It can be heartbreaking for a father to watch his daughter struggle with any kind of health condition, but it’s particularly difficult to see her develop something as life-changing as narcissistic personality disorder. As a loving father, you want to help your daughter become a functional, successful adult, but narcissism can undermine that desire. It’s also a condition that is hard to treat because the person afflicted doesn’t believe they are the source of the problem. So what can a father do to help his narcissistic daughter?
The strategies you can use include setting clear limits, refusing to accept abuse, encouraging empathy, and helping her focus on recovery. Family counseling can also be helpful, but it’s important for you to maintain your identity. You should also continue to be a good role model for her.
For many years after I figured out that my mother was a narcissist, I tried to help her get better. I felt that if I could just help her reduce her narcissism, she would feel so much better and be happier. The truth is that no one can help a narcissist except for the narcissist. They must want to change, but there are some ways you can model better strategies for your narcissistic daughter, and if she is open to getting professional help, you can implement specific interventions to help her feel secure and reduce her narcissistic tendencies. Let’s take a look at the interventions that can help her build a better self-image.
1. Affirm Her Regularly
When narcissism forms, the individual has rejected their true self-image because they believe it is hopelessly flawed. They have somehow received the message that they are worthless individuals who can’t really do anything for themselves.
That seems to contradict the way a narcissist presents themselves. The truth is that all that braggadocio is simply the outward projection of the false self the narcissist created to interact with the world around them and protect the true self they have buried deep in their psyche.
In other words, the narcissist hides their insecurity by projecting an image of arrogance in much the same way a bully projects a fearless attitude to hide their lack of courage. We all develop incorrect beliefs about ourselves because of experiences we had in childhood.
The narcissist is an extreme version of this. Paradoxically, it is often people who are spoiled or over-protected by their parents who develop narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), as you can see in this video. They interpret their parents’ hovering as a sign that they are incapable of doing things for themselves.
They see themselves as flawed and begin an often lifelong journey to keep their true self from being exposed. They project fierce confidence because they truly believe they are inept. This is why affirmations can help them.
They begin to manipulate people in order to get them to praise them to prop up their self-esteem. If you can provide your narcissistic daughter with such affirmations of her inherent self-worth, that can help to boost her self-esteem and reduce her narcissistic tendencies.
By giving her what she needs, you can help reduce her anxiety. Additionally, you are providing her with unconditional positive regard, an important element of developing a strong sense of self-worth.
2. Help Her Feel Awe
Another way to help your narcissistic daughter is to inspire awe in her. Researchers at the University of Berkeley have shown that awe helps people feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves.
When we feel as though we are part of something bigger than ourselves, we are able to think beyond the self. That’s difficult for a narcissist because they are always so focused on how the world sees them.
If you can help your daughter take her focus off of the image she projects and put it on something that is awe-inspiring, you can help relieve her anxiety. I remember a friend of mine remarked about a body image workshop she participated in.
The participants were asked to draw something that represents how they think about their bodies. There were plenty of people, including my friend, who drew pictures of something fat or frail or ugly, but one man simply drew a picture of mountains and trees.
When my friend asked him why he drew that, he said that he didn’t really think about his body that much. As a product of a generation that was raised on the idea that you can never be too rich or too thin, I could never think of a moment in my life when I wasn’t thinking about my body and, specifically, what was wrong with it.
But then I went snorkeling with whale sharks. These are the largest fish and grow up to 50 feet in length. As I was swimming alongside one of these graceful, gentle giants, I experienced a moment when I wasn’t thinking about myself at all. I was completely awe-struck.
This is how a feeling of awe can work to take us out of our limited me-centered mindset. It can even work to help a narcissist.
3. Hamburgers are Good for Her
By hamburgers, I’m not talking about the variety you find at your closest fast-food place. For therapists, a hamburger is the best way to present any form of criticism to a narcissist. This is a particularly effective way for a father to present a narcissistic daughter with constructive criticism.
A hamburger, in this sense, is a compliment, constructive criticism, and then another compliment. It’s criticism sandwiched between two compliments, like the meat of a hamburger sandwiched between two pieces of bread.
When you present any constructive criticism in this way, it’s much more likely a narcissist will hear what you’re saying. Of course, it’s also important that the criticism be constructive rather than simply negative.
For example, if you want to tell your daughter that she needs to control her rage, a valid criticism for any narcissist, you might start by telling her how much you admire how fierce she can be when defending her beliefs. Then you can mention that sometimes she becomes too rageful, and she has to work on controlling that so it doesn’t undermine her message.
