7 Signs of A Narcissistic Father (Toxic Parenting)

— Reviewed by Dr. Sandip Roy.

Many disorganized and people-pleasing adults never realize they have been victims of toxic parenting. The starting point is to find out if they had a narcissistic father or father figure in their childhood.

To grow up under a narcissistic father is a highly toxic parent-child dynamic. Their dark shadow scars the child’s emotions and keeps them from healing.

Narcissism is not just self-love or self-absorption. It is a personality flaw. These people feel irrationally self-important and entitled, demand constant attention, and have little empathy for others.

There are at least twenty red flags of narcissism that you can use to spot them.

7 Clear-Cut Signs of A Narcissistic Father: Toxic Parenting

While narcissistic traits can be present in mothers too, let’s explore the ways a narcissistic father behaves.

Narcissistic fathers don’t let their children heal from the trauma they give. They build trauma bonds that may last even after the father dies.

signs of narc father toxic parent

1. He lacks empathy and is always angry.

Summary: Narcissistic fathers cannot empathize with their kids, often dismissing their feelings and needs. This emotional neglect harms the child’s self-worth and emotional growth.

One key sign of a narcissistic father is a profound lack of empathy towards others, including their own children. In most cases, he will also have a base level of anger, whether he realizes it or not.

Empathy is the ability to understand and share what another person is feeling and going through. It is putting oneself in their shoes, and acting in compassion.

However, narcissistic fathers cannot easily connect with their children on an emotional level and often disregard their feelings and needs.

This lack of empathy in a narcissistic father can make them impatient, intolerant, and quick to anger when they don’t get what they want.

He often sees his kids as extensions of himself rather than as individuals with their own needs. So when their children don’t meet his expectations or comply with his rules, he can have angry outbursts.

He often sees the needs and demands of their children as obstacles to their own goals. This can lead him to physically hurt his children whenever he feels criticized or not given the special treatment he thinks he deserves.

This makes them stay ready to get triggered into a fit of narcissistic rage if they perceive the child is not meeting their expectations.

They may dismiss or trivialize their child’s emotions, belittling their experiences and failing to provide the necessary support and validation.

When a child seeks comfort or understanding, a narcissistic father may respond with indifference or even anger, further exacerbating the emotional distance between them.

For example, imagine a young child who comes home from school feeling upset and shares their struggles with their narcissistic father.

Instead of offering comfort or reassurance, the father may respond with dismissive remarks such as, “Stop being so sensitive, it’s not a big deal,” or “You’re just overreacting.”

These responses invalidate the child’s emotions and undermine their sense of self-worth.

The impact of a narcissistic father’s lack of empathy on a child’s emotional well-being and development is profound.

Children rely on their parents for emotional support, guidance, and validation. When these fundamental needs are consistently neglected or dismissed, it can lead to feelings of emptiness, insecurity, and a diminished sense of self.

Moreover, the child may struggle to develop healthy emotional regulation and empathy themselves, as they have not been provided with adequate role models for these skills.

“One of the hallmarks of narcissism is altered emotion, including decreased affective resonance (e.g. empathy) with others.”

Fan & Wonneberger, 2010

You need to understand that their lack of empathy is a feature they can never overcome. Narcissists can fake empathy but can never have true empathy.

Children of narcissistic fathers often internalize the belief that their emotions are unworthy of attention, leading to a lifetime of seeking validation from others or suppressing their own needs.

This study found that the right anterior insula (the part of the brain linked to emotions and self-awareness) doesn’t “turn down” as much in high-narcissistic people.

So, a vital step toward healing is recognizing that your father’s lack of empathy is not a reflection of your own worth, but rather a characteristic of narcissistic behavior.

A qualified therapist can provide a safe space to explore your experiences, validate your emotions, and develop healthy coping mechanisms. They also help you rebuild your self-esteem and cultivate self-love and self-empathy.

7 Disturbing Signs of A Narcissistic Father

2. He has a constant need for attention and validation.

Summary: Narcissistic fathers crave constant attention, reducing their children to mere sources of praise for their own egos. This dad-focused conditioning drives the child to overvalue other people’s approval.

Another prominent sign of a narcissistic father is their insatiable need for attention and validation.

Narcissistic individuals thrive on being the center of attention and seek constant admiration and praise from those around them, including their own children.

