The Ways in Which a Narcissistic Father Can Harm His Children (2023)

We take our mom and dad for granted; like this must be what it’s like for everyone.Your dad may have been narcissistic, but you just assumed that all fathers were like him.

By Cathy Meyer Updated: August 10, 2021Categories: Children and Divorce, Children's and Parenting Issues after Divorce

The Ways in Which a Narcissistic Father Can Harm His Children (1)

“Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm, but the harm (that they cause) does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves”.~ T.S. Eliot

You used to think that by the time you were in your twenties and definitely by your thirties you’d have your act together – you’d be establishing a successful career, have your own place, be in a committed and stable relationship, visit the gym enough to have the body you always wanted and your social life would be vibrant.

But, you’re nowhere near where you thought you’d be, and the tiny boxes next to the list of achievements that you’d hoped to accomplish are still unchecked.

As your confidence deflates, you look back on your own upbringingand think about your father –Mr. Self-Assured. He seemed to have it all – charm, success, popularity and he never seemed to be plagued by self-doubt, unlike you. He was the hit of the party, knew everyone and made things happen. You couldn’t get enough of him.

How Kids Experience a Narcissistic Father:

Come to think of it, did his confidence border on arrogance? Is it possible that you were raised by someone withnarcissistic traits? And if so, why is it important?

We take our families for granted – it’s natural that we do. Each family is a miniature sociological experiment, with its own set of unwritten rules, secrets, and nuanced behavioral patterns. We take our mom and dad for granted; like this must be what it’s like for everyone.Your dad may have been narcissistic, but you just assumed that all fathers were like him.

Here are some signs that your father had narcissistic tendencies or was an outright narcissist.

  • Dad was self-centered and pretty vain.He had an inflated sense of self-importance that led him to believe he was superior and entitled to only the best.
  • Dad used people for his own good.He would take advantage of others, to the point ofexploiting them when it suited him. Everybody seemed to cater to him, or at least he expected them to.
  • Dad was charismatic.Everyone wanted to be around him and he relished admiration from others. He loved being in the spotlight and the positive reinforcement that came from being the center of attention.
  • No one had an imagination like Dad.Grandiosity is alluring, and so were his fantasies of success, prestige, and brilliance. He would often exaggerate his achievements, and his ambitions and goals bordered on unrealistic.
  • Dad didn’t take criticism well.Nothing stung him like criticism; he often cut those people out of his life or tried to hurt them.
  • Dad’s rage was truly scary.Some people get mad and yell a lot.Dad could hurt you with his anger. It cut to the bone.
  • Dad could be aloof and unsympathetic.Narcissists often have a hard time experiencing empathy; they often disregard andinvalidate how others feel.Of course, he was exquisitely sensitive to what he felt, but others were of no mind.
  • Dad wasn’t around a lot.He got a lot of gratification outside the family. Other fathers hung out with their families a lot more. Plus, he craved excitement and seemed to be more concerned by what others thought of him, rather thanhow his own kids felt about him.
  • Dad did what he wanted when dealing with you.Narcissists don’t step into someone else’s shoes very often.He did things with you that he enjoyed; maybe you did as well.
  • Dad wanted you to look great to his friends and colleagues.You were most important to him when he could brag about you; sad but true.
  • You couldn’t really get what you needed from him.Even if Dad provided on a material level, you felt deprived on a more subtle level. For example, you wanted his attention and affection, but would only get it sporadically, and only when it worked for him.

When you go through these traits, some may hit home; while others may not be relevant. Some may ring as very true; while others as less so. This is why narcissistic traits are not synonymous with aNarcissistic Personality Disorder.

Now that you have a firm grasp on what anarcissistic father may be like, let’s take a look at how he might affect his kids.

How a Narcissistic Father Can Emotionally Harm His Children:

Narcissistic parentsoften damage their children. This is especially true if one of those parents is a narcissist and a divorce occurs. For example, they may disregard boundaries, manipulate their children by withholding affection (until they perform), and neglect to meet their children’s needs because their needs come first. Because image is so important to narcissists, they may demand perfection from their children. The child of a narcissist father can, in turn, feel a pressure to ramp up their talents, looks, smarts or charisma. It can cost them if they fulfill their Dad’s wishes – and it can cost them if they fail. No winning here.

Daughters of narcissistic fathersoften describe feeling “unsatiated” when it comes to getting what they needed from their fathers. They never got enough and would have to compete with siblings for time with Dad. As a young child, Dad would comment on how beautiful you were. But as you grew older, he would rarely miss out on commenting on weight and attitude. You probably carry these concerns into adulthood, even if you found success.

With a Dad like this, it’s never enough. With men (or women), you often feel vulnerable and worried you’ll be dumped for someone else. Anxiously avoiding commitment or taking on the narcissistic role are both natural ways to keep relationships safe; it’s understandable and self-protective. (But, you lose.)