You can then tell her how proud you are of her for not being afraid to speak her mind. That’s two compliments with gentle criticism in the middle. She’s much more likely to respond positively to that presentation than she would be to you just confronting her about her rage.
You also want to always reassure her that you hold her in unconditional positive regard. That means that you don’t withdraw your positive feelings about her even if you are upset with her because she has done something wrong.
That will help her see that your love for her is not something she has to worry about losing. You’re on her side no matter what.
4. Help Her Expand Her Thoughts
Narcissists tend to think in black and white. They can’t see that there are grey areas in the world. When they decide something is a certain way in their mind, they have difficulty thinking of it any other way.
But you can help her see that everything is not just black and white. When your narcissistic daughter assumes that other people’s behaviors are related to her, you can help her see that there might be other explanations.
For example, let’s say she calls a friend, and her friend doesn’t call her back. She might think that means her friend is angry with her. She might say that she must be upset with me.
When this happens, you can respond with something like, “That’s one possibility, but is there any other reason she might not have called you back?” From there, you can offer other possible reasons. Her friend might have been busy and not yet had the opportunity to call her back.
It’s also possible she is waiting until she knows she has more time to talk before calling her back. In fact, there could be many reasons why she hasn’t called back, and being angry with your daughter is only one.
When you are able to point that out to your daughter, you can help her start to expand her thoughts. You help her see that not everything is somehow a negative reflection on her. This works to not only help her think differently about a given situation, it helps her build a more positive attitude about herself.
Just because someone has done or not done something she wants or expects, that doesn’t mean something is wrong with her. People have their own lives and problems, and she is not always aware of those.
5. No Gaslighting, No Lies, No Abuse
One of the biggest ways you can help your narcissistic daughter is to refuse to accept any abusive behavior. Call her out if she is trying to gaslight you or if you catch her in a lie.
Don’t be timid because you don’t want to make waves, say something about any manipulative tactics she attempts to use. The world doesn’t accept that kind of behavior, and neither should you.
What’s more, if you know she is engaging in this kind of behavior with you or anyone else, and you don’t say something, you’re simply enabling her. It’s a kind of tough love, but you won’t be doing her any favors if you put up with this kind of abuse.
She has to develop other, healthier coping strategies aside from manipulation and attempts to control other people. By refusing to accept emotional abuse and calling her out every time she attempts it, you are showing her that it’s unacceptable.
You can then help her develop better strategies for getting her needs met. You can reaffirm for her that she has inherent value as a person, and she doesn’t have to fear losing your love. Despite that, you won’t accept her abuse.
6. Model Empathy
Narcissists famously lack empathy for other people. They can’t put themselves in your shoes and understand what you’re going through. That’s due, in part, to the fact that they see other people as mere extensions of their own identity.
To a narcissist, you are just another part of their identity mechanism, and it’s your job to prop up their self-esteem. As such, they don’t consider how their behavior affects you because they are focused on what it will do for them.
As part of their identity, they believe that should be your concern too. Therefore, they can’t understand how their behavior affects you. It’s good for them, so it should be good for you too.
This is why modeling empathy can help your narcissistic daughter increase her empathy. You can do this by pointing out hurtful behavior of other people and asking her how she would feel if that happened to her.
When she is able to envision how she would feel, she can then develop at least an intellectual empathy for how other people might feel when that happens to them. She might not be able to feel how another person feels – that’s emotional empathy, but she can intellectually understand their feelings.
That can help to moderate her narcissistic behavior. This can also help her to stop and think before she acts when triggered. Minimally, it can help her understand how her anger or negative behavior might cause other people to feel bad. That’s progress for a narcissist.
7. Limit the Use of Electronics
If your narcissistic daughter is still a minor, it can help to limit her use of electronics. In our modern age of selfies and expressing every thought, people are more focused than ever on their image in the world.
It encourages users to think more about how their actions make them appear than any impact they might have on other people. It also encourages the grandiose behavior typical of overt narcissism.
Moreover, as computer scientist and professor of human-computer interactions Sharon Oviatt points out, the way we currently interact with our modern technology causes the “erosion of autonomy (which) adversely impacts human behavior and health—including demotivating people, heightening their anxiety and apathy,”
For a narcissist, this can only serve to increase their self-centered focus resulting in more narcissistic behaviors. What’s more, because they come to see others as mere avatars that appear on their computer or telephone screen, it compounds the problems they already have with experiencing empathy.
