Narcissists are one of the worst types of parents a child can have, and they often leave their children with lifelong scars. For the children of narcissistic fathers, that often includes low self-esteem and a string of failed adult relationships. Your father is an important figure in your life, and when he treats you as if you don’t matter, it can be devastating.
That’s why it is necessary to have a strategy for protecting yourself from his emotional abuse. But how can you protect yourself from someone who’s always been in your life and always treated you in a way that you may not even recognize as abusive?
The first key to protecting yourself from a narcissistic father is recognizing that he has a personality disorder. Once you understand that, you can better resist his abusive behavior by asserting your own boundaries and practicing good self-care. When you can, you also get professional help.
My narcissistic mother did immense harm to my own sense of self, and my father was codependent in her abusive behavior. In many households involving a narcissistic father, the mother is codependent in the abuse. The result is that the child feels betrayed by both parents, and it adds to their trauma.
In a family dynamic such as this, you can’t expect the other parent to protect you, and that’s why you have to have your own strategy for protecting yourself, particularly as you get older and realize the situation.
It’s helpful to understand a little more about narcissistic fathers, codependent mothers, and the family dynamic. After that, I’ll give you some tried and true techniques you can use to protect yourself from your toxic dad.
How Does a Narcissistic Father Treat His Children?
Narcissistic fathers, like all narcissists, are focused almost exclusively on their own needs. The nature of their personality disorder is such that they can’t focus on anything else because they live in fear their flawed true self will be exposed for the world to see.
“You’re constantly being broken down, and you have self-esteem issues because of it. You’re just constantly being told that you can’t do things, that you can’t do anything with your life, or you’re not worth anything, or you’re never going to be able to move out.”
― Caroline Foster, Author and narcissistic abuse survivor
They also fear intimacy because someone getting that close is a threat to the narcissist. They might discover their flawed true self and expose it when they do. So the narcissist doesn’t get too close to anyone.
That includes his own children. Though they are initially a source of pride for the narcissistic father, like all relationships involving a narcissist, he eventually sets up unrealistic expectations for his kids. When they don’t live up to those expectations, he is disappointed and begins to devalue the child.
This usually happens when the children get old enough to start developing their own personalities. That’s when they start to come into conflict with their father’s interests. When that happens, the narcissistic father becomes extremely critical of his children.
Is There a Difference Between Sons and Daughters?
A narcissistic father, like a narcissistic mother, has a different relationship with his sons than he does with his daughter. He often sees his son as a competitor, a younger, stronger version of himself.
He may push his son physically to do things he wishes he could have done or that will reflect how manly he is. But even if his son does well, it won’t be enough, and his toxic father will continuously criticize his efforts. He is the worst of bullies to his own son.
His devaluation becomes increasingly toxic and often drives the son to rebel. Even if he does rebel and become estranged from his father; however, his father’s harsh words often haunt him for the rest of his life.
How a Narcissistic Father Treats His Children
With his son, he is…
With his daughter, he is…
As for his daughter, the narcissistic father is either overly protective and even emotionally incestuous, or he becomes icy cold and distant. In the former case, he is grooming her as a lifelong source of narcissistic supply, while in the latter, he sees her as offering nothing of value to him and, therefore, useless.
In either case, he leaves her with the sense that she is not enough. She will often live her life seeking out male partners with whom she recreates her relationship with her father. She is trying to make it come out right this time, but that never happens.
While he treats each of his children differently, in both cases, he leaves them feeling inadequate and unworthy of love. It’s a twisted legacy that can persist for several generations.
How Do You Know if You Have a Narcissistic Father?
Narcissistic fathers demonstrate a series of characteristics that are typical of many narcissists as this video explains.
They are usually grandiose narcissists, meaning they seek the limelight, brag about their accomplishments, and are harshly critical of detractors.
They can also, however, turn on the charm when they feel a need. They can be very charming, seem very supportive, and seem to take an active interest in everything about you. The charm only lasts as long as they need it to, however, and soon, they’re back to being excessively critical.
|Traits of a Narcissistic Father|
Narcissistic fathers are also extremely sensitive. They twist anything you say into an insult, no matter how it was actually meant. Even just the fact that, as his child, you might capture your mother’s attention or other people’s attention is something that offends him.
When the devaluation begins, it can be withering. He often goes for the jugular as he attacks them with his words. He may even become physically abusive. His children soon learn that there is no safe haven.