A daughter needs her dad’s adoration; it validates her and helps her internalize her specialness. Healthy fathers give their girls that gift. You are special and deserve love, for being you.

As the son of a narcissistic father,you never feel thatyou can measure up. Dad was so competitive, that he even competed with you. (Or, didn’t pay attention to you one way or the other.) You may have accepted defeat – you’d never outdo your dad. Or, you may have worked hard to beat Dad at his own game just to get his attention and some semblance of fatherly pride. You somehow never feel good enough even when you do succeed, you still feel empty and second rate.

Just like girls need to be adored by their fathers to feel validated, boys also need their dad to believe in them. You may even become a narcissist yourself. This way you get Dad’s attention (after all imitation is the highest form of flattery), and you learn from your old man how to manipulate and use people.

This post originally appeared on

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The Ways in Which a Narcissistic Father Can Harm His Children (2)

About Cathy Meyer

Cathy is a Master Certified Relationship Coach and Certified Marriage Educator. She is also the Founding and Managing Editor of – the leading resource and community for divorced moms to connect, communicate, express their passion and thoughts, share experiences, and find expert information and advice.

Powered by the foremost divorce experts and bloggers, and by all of our divorced moms, is the place to find trusted information to guide you.

Before turning to writing and editing as a career, Cathy specialized in consulting with and educating/coaching clients before, during, and after divorce.

Combined she has eleven years experience working one on one with divorcing clients, facilitating seminars and workshops for couples who are serious about building and nurturing a healthy relationship and, writing about divorce-related issues.

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  1. The Ways in Which a Narcissistic Father Can Harm His Children (3)Zacq Powell says

    This is my husband to a T! Every last characteristic!!!! 😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢


  2. The Ways in Which a Narcissistic Father Can Harm His Children (6)GreyGal says

    That’s my question also. I do not want my son to plague the world with NPD and he’s already unimpressionable by me when he’s with his father who is now the custodial parent… Is there any hope? Is there a age that you stop trying? Thank you Ms. Meyer.


    • The Ways in Which a Narcissistic Father Can Harm His Children (7)Lisla says

      I’m so sorry. I went through this several years ago. Stay strong for yourself. The main thing is to concentrate on your own life. Your ex-spouse will do everything possible to get your child on there side which will work. I divorced to save my children (that begged me to leave their dad) only for them to turn their back on me. Life had ended but then I realized that I had a life before them so I must after. To this day their father controls their lives. After several years, I have the most loving, wonderful, amazing NEW husband and they can join us anytime they would like to make time. My ex on the other hand is lonely, no one will go on more than one date with him. I was young and nieve when I married him but at his age women are smarter. If I can do it anyone can. Have faith and find an amazing life because it is out there. My prayers are with you, remember you are NOT alone.


  3. The Ways in Which a Narcissistic Father Can Harm His Children (9)cindy smith says

    My daughter has visitation at this time, and in all her years he has never taught her anything he wasnt around but since all this he is trying to get anyone to take his side. Most already know what he is doing Nnd the fact he and his atty has said in court he has no money cause he hasnt been working since November of 2019, but yet he just wrote me a check for 500, I have not cashed it will take to court, now he is going to buy more clothing for her so she dont have to carry a bag to her visits all the time, really are you thinking your gonna get custody of her he is living with his parents one with dementia and his mom well another story, he had to tell her hos own mom not to say anything bad abt me or her and how she looks or whatever, he is trying so hard to get her so she will live with him. Thos way he dont have to pay support, well if she decides that I’m asking for spousal maintenance since I’m disabled and have been for several years and he was aware of it and kept me living in a lifestyle that in disability check I cant afford. He has lies to his atty and the courts. With covid etc I want this done. He makes me sick and I want released from his had on everything. My son youngest one is living with me and gonna stay and help me. My dest has sided with him and his lies , the drugs and distrust he has done. I have now disowned my dest which is my adopted daughters bio father and she wants nothing to do with him either he and his mom who is the narcissist Nd how he became one is trying to buy her live, havent in 7 years wanted much to do with her an she is the way she is cause that’s how I taught her to be Nd he is thinking people think he is the one who taught her and that’s why she is the way she is. They all know he is getting busted asmt hos own games, his own son is nothing cant hold a job, lives with mom at 29 years old drugs, dont know how to do anything he never raised him and its pathetic. Trying to take credit for things people know you had nothing to do with. Sad


  4. The Ways in Which a Narcissistic Father Can Harm His Children (10)Ice Cream n Sticky Fingers says

    Unfortunately, attorneys and judges don’t take any other form of abuse seriously in our area, even with substantial proof of things that occurred. Now I’m stuck dealing with a child who is idolizing his father and I feel like there is nothing I can do to protect him. It’s gotten to the point my son is lying to me constantly. Ugg


    • The Ways in Which a Narcissistic Father Can Harm His Children (11)Lisla says

      I unfortunately agree. I’ve been through this and the courts are on their side. Stay strong and you can get through it. Have an amazing life! You deserve it.


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