For a narcissistic father, their child’s role is often reduced to being a source of validation and affirmation for their inflated ego.

In the presence of a narcissistic father, it can feel as though everything revolves around him. He may constantly seek attention, dominating conversations, and redirecting the focus onto himself.

This can leave little room for the child’s own thoughts, feelings, and experiences to be acknowledged and valued.

A narcissistic father may interrupt or dismiss their child’s contributions, redirect conversations back to himself, or even hijack special occasions or milestones to ensure he remains the center of attention.

Trying to please their father and doing things to get his approval can push their self-care needs into the background. They grow up feeling left out, unimportant, and second-choice.

This study found that people with more narcissistic traits had more gray matter in certain parts of their brains. These areas have been linked to self-enhancement and social dominance, which are common in narcissistic people.

Their own accomplishments and achievements may be overshadowed or minimized, as the narcissistic father seeks to maintain his own sense of superiority and superiority.

Furthermore, a narcissistic father’s need for constant validation can lead to an unhealthy dynamic where the child feels pressured to meet unrealistic expectations and constantly seeks his approval.

The child may internalize the belief that their worth is solely dependent on their ability to please their father, leading to a perpetual cycle of seeking external validation and struggling to develop a strong sense of self.

Overcoming the impact of a narcissistic father’s constant need for attention and validation requires a shift in perspective.

They deserve to be seen, heard, loved, and valued for who they are, independent of their father’s opinions or demands.

My advice for those who grew up around a narcissistic father figure:

  • You don’t need someone else’s approval or attention to determine your worth.
  • You have to heal from your emotional scars, as well as learn and grow from them.
  • If you always look up to someone to validate your choices and views, step back and notice the “emotional baggage” you have carried all your life.
  • Seek support from trusted friends, family, or therapists. They can help you see yourself as someone whose self-worth doesn’t depend on what others think about you.

It is time to break the abuse cycle. And stop becoming a generational co-narcissist.


3. He constantly uses manipulation and gaslighting.

Summary: Narcissistic fathers use manipulation and gaslighting to control their kids, making them question their own reality. This toxic behavior erodes the child’s self-confidence and makes it hard for them to trust their own judgments.

Manipulation and gaslighting are common tactics employed by narcissistic fathers to exert control and dominance over their children.

These toxic behaviors can have a profound impact on the child’s sense of reality, self-worth, and overall well-being.

Narcissistic fathers are skilled at manipulating situations and people to serve their own agenda. They may employ various tactics such as guilt-tripping, emotional blackmail, or playing mind games to get their way.

They have a tendency to twist situations to make themselves appear as the victim or to shift blame onto others, including their own children.

They will often manipulate circumstances and emotions to maintain a sense of power and control over their children.

Narcissistic fathers may deny or downplay their own harmful acts, invalidate their child’s experiences, or even rewrite history to suit their narrative.

Narcissistic fathers often verbally abuse their children, demeaning them and making hurtful comments. But when confronted, he may deny ever saying those things, accuse the child of being oversensitive, or turn the blame back on the child to have provoked him.

DARVO method of narcissistic abuse

DARVO: DARVO stands for Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim and Offender. It’s a control tactic used by abusers to avoid responsibility for their actions. First, they deny the wrongdoing, claiming it never happened or wasn’t their fault. Next, they attack the accuser, to discredit and intimidate them. Finally, they reverse the roles of victim and offender, portraying themselves as the real victim while making the actual victim seem like the aggressor. DARVO confuses the victim and diverts their attention from the abuser’s acts.

One particularly insidious form of manipulation used by narcissistic fathers is gaslighting.

Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation where the abuser distorts reality, causing the victim to question their own perceptions, memories, and sanity.

A gaslighting parent can leave a child feeling confused, invalidated, doubting their own perception of events, and even questioning their own sanity.

Children who grow up in manipulative environments may stop trusting their own decisions and judgments. This makes them struggle with seeing themselves separate from others, and having trouble forming relationships that last.

The constant gaslighting can often leave them feeling powerless and unsure of their own reality.

Recognizing and breaking free from the cycle of manipulation and gaslighting is crucial for healing from the effects of a narcissistic father.

