter what kind of argument you present, they will find a way to shoot it down. It doesn’t matter if your argument makes the most sense, they simply can’t accept it.
They will become increasingly agitated when you argue with them as well, and that can lead to disrespectful treatment in many ways. Your father may start yelling, calling you names, and if he’s physically abusive, that’s a possible reaction as well.
The narcissist’s goal in an argument is to distract you from the topic and deter you from ever bringing it up again. They are frequently rageful and demonstrative in order to make you fearful of questioning them again in the future.
It’s a tactic that often works well because they behave in such a shocking and fearsome way. But it’s all a strategy. When a narcissist knows they’ve done something wrong, their only desire is to make you stop calling them out since that shows they are not the perfect, superior individual they have always claimed to be.
2. Make Your Boundaries Clear
When you’re setting your boundaries with your narcissistic father, you need to be very clear and very firm. Anything that is unclear is something your narcissistic father can use to his advantage.
To be very clear with your father, it’s important that you consider carefully what your limits will be. Setting boundaries is really more about respecting yourself.
|Examples of Unclear Boundaries
|Examples of Clear Boundaries
With consistency, you can get your narcissistic father to change his behavior, but make no mistake about it, he hasn’t changed. You will need to enforce violations every time they occur, and you will need to be ever-vigilant for those violations.
If you let one instance of a violation slide, your narcissistic father will see that as an invitation to continue to violate your limits whenever he wants. He will know that he can sometimes get away with pushing your limits. It will then be that much harder for you to get him to behave in a way that you find acceptable.
3. Provide a Written Document with Details
In order to be crystal clear with your narcissistic father about your boundaries, it helps to give him a written document with specific details about what you will not accept and what the consequences will be if he violates your limits.
You’ll have to determine for yourself exactly what those limits are and what you will do in response to violations of those limits. Take your time in determining what you consider to be important.
Once you know, make a list, and give a hard copy and a digital copy to your narcissistic father. Date the documents so that you can refer to when you informed your father of the consequences for violations.
You should also expect that he will push the limits no matter what you do, but as long as you stay consistent in enforcing the consequences, he will eventually modify his behavior. Be patient because it will take time, as I found out with my narcissistic mother.
But as long as you’re consistent in the enforcement of violations, he will likely modify his behavior. My mother did, and we can now have a relationship where before that didn’t seem possible.
4. No Negotiation
Your boundaries are your boundaries, no matter what they may be. You have a right to enumerate them and have them be respected. If your narcissistic father cannot do that, you have a right to cut off contact with him or limit your contact further.
These are the limits you determine to respect yourself. They are not something you’re doing to try and change your father. Only he can change himself. This is for you, and there should be no negotiation about your boundaries.
You need to respect yourself, and part of respecting yourself is not allowing people around you to treat you in a way you find disrespectful. That may mean having no further contact with them if they simply refuse to stop violating your boundaries.
No one can tell you what your boundaries are, and no one can determine them for you. You are the only person who knows what you find tolerable and what you don’t find tolerable. And you are the only person who can do something about it when someone treats you in a way you find intolerable.
This is why there is no negotiation about your boundaries. They are yours, and either your narcissistic father, and everyone else for that matter, respects them, or you initiate the consequences you’ve determined for them not doing so.
5. Limit the Time You Spend Together
Another good way to ensure your boundaries are respected is to simply limit the time you spend with your narcissistic father. When you spend less time together, it’s likely that you both will be more respectful.
Additionally, limiting your time together sends a strong message to your father about how serious you are when it comes to his treatment of you. This can happen in several ways. You can limit the number of times per month or week that you see him, or you can limit the amount of time you spend together when you do see him.
Of course, if you’re not yet an adult, that might be more difficult, but you can still spend as much time away from him as you can. Don’t seek him out; instead, spend time doing other things. You can also keep yourself busy so that if he wants to see you, he can see that you’re doing something else.
As a minor, staying busy can help you stay out of his way. Even if that doesn’t work as well, it can help just to reduce the time you spend with him, particularly if what you’re doing is something that reflects well on him.
For example, if you’re engaged in playing sports at school or doing other activities that make him look like a good father, he may be more inclined to leave you alone and let you do your thing.
6. Don’t Talk About Triggering Topics
Over time, you have likely learned the kinds of topics that set your father off. There are likely many things that will trigger him. Narcissists are easily triggered, and sometimes, the triggers are in their imagination.
In that case, you’re likely to trigger him no matter what, but if you know certain topics get a reaction out of him, it’s best to avoid those topics. When triggered, a narcissist will lash out at everyone around him.
|Examples of Topics that Trigger Narcissistic Rage
It’s when he will do almost anything to protect his own egoic false self-image. This means yelling, name-calling, and perhaps getting physical as well. Avoiding these topics is a way to have a more amicable interaction with him.
You can’t always control the situation because I have known of narcissists who will manipulate the conversation so that they can bring up triggering topics. They are looking for a fight, and they are trying to manipulate you into saying something that justifies their angry response.
When you see that happening, and it is often obvious, the best strategy is to find a reason to end the conversation. Tell him you have to go somewhere and you should get going, or tell him that you have homework you need to go do. Find a reason to end the conversation because it is going nowhere.
7. Don’t Tolerate Physical Abuse
Whether you’re a minor or an adult, you should never have to tolerate physical abuse. If your father is physically abusive, tell someone about it. If you have told your mother and she still hasn’t done anything, tell someone outside the family.