That’s why limiting the use of electronics and encouraging different ways of interacting with modern technology is an important element of reducing narcissistic tendencies. Of course, you can’t control what your daughter does as an adult.
But if you can give her a good foundation as a teenager, that can help her make better decisions regarding how she conducts herself as an adult. Additionally, if you can get her outside more and encourage a love of nature and adventure, that can also help her take the focus off of her own self-image.
There, she can learn about the wonders of interaction in the real world as opposed to the digital realm. It can help be healthier, both physically and mentally.
8. Help Her Build a Better Self-Image
Another helpful strategy is to actively help your narcissistic daughter improve her self-image by encouraging her to do things that make her feel good about the person she is inside. When she engages in healthy activities, like exercise, learning to play a musical instrument, or volunteering to help others, that builds internal self-esteem.
She will feel good about herself, and when that happens, she won’t feel a need to be constantly projecting a false image by bragging about shallow accomplishments. It’s also important to remind her that she has value no matter what she does or how external circumstances affect her.
Once again, it’s that unconditional positive regard that can help her the most. External circumstances vary, and everyone makes mistakes, but that doesn’t negate the underlying good inside her. She still has value, and when you reassure her of that, you help reinforce that belief.
A father’s approval means a lot to a daughter, and it’s particularly important for your daughter to see that you won’t withdraw your love under any circumstances. Withdrawing her love was one of the most hurtful things my narcissistic mother would do, so I can speak firsthand about how a daughter needs that reassurance.
When you repeatedly reassure her of your devotion to her, she will gradually begin to build a better self-image. That can not only help her reduce her narcissistic tendencies, but it can also help her heal the wounds that caused her narcissism in the first place.
9. Go to Family Counseling
If your narcissistic daughter is open to therapy, family counseling can work wonders for both you and your daughter, as well as for other family members. It can help narcissists, as this video explains. Sometimes, it’s helpful to have an objective third party who can help us see where we might be unwittingly reinforcing negative habits.
Most often, this is related to dysfunctional communication skills and early childhood trauma. A therapist can help reveal these underlying relationship dynamics and help you and your family develop better communication and interaction strategies.
You can be too close to the relationship to see the problems you and your closest loved ones have, and that’s where a therapist can help. What’s more, a therapist can provide guidance on helping reduce the kinds of negative behaviors associated with narcissism.
They can also spot enabling behavior and help close family members to avoid encouraging more negative behavior. This can dramatically change the family dynamic, and it can help your daughter develop a healthier, happier self-image.
10. Be Her Role Model
One of the most important things you can do as the father of your narcissistic daughter is to provide her with a positive, loving role model. Show her that you love her and will always be there for her.
Teach her what unconditional love is all about, and show her how to interact in positive ways with all of her family members. Show her that you believe she is a good person and that she doesn’t have to fear exposure – her true self is not flawed.
Help her develop other ways of interacting with people by showing her there is no need to manipulate them. She just needs to be herself, and they will see that she is beautiful on the inside.
How do you do this for her? By staying grounded in your own identity. Remember who you are, and you will have more success in helping her see who she really is. Do things with her that help her see beyond her body and her immediate surroundings.
Teach her about the wonders of the world, and lead her in exploring the marvels all around her. Encourage her curiosity and adventuresome spirit. Let her try things, and don’t be afraid to let her fail. When she does fail, give her the emotional support she needs to pick herself back up.
This is how you teach her that it’s okay to fail. This is how you let her know that you won’t withdraw your love for her no matter what.
As a father, all you want to do is take away your daughter’s pain. You want to help her, but sometimes it’s difficult to know what to do. When she’s a narcissist, it can be even more difficult since NPD is a particularly intractable mental condition. What’s more, she is not above attempting to manipulate and control you, and if you let her, you’re doing her more harm than good.
One strategy that can help both her and you is to learn to recognize your emotional triggers and defuse and heal the wounds that caused them. I’ve created a 5-Step Roadmap to Heal Emotional Triggers that can help both of you do just that. This free guide can help you and your daughter recognize your triggers and defuse them so they can’t be used to manipulate and control you. But even more importantly, it can help you to actually heal the wounds behind those triggers, and that can work wonders in your life. Just click on the link, and I’ll send it directly to your inbox so that you can get started right away!
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