We all need to have the freedom to trust our own experiences, emotions, and perceptions, even in the face of denial or invalidation from anyone else, even if that person has fathered us.

Seeking therapy can provide a supportive space to process the effects of manipulation and gaslighting, validate their experiences, and rebuild self-confidence.

Narcissistic fathers need to maintain control and dominance over their children. Recognizing their lying and gaslighting behaviors is key to breaking free from their grip.

Remember, you are not crazy or to blame for the manipulation tactics used by your narcissistic father. Seek support, trust yourself, and embark on the path to healing and personal growth.

4. He’s grandiose, overshadowing his child’s achievements.

Summary: Narcissistic fathers damage their kids’ self-worth by down-comparing their achievements and making them feel unimportant. This grandiose behavior traps the child in a cycle where they constantly seek their father’s approval, neglecting their own needs and desires.

A narcissistic father has an inflated sense of self-importance and grandiosity. He believes he is special and superior, and his children can only try to be (but never be) better than him.

So, he often overshadows his children’s successes by mentioning his own or someone else’s achievements.

This behavior can have a profound impact on the child’s self-worth and ability to assert themselves, leaving their needs, and desires unfulfilled.

They believe they are exceptional and expect others, including their children, to recognize and cater to their perceived greatness.

As a result, they often overshadow their children’s accomplishments, dismissing or minimizing their achievements in comparison to their own.

For example, imagine a situation where a child brings home a report card with excellent grades. Instead of acknowledging and celebrating the child’s achievements, a narcissistic father may respond with comments such as, “That’s good, but I was always top of my class,” or “You think that’s impressive? Wait until you see what I accomplished at your age.”

This constant comparison and belittling of the child’s accomplishments can leave them feeling invalidated, unimportant, and unable to take pride in their own achievements.

Furthermore, a narcissistic father’s grandiosity can also manifest in their expectations of special treatment and entitlement.

They may demand excessive attention, preferential treatment, or expect their children to fulfill their every need and desire.

This sense of entitlement can create an imbalanced power dynamic within the family, where the child’s own needs and desires are disregarded in favor of satisfying the narcissistic father’s ego.

The impact of grandiosity and overshadowing on a child’s self-worth and ability to assert themselves can be significant.

Constantly being overshadowed and made to feel inferior can lead to feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, and a diminished sense of self.

The child may struggle to develop a healthy sense of identity and may find it challenging to assert their own needs and desires throughout their lives.

To heal from narcissistic father behaviors, you must recognize your own worth apart from your father’s ego.

Acknowledge that your achievements and desires are valid and deserving of recognition, despite what a narcissist may have taught you with his comparisons or dismissals.

Therapy can be a valuable resource in this healing process. A qualified therapist can guide you in building self-esteem, setting boundaries, and developing a strong sense of self that is separate from the influence of the narcissistic father.

Therapy can help you learn to reclaim credit for your accomplishments, celebrate your uniqueness, and positively assert your needs and desires.

5. He violates his child’s personal space and boundaries.

Summary: Narcissistic fathers trample on their children’s personal boundaries, leading to long-term issues with autonomy and healthy relationships. This can destroy the child’s ability to form healthy give-and-take relationships and to stand up for themselves.

One of the defining characteristics of a narcissistic father is a stark lack of respect for personal boundaries.

He will disregard his children’s boundaries, invade their personal space, manipulate their relationships, and trample over their emotions.

This lack of boundaries deeply impacts a child’s sense of autonomy and obstructs their ability to establish healthy boundaries in their own lives.

Narcissistic fathers may intrude upon their children’s personal space, both physically and emotionally.

They may invade their child’s privacy by going through their belongings without permission, reading their diaries or messages, or even barging into their rooms unannounced.

This violation of personal space sends a message that the child’s boundaries are not respected, leading to insecurity and dependency.

Furthermore, narcissistic fathers often manipulate their children’s relationships to maintain control and power.

They may attempt to isolate their child from friends and family members who could provide support or challenge their authority.

They control the child’s social interactions, restricting their freedom to have outside relationships and creating an in-family dependency.

Emotional boundaries are also frequently disregarded by narcissistic fathers.

They exploit their child’s emotions for their own gain, using guilt or emotional manipulation to control their behavior.

They expect the child to provide physical support and fulfill their emotional needs, effectively reversing the parent-child dynamic and burdening the child with adult responsibilities.