You can go to a school counselor or even the police. This will have life-changing consequences, but those will be better than being subjected to physical abuse. Physical abuse is never an acceptable response to a situation.
If your narcissistic father is physically abusive to you, he is also likely physically abusive to your siblings and your mother. Getting that stopped will help everyone involved.
Don’t get me wrong, emotional abuse isn’t acceptable either, but that’s more difficult to expose, and while some places are instituting laws against emotional abuse, the practice is not yet widespread, in part because it’s difficult to define.
There are things you can do to derail emotional abuse, and setting your boundaries is a good first step in that process.
8. Don’t Justify Yourself
When you’re setting your boundaries with a narcissistic father, you don’t have to justify why you’re setting particular boundaries. In fact, by trying to justify them to your father, you appear as though you’re not sure yourself about whether they are appropriate or not.
That’s how your narcissistic father will see any attempt to justify yourself. Simply state what your boundaries are and what the consequences for violations will be. As noted previously, don’t negotiate them or explain why you’ve chosen them.
Just give your father a list of behaviors you won’t accept and what you will do if he engages in those behaviors. Remember, setting boundaries is your way of respecting yourself, and you don’t have to justify or explain that.
Keeping it simple and straightforward is the best way to get your message across to your father. It leaves very little room for misinterpretation.
Having said that, you can expect that your narcissistic father will misinterpret your boundaries, but you will respond by initiating the consequences you’ve laid out. If he continues to press the matter, you may have to opt to go no contact until he’s willing to comply.
9. Practice Good Self-Care
This is going to be a difficult process. It doesn’t matter if you know your father is a bad father; it will still be difficult. Anytime you have to confront someone who has played such a significant role in your life, it’s difficult to do.
That’s why you need to practice good self-care throughout this process. Make sure you’re doing things that make you feel good. Take a walk in nature or get some exercise. Meditate or talk with a loving friend.
|Self-Care Examples from the University of Toledo
Physical Self-Care Examples:
Mental Self-Care Examples:
Spiritual/Social Self-Care Examples:
Whatever constitutes self-care for you, be sure to engage in that regularly to support yourself throughout the process. Your father was not a good father, and likely your mother was codependent in that behavior as well.
Now is your chance to be a good parent to yourself. You can be the parent to your inner child that you should have had growing up. Be kind to yourself, be accepting, and unconditionally love yourself.
There will be a lot of emotions that surface as you start this healing journey, so take the appropriate amount of time to care for yourself as you process those. You are your own hero now, and taking good care of yourself is another important element of setting boundaries.
10. Don’t Expect an Apology
If you have visions of an emotional Hallmark movie where everyone realizes the mistakes they made and comes together in the end, you will be disappointed. For your narcissistic father to take responsibility for his actions and apologize, it would take years of intense therapy.
Narcissists simply can’t tolerate admitting that they made errors. If they do apologize, it’s because doing so benefits them in some way. Your narcissistic father is not going to apologize for his behavior.
He will justify it, blame you for it, and try to gaslight you into believing it never happened, but he won’t take responsibility and apologize. You have to accept that and proceed anyway. You have to become the parent to yourself that he should have been.
Moreover, you can’t go back and make things right. The damage he did to you has already been done. The only thing you can do now is to move on and help yourself heal from the abuse you suffered.
11. Get Therapy for Yourself
One way to really help yourself through the process of setting boundaries and healing from the damage inflicted by your narcissistic father is to get therapy for yourself. Your father created emotional wounds, and perhaps physical ones as well, and you need to heal those to be able to move on.
A professional therapist can guide you through the process of discovering those wounds, exploring what’s at the root of the pain, and healing from that trauma. They can often give you objective insights that can help you to move through the process with greater success.
“Recovering from the trauma inflicted by our narcissistic mother (or father/spouse/partner) takes time and effort. For some, it can take decades to understand, process, and unpack it. Healing isn’t a marathon. Rather, it’s a daily journey. We gain more insight. We educate ourselves. We process our painful abuse. We know that we are worthy of being loved, respected, and cared for.”
― Dana Arcuri, Author, Coach, and Energy Healer
There is no stigma associated with getting therapy for the trauma you suffered from an abusive father. In fact, you should be applauded for doing that because it is one of the most difficult things you will ever do in your life.
Is it possible to heal without therapy? Yes, but a professional therapist can help support you through this painful process. You deserve that kind of support, and you should have received it from your narcissistic father years ago. But he was not capable of giving it. Now, you can find someone who can. The next video gives you a list of some of the best online forums and resources for dealing with narcissism.
A narcissistic parent can damage you in significant ways that can affect you for the rest of your life. When you start to heal and begin to set boundaries to take good care of yourself, you’re likely to encounter numerous emotional triggers and the wounds that created them. It’s important to heal these because your narcissistic father can use them to manipulate and control you.
I know this can be a difficult thing to do, and that’s why I’ve created a 5-Step Roadmap to Heal Emotional Triggers. This free guide will give you step-by-step instructions for identifying your emotional triggers, defusing them, and healing the old wounds that created them. That can help you stop narcissistic abuse immediately. If you would like a copy of this handy guide, simply click here and I’ll send it directly to your inbox. You can begin freeing yourself from toxic abusers today!
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