Their mother can’t protect them or doesn’t try, and they have no escape. This abusive treatment can continue into adulthood, where he will often manipulate and control his children’s lives. So how can the child of a narcissistic father protect themself?
How Do You Protect Yourself from a Narcissistic Father?
It can be difficult for a child to protect themselves from a narcissistic parent. They often don’t realize they’ve been abused until much harm has already been done.
Even when they do realize it, it’s difficult to push back against someone who has been an authority figure for most of their life. It can be a very intimidating situation, but the following tactics work when dealing with narcissists, even narcissistic fathers.
1. Report Any Physical Abuse
Narcissists may sometimes physically hurt you, as you can see in this video.
No child should ever have to endure physical abuse from a parent. If you are being physically hit or sexually abused, tell someone in authority. If you have tried telling your mother and nothing has changed, tell someone outside the family.
Tell a teacher or counselor or police officer. Your life will surely change, but the result will be better than continuing to endure physical abuse from your toxic father.
If you don’t tell someone, the abuse is likely to get worse over time. Moreover, it will leave you with scars that can be difficult to overcome.
No matter your situation, there are shelters where you will be protected from an abusive parent. You can get away from the abuse, and you deserve to be free of it. It will take time, but you can heal from your narcissistic father’s abusive treatment. First, you have to survive it.
2. Understand His Personality Disorder
If there is no physical abuse, it will be more difficult to get away from your narcissistic father until you are old enough to do so. Still, it’s an important step to understand that your toxic father is the root of the problem.
“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
It’s not your fault; it is his. When you realize that your father is not like other fathers, that’s the first step toward healing. It helps you to know that you’re not the source of the problem.
It can then help to learn more about narcissistic personality disorder and how it affects relationships. Once you understand more about the problem, you can better deflect the abusive behavior.
You can better guard against the type of abuse that narcissists are famous for using to manipulate and control their loved ones. You can also start the process of healing your own emotional wounds.
You also might find that you can develop a level of compassion for him, and that will allow you to have more compassion for yourself. You might even be able to forgive him for how he has treated you, even though you won’t allow the abuse to continue.
Being able to forgive someone for how they have harmed you is an important element of healing, and it all starts with understanding. Once you know more about what you’re dealing with, you can make better decisions to heal yourself.
3. Don’t React Emotionally
I know this is difficult, but it’s better if you can refrain from reacting emotionally to his abusive behavior. Narcissists feel powerful when they can provoke a reaction from their victims. This is part of the reason they are so hurtful and provocative in their rageful devaluation.
It makes them feel like they can manipulate you more easily. If you react emotionally to something he says or does, that gives him ammunition to use against you. He knows how to push your buttons, and he will use that knowledge to his advantage.
Every time he wants to make you feel vulnerable, he’ll know exactly what to do and say to make you more malleable. When you’re in a state of emotional reactivity, you aren’t thinking in an objective manner, and it’s difficult to make good decisions. That gives him the upper hand.
If you can manage not to show him your emotions, you can become boring to him. While he will still distance himself from you, he won’t be as interested in abusing you as he would be if you were giving the kind of reactions he wants.
Controlling your emotional reactions takes away one of the best weapons a narcissist has for manipulating you. It is also the first step in healing the abuse you’ve suffered.
Once you understand your emotional triggers, you can begin to heal the underlying wounds that created them. It’s a long process, but it’s a worthwhile journey to take.
4. Don’t Count on Your Narcissistic Father
It’s important to understand that you can’t count on your narcissistic father for any kind of emotional support or any other kind of support. The only time he will do something for you is when it benefits him.
It’s better not to put yourself in a situation where you need something from him to achieve your goals. He won’t help you unless he can use what you need or want to do.
Even then, his help comes with strings attached, and he will never let you forget it. It’s better not to owe him anything than to be indebted to him for even the smallest of things.
While it’s a difficult truth for a child to learn, it’s better to develop the independence to count only on yourself and healthy friends or family than to depend on your toxic father for help. It will cost you more than it’s worth.
5. Learn to Walk Away
Another valuable skill the child of a narcissistic father should learn is when to walk away from a confrontation. This can be difficult when you feel triggered, but standing and arguing will get you nowhere.
If you argue with him, you’ll soon learn that you’re only giving him more ammunition to use against you in the future. You’re showing him your weaknesses, and he won’t hesitate to use those against you.