The lack of boundaries exhibited by a narcissistic father can have significant consequences on the child’s development and ability to establish healthy relationships later in life.

Growing up in an environment where personal boundaries are constantly violated can lead to confusion, a diminished sense of self, and difficulty setting boundaries in future relationships.

Recognizing the importance of boundaries and learning to set and enforce them is crucial for individuals who were never allowed to have them by their narcissistic father.

Setting boundaries involves identifying one’s own needs, values, and limits, and communicating them assertively and consistently.

It may be challenging at first, as the narcissistic father may resist or push back against these boundaries, but it is essential for one’s emotional well-being and personal growth.

Therapy can provide valuable support in navigating the complexities of establishing boundaries with a narcissistic father. A therapist can help individuals develop strategies for setting boundaries, explore their own values and needs, and provide guidance in maintaining boundaries in the face of resistance.

Never forget that a denial of boundaries forced by a narcissistic father can erode a child’s sense of autonomy, security, and ability to have independence within relationships.

Remember, you have the right to set boundaries and protect your well-being. Seek support, learn to establish boundaries, and reclaim your autonomy.

6. He emotionally neglects and abandons his child.

Summary: Narcissistic fathers often ignore their children’s emotional needs, leaving them feeling worthless and unimportant. This can leave deep emotional scars, making it hard for the child to trust others and feel worthy of love.

Emotional neglect and abandonment are significant signs of a narcissistic father.

Narcissistic fathers are often so preoccupied with their own needs and desires that they fail to provide the emotional support and nurturing their children require.

This emotional neglect can have long-lasting effects on a child’s emotional well-being and their ability to form healthy relationships.

Narcissistic fathers may prioritize their own wants and desires above the emotional needs of their children.

They may be emotionally unavailable or dismissive of their child’s emotions, leaving the child feeling unheard, unseen, and unimportant.

When a child seeks comfort or validation from their father, they may be met with indifference, ridicule, or even anger, further exacerbating their feelings of emotional neglect.

The emotional abandonment experienced by children of narcissistic fathers can lead to a range of negative consequences.

They may struggle with low self-esteem, feelings of unworthiness, and difficulty trusting others. These individuals may find it challenging to form secure and healthy relationships, as they may fear being neglected or abandoned once again.

It’s a fact that emotional neglect and abandonment can be just as damaging as physical neglect. Words, indeed, can hurt as deep as cuts.

Emotional neglect can leave invisible scars on a child’s psyche, impacting their self-esteem, emotional regulation, and ability to connect with others on a deep and meaningful level.

Healing from the effects of emotional neglect and abandonment requires individuals to acknowledge and validate their own emotional experiences.

A narcissistic father can paint a child into the wall.

These fathers disregard and dismiss the emotional needs of children so often that the child loses his/her self-identity.

These children often forget how to be happy. They even forget their happy childhood memories.

Their emotional needs become practically non-existent after years of invalidation and being told they are undeserving of attention and care.

It may take a lifetime for them to heal enough to have fulfilling relationships. They often need to be reminded that they are deserving of love, care, and support.

Therapy can provide a safe and supportive space to process their neglected emotions, develop a greater sense of self-worth, learn healthy coping mechanisms, and form secure attachments.

7. He ensnares his children with parentification and enmeshment.

Summary: Narcissistic fathers often force their kids to behave like parents, making them handle adult emotions and responsibilities. They also hold them in enmeshment, blurring the lines between their own needs and their child’s, stifling the child’s emotional growth.

Parentification and enmeshment are two interconnected signs of a narcissistic parent, more common in narcissistic mothers than fathers.

  • Parentification refers to role reversal, where the child is expected to fulfill the parent’s emotional needs. Instead of receiving love and care, the child is forced to take on the responsibility of caring for their adult parents.
  • Enmeshment involves the blurring of boundaries between the parent and child, resulting in an unhealthy and overly dependent relationship.

Narcissistic fathers may rely on their children to meet their emotional needs, seeking comfort, validation, and support from them instead of providing it themselves or seeking it from appropriate sources.

The young child must learn quickly how to deal with complicated adult emotions. Otherwise, their father will get angry and hurt them.

They may be expected to provide emotional support, act as a confidante, or even mediate conflicts within the family.

