Narcissistic fathers often emotionally damage their children. They disregard boundaries, manipulate their children by withholding affection (until the children “perform”), and neglect to meet the needs of their children because they are interested only in meeting their own needs. Their image and perfection is essential to narcissists; they often demand perfection from their children. The children thus feel intense pressure to be perfect and try to ramp up their talents, looks, intellect or personality to please their father. It has a high personal cost to them if they succeed in fulfilling their father’s wishes – and it can cost them just as much if they fail. It’s a no-win situation.
There is profound unhappiness among the members of a family ruled by a tyrannical narcissistic father. In many of these families, the mother simply echoes the father as she feels uncertain of herself (due to his emotional abuse) and is afraid to take her husband on. Often this destructive pattern is the result of the mother’s own childhood. Not aware of the dynamics of narcissism, she went from a cruel, tyrannical father to a brutal, domineering husband. Repetition of psychological patterns, such as is seen with abuse and narcissism, is common. The mother chooses a spouse similar to her abusive parent and raises a family in an abusive environment like the one she was raised in.
How a narcissistic father affects his children
• Daughters of narcissistic fathers frequently report that they can never feel satiated when it to comes to getting what they need from their fathers. They never got enough time with their father and would have to compete with siblings for that rare time. As a young child, a father might comment on how beautiful his daughter was. But as she grew older, he would rarely miss an opportunity to comment on her weight and attitude. The daughters often carry these concerns into adulthood, even if they were otherwise successful. With a father like this, nothing is ever good enough. Their relationship with men in the future is clouded by feelings of vulnerability and worries that they’ll be dumped for someone else. Anxiously avoiding commitment or taking on the narcissistic role are both natural ways for the daughters to keep relationships “safe”. It’s self protective but doesn’t lead to healthy relationships.
• Sons of narcissistic fathers describe feeling that they can never measure up. Their fathers were so competitive they even compete with their sons. They either compete or pay no attention to their sons. The sons often simply accept defeat – how can they possibly win against a grown man? Sometimes they take another tact and work hard to beat their father at his own game- just to get his attention and some semblance of fatherly pride. Yet they never feel good enough even when they do succeed; they still feel empty and second rate.
Both girls and boys need to be loved by their fathers in order to feel validated as individuals. Narcissists are incapable of loving anyone other than themselves. Some of their children become narcissists themselves. That way they get their father’s attention (imitation is the highest form of flattery) and they learn from an expert how to manipulate and use people.
Having a tyrannical father is a nightmare for every member of the family except the “chosen child” (or children) whom he picks to reflect his perfect image. The chosen child is groomed to become his little clone. They have been chosen for their looks, intellect, special talents, or some other characteristic that the narcissistic father regards as valuable to him. Other children in the family are bypassed because they have not measured up to his expectations. They can be very bright, kind, considerate, or sensitive–none of this matters to the narcissistic father. He doesn’t care about the quality of his other children’s character or personality. These children suffer; they spend their whole childhoods doing their best, trying to get their father’s love and attention yet they always come up empty-handed. There is also usually the “scapegoat” child. Narcissistic fathers are often mean and cruel to these children and let them know- on a regular basis- that they are deficient, unmotivated, always wrong and too soft. They are worthless to him and are blamed for everything that goes wrong.
Characteristics of a Narcissistic Father
(From Children of the Self Absorbed: A Grownup’s Guide to Getting over Narcissistic Parents by Nina Brown)
- Turns every conversation to himself
- Expects you to meet his emotional needs
- Ignores the impact of his negative comments on you
- Constantly criticizes or berates you and knows what is best for you
- Focus on blaming rather than taking responsibility for his own behavior
- Expects you to jump at his every need
- Is overly involved with his own hobbies, interests or addictions ignoring your needs
- Has high need for attention
- Brags, sulks, complains, inappropriately teases, is flamboyant, loud and boisterous
- Is closed minded about own mistakes. Can’t handle criticism and gets angry to shut it off
- Becomes angry when his needs are not met and tantrums or intimidates
- Has an attitude of “Anything you can do, I can do better”
- Engages in one-upmanship to seem important
- Acts in a seductive manner or is overly charming
- Is vain and fishes for compliments. Expects you to admire him
- Isn’t satisfied unless he has the “biggest” or “best”
- Seeks status. Spends money only to impress others
- Forgets what you have done for him in the past but keeps reminding you that you owe him today
- Neglects the family to impress others. Does it all: Is a super person to gain admiration
- Threatens to abandon you if you don’t go along with what he wants
- Does not obey the law-sees himself above the law
- Does not expect to be penalized for failure to follow directions or conform to guidelines
- Ignores your feelings and calls you overly sensitive or touchy if you express feelings
- Tells you how you should feel or not feel
- Cannot listen to you and cannot allow your opinions
- Is more interested in his own concerns and interests than yours
- Is unable to see things from any point of view other than his own
- Wants to control what you do and say-tries to micromanage you
- Attempts to make you feel stupid, helpless and inept when you do things on your own
- Has poor insight and cannot see the impact his selfish behavior has on you
- Has shallow emotions and interests
- Exploits others with lies and manipulations.
- Uses emotional blackmail to get what he wants
- May engage in physical or sexual abuse of children
The tyrannical narcissistic father is a bully- a cruel, lying, arrogant person. He is a tyrant that is totally entrenched in his grandiose world and insistent that everyone follow his commands. He is emotionally abusive and can cause significant emotional damage to all family members. Unfortunately, his behaviors cause the relationships within a family to be toxic and can cause lifelong wounds.