Additionally, if you feel the need to argue with him, he sees that as due to the fact that your argument is weak. If you can manage to simply turn and walk away, you deny him the drama he loves to create.
If you can do that enough times, he will grow bored of trying to provoke you. That doesn’t mean he won’t find other ways to inflict emotional abuse on you, but he will know that not everything he does will work on you.
Walking away is a form of being like a grey rock. That’s a technique that works well with abusive people. When you’re boring, like a grey rock, they lose interest in trying to manipulate you. They can’t get their hooks into you.
6. Beware the Gaslighting
Gaslighting is a technique that narcissists use to try to make their victims feel as though they are losing their minds. The term comes from a movie where a narcissistic husband was trying to make his wife think she was losing her mind by turning the gaslights up and down.
Your narcissistic father will try to gaslight you regularly, just as he does with other victims. He will try to convince you that what you think happened isn’t real. It didn’t really happen, or you’re overreacting.
The narcissist’s goal is to try and get you to depend on him for your interpretation of reality. If he can achieve that, he can convince you of anything. Here are some examples of things a narcissist says when they’re gaslighting you.
- You’re crazy!
- That never happened.
- You’re imagining things.
- You don’t really believe that, do you?
- You’re too sensitive.
- I can’t believe you think that.
- You have such a vivid imagination.
It can be helpful to keep a journal of events so that you can remind yourself of exactly what happened when your narcissistic father tries to gaslight you. Contemporaneous notes are often the best recollection of an event, and they can help you remember what happened and how you felt when it did.
7. Establish Your Limits
As a young child, it can be difficult to set and maintain boundaries, particularly with a parent. But it can at least help to know what your limits are, and then, when you are old enough to enforce your personal boundaries, you can enforce the consequences.
It’s critical to remember that establishing boundaries is about respecting yourself more than it is about making someone else behave a certain way. Your narcissistic father will never respect your boundaries or even understand them, but you can, and when you are old enough, you can force him to respect them too.
Start by determining what you simply will not tolerate, and then, you can determine what the consequences will be for boundary violations. These may be something as simple as walking out of the room or ending a conversation, but they may also be something as drastic as going no contact.
Whatever your boundaries and the consequences for violations are, be sure to enforce them every single time there’s a violation. Any lenience will be perceived as a weakness, and it will result in more violations.
You’ll find that once your narcissistic father knows you won’t put up with boundary violations, he will modify his behavior. I have found that with my narcissistic mother, while she is by no means better, our relationship is because I have forced her to respect my boundaries.
8. Seek Out Professional Help
Another thing you can do for yourself is to seek out professional help when you’re able to do so. The emotional abuse a narcissistic father heaps on his children causes some profound trauma. It’s a form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Long-term trauma causes a form of PTSD known as complex PTSD. It can be just as disruptive in your life as the kind of PTSD that is suffered following a single, dramatic traumatic event. It can result in depression and anxiety.
It can also affect your adult relationships for the rest of your life. The sons of narcissistic fathers often feel as though they will never be able to live up to anyone else in their life, and they spend their lives trying to prove their worth. The daughters of narcissistic fathers are left feeling they will never be enough for anyone in their life, and they spend their lives trying to feel whole.
It’s a difficult problem to overcome without some form of professional help. While many cultures, including ours, still stigmatize mental health problems to some degree, you need to understand that it is nothing less than an act of courage to seek out professional help for the trauma you’ve endured.
It takes courage to face those old wounds and explore how they have affected your life, and it takes courage to move beyond the trauma and heal yourself. The stigmas are unfortunate since it’s one of the bravest things you can do.
Narcissistic fathers are not the protectors or loving male role models they should be, and the trauma they cause in their children can be significant and long-lasting. They manipulate you with lies, gaslighting, and triangulation, and they use the emotional wounds they create in your childhood against you. Once they know how to trigger an emotional reaction in you, they will use them to make you more vulnerable to their manipulation, but you can stop them.
I have developed a 5-Step Roadmap to Heal Emotional Triggers to help you recognize, defuse, and even heal your emotional triggers and the wounds that created them so that your narcissistic father can’t use them against you. This handy guide is free, and if you would like a copy, just click on the link here. I will send it directly to your inbox so you can begin your healing journey today.
If you want more tips for dealing with narcissists, setting boundaries, and managing emotional triggers, make sure you subscribe to my youtube channel