Parentification steals away a child’s childhood.

  • It takes their playful years and makes them forget their needs and wants as a child. They become adults in a child’s body.
  • The overwhelmed child grows unaware of their true identity. They don’t know who they are, what they want for themselves, or when is the right time to do something.

Enmeshment blurs the boundaries between the narcissistic father and the child.

The father may forcefully intrude upon the child’s personal space, share inappropriate information or confidences, or involve the child in his adult issues or conflicts.

Enmeshment prevents the child from developing a healthy sense of autonomy. Their thoughts, feelings, and boundaries get interwoven with their father’s.

Both parentification and enmeshment can have long-lasting effects.

  • Such individuals, when grown-up, cannot set, enforce, or respect healthy relationship boundaries.
  • They often gravitate toward co-dependent relationships, never really daring to step out on their own.
  • They may carry the weight of their parent’s emotions and needs throughout their lives, finding it difficult to prioritize their own well-being.

Therapy can be instrumental in healing from the effects of parentification and enmeshment. A therapist can help individuals navigate the complexities of these dynamics, explore their own needs and desires, and develop healthy coping mechanisms.

Remember, you are not always responsible for your parent’s emotional well-being. And learn to prioritize self-care.

How To Heal From A Narcissistic Father’s Abuse

  • Narcissistic Rage: Your dad’s unpredictable fits of rage, when he devalues and insults you, are a way to keep you under control. Understand that his acidic words are not a reflection of your worth.
  • Charismatic but Unstable: If you wonder why your dad is so charming in public but a grumpy and angry person at home, know that this is common in narcissistic men.
  • Manipulative Behavior: He never stops manipulating your ideas and choices. He trains you to value his opinions more than your own. You learn that he is “more right” than you. His emotional dealings and mind games distort your reality and prevent you from breaking free on your own.
  • Dependency and Control: Narcissistic fathers make their families codependent. Many narcissistic fathers control their children into becoming their old-age caregivers. You may have been “dog-trained” to put your father’s needs above your own. You may fear going out and doing things you want, without getting their permission first.
  • High Expectations: Your dad’s unrealistically high standards are meant to keep you in a perpetual “people-pleaser” mode. You unconsciously work to cross the high bar they’ve set for you, to please them. Your need for validation is so entrenched that you often think “Dad would have been pleased!” after a success, long after he died.
  • Recognize the Impact: It is not entirely your fault that you are irritable and unhappy, always needing others to validate you. Accept that your father has been a narcissist who shaped you to serve him. Then unload the emotional baggage he gave you.
  • Challenge Negative Self-View: Your narcissist dad affected how you see yourself. You might feel pressure to please others, think your success is because of your father’s “ethics,” and worry that people might discover you are an imposter. Work on shifting this negative self-view to a realistic self-assessment of your worth.
  • Setting Healthy Boundaries: To protect yourself emotionally, physically, and financially, gather the courage to set boundaries with your dad, even if it feels fearful. You owe this to your mental serenity and well-being.
  • Prioritize Self-Care: Self-care is an act of self-respect and a way to reclaim your autonomy. Taking time for yourself is not selfish; it’s necessary. Enroll in a self-defense class, take a mental health break to go on a solo trip, or set aside time for therapy. Practice self-compassion to treat yourself with the kindness and love you would give a good friend.
  • Reclaim Your Self-Worth: Healing is a journey that needs time, effort, and resources. First, assure yourself that it is okay to spend money on your needs and therapy. To build your self-worth, try setting personal goals, celebrating small victories, and getting to know positive people.
  • You’re Not Alone: Reach out for resources and people for support. Don’t hesitate to consult a therapist. Look for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) practitioners.
  • Future Relationships: As you heal, you’ll find yourself better equipped for meaningful, fulfilling relationships in the future.

Related Book: Trapped in the Mirror: Adult Children of Narcissists by Dr. Elan Golomb.

Final Words

You are deserving of love, respect, and freedom.

Your worth does not get defined by your father’s narcissistic comments.

You can break free and create a life filled with self-love, healthy relationships, and personal fulfillment.

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When it comes to mental well-being, you don't have to do it alone. Going to therapy to feel better is a positive choice. Therapists can help you work through your trauma triggers and emotional patterns.