Narcissistic Father: 8 Warning Signs of a Narcissistic Father

Whether you’re a teen or an adult, you may realize something’s always been off about your father.

Small children often don’t know how to identify narcissistic behavior in a father. It just leaves them confused and wondering what they did wrong or why their father doesn’t seem to like them.

In fathers, narcissism manifests itself in several ways, and it is often subtler in covert narcissists. These are some top signs to watch for.

1. His tales never match reality

Narcissists have to spin a false image since they hate their reality. What they say and do supports the fake persona they try to create.

Since grandiose accomplishments and success are often tied to that persona, you can expect some wild tales.

Your father tells others about all the great things he does. If they’re not flat-out lies, they’re certainly embellishments. Perhaps he also says he did extravagant things for you when you were little.

The truth is, he was never there for you unless there was something to gain. Maybe he showed up on career day at school to brag about his fake accomplishments.

He wasn’t there whenever you won awards or wanted to do something that didn’t benefit him.

Now, he continues his lies. It may be harder to distinguish what’s real or fake if you don’t live at home.

You feel like you can’t trust him at all. When you hear others talk about him or his accomplishments, it sounds like they’re describing a completely different person.

2. Everyone thinks he’s charming and great, and he’s not

Narcissists, and especially covert ones, are good at gauging what their audience wants to hear. Everyone likes a charismatic personality, and narcissists know how to mimic one. They’ll only turn on the charm to impress others.

In front of anyone else, your father is a different person. He’s fun, he pretends to care about you, and he’s the center of attention.

He may go back to ignoring you or being moody when everyone else is gone. You feel like he uses you to make himself look good and then just pushes you away.

If you try to tell him you feel used, he gets angry. If you told him that when you were little, you were probably sent to your room. Maybe he instead stormed off or yelled at you until you backed down.

Narcissists see disagreement or disapproval as a personal attack and treat perceived attackers harshly.

3. He has fits of rage after any criticism

Because narcissists are so insecure that they feel threatened easily, they overreact emotionally.

Think of it like throwing huge rocks at a small sandcastle. The rocks are criticism, and the sandcastle is the tiny bit of self-esteem they have from their fake persona.

It wouldn’t take many rocks to destroy a small sandcastle.

Whenever you did something that negatively affected your father when you were little, he punished you severely. If you criticized him, he reacted with rage.

He may have abused you verbally, physically, or emotionally in those fits of rage.

Now, if you criticize him publicly, he’ll wait until you’re alone to show rage since he needs to maintain his image.

Narcissists tend to punish people for criticism, and they often cut off anyone who routinely criticizes them. If you and your father aren’t on speaking terms and haven’t been for a while, that may be why.

4. He manipulates you and others

From time to time, parents will use a “guilt trip” approach on their children to get them to do something they should. Although it may not be a good idea, they usually do it to get children to do something that helps them.

On the other hand, a covert narcissist father will manipulate you to do something that benefits him and not you.

Your father used to or still does tell you that your school performance is an embarrassment to him.

He reminds you of everything he’s done for you and lets you know how ungrateful you are. He says you’re the reason he’s unhappy. The truth is, he’s unhappy with himself.

If he manipulated you as a child to get you to do something to benefit him, he might have tried to bribe you. Perhaps he gave you toys that weren’t age-appropriate since he wasn’t a caring father.

Any gifts he gives you now definitely have strings attached, whether they’re something you like or thoughtless.

5. He mocks your accomplishments and acts jealous

Narcissists need to feel like they’re the best in any circle, including in a family. Your mother may have told you that your father was moody and acted jealous when you were a baby.

Now that you’re older, he’ll feel threatened by your accomplishments.

Maybe you won the high school spelling bee. Instead of being proud, your father said it wasn’t a big deal.

When you told others, he took credit for helping you or said you inherited a little of his intelligence. He also made snide comments or belittled you.

Perhaps you landed a fantastic job just after graduation. Instead of congratulating you and being happy, he made negative comments. He told you that your new job wasn’t “real” or criticized something else.

Remember that he’ll always marginalize any accomplishment that threatens him.

6. He’s distant and lacks empathy

These are both classic signs of narcissism. Although they can also be signs of other problems when they’re temporary, narcissists are consistent in their lack of empathy.

When you have a narcissist parent, you don’t get the nurturing, love, and support you need.

When you were a little kid and had a scary dream, he angrily sent you back to bed. Maybe you got a spanking for waking him up. After all, he worked hard to support his family and felt that everyone was ungrateful.

If you tell him about something that bothers you now, he’ll change the subject or get upset with you. He may mock you or make light of your problem.

Of course, it’s different when he has a problem. Whenever he’s upset or needs support, he expects you or someone else to empathize and help.

Instead of being distant, some narcissistic fathers are straight-up neglectful. It’s more common with overt narcissists.

Perhaps your father left home for weeks, months, or even years when you were little to serve himself. If he wants a relationship now and you barely know him, beware if he’s being questionably nice.

This is the beginning of a narcissist’s destructive cycle of using someone.

7. You feel like he lives vicariously through you

Some narcissistic fathers use their children to fulfill their wishes.

They may do it for their mental satisfaction or another benefit. Unfortunately, it’s often to the detriment of children and may ruin their adult lives.

Covert narcissists are especially good at gaslighting and manipulating.

Perhaps your father wanted you to be a doctor. However, you wanted to be a teacher. He convinced you that you’d be a terrible teacher, and you believed him since he crippled your self-esteem in your childhood.

He manipulated you into becoming a doctor, and you found out why. Now, you constantly shell out money for him. Even if he doesn’t directly ask for it, he makes his problems your problems, and you have to pay for them.

8. He’s stubborn and won’t ever compromise

A narcissist always needs to be right. If your father is one, you may reflect on your childhood and realize that he always got his way.

He may have had to slam doors, walk away or be abusive, but he got his way.

Perhaps you’re trying to help him manage his finances after he gambled away his savings. You try to convince him to sell an antique collection he has.

Somehow, hours later, you wind up agreeing to sell a valuable collection of your childhood toys. You promised those to your kids, but you tell yourself this is more important.

One week later, he gambles away more money and expects you to help him or let him move in with you.

Narcissistic fathers often create a dependency or codependency situation with their adult children. Although it’s admirable and healthy to help an aging father, a narcissist won’t just accept a little help and be grateful.

A narcissistic father will manipulate you, use you and possibly ruin your life.

It’s disappointing to find out your father is narcissistic and won’t change. It can be hard to distance yourself from family, and you may still want to show love to him because he’s your dad.

However, setting firm and healthy boundaries is important to protect yourself.

Some people have to cut ties with narcissistic fathers. It’s good to take care of yourself and seek professional guidance in deciding how to proceed.

Can a gifted therapist help you too?

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