The father-daughter relationship is unique! It should be nurtured and encouraged because Daddy has a significant influence on his daughter. Unfortunately, not all fathers have a positive influence on their children. Some of them are actually harmful. As a teen, my father frequently told me, “You're too fat.” I'm never going to be able to marry you off!” When I look at pictures of him now, I wonder how I ever believed him! A high school girlfriend frequently mentioned her father's threats to cut her out of the family if she didn't attend his college after graduation. Another woman described how her father constantly dismissed her good grades and community service because she was “only meant to get married and have babies.”
The Influence of a Narcissistic Father
Dad's narcissism creates havoc in the family home, especially if the family follows the age-old model in which Dad is the Head Of The Family. We always looked to Dad for leadership when we were growing up in that model. When Dad is a narcissist, the consequences are devastating. Young girls are subjected to emotional stress from the start of their quest to be the perfect child. But, according to the narcissist, that child cannot be perfect. The child is incapable of understanding that their father is the source of their problems, and instead blames themselves. Frequently using the phrase “I am so stupid, why did I do this?”
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Characteristics of a Narcissistic Father
Identifying the narcissistic father can be difficult because they will try to convince you that they are not a narcissist. There are, however, very visible signs that you can track and learn to heal from. Here are the top warning signs to look out for:
Lives through their child – This is the father who expects their child to follow in their footsteps (enter the same career, attend the same college, work in the same jobs) and/or achieve the dreams that the father did not. If the child does not comply, they are frequently threatened with being disowned.
Marginalizes the child – It is the father who is actually threatened by the child's potential and success. When the child succeeds, the father must make them feel bad about themselves.
Superiority – Narcissistic fathers have an inflated sense of self and will project that superiority onto their children.
Manipulation – The most common narcissistic trait is manipulation. They frequently use it to guilt trip (I did this and you are ungrateful), blame (It's your fault I'm unhappy), shame (you embarrass me), and emotionally coerce (you are not a good daughter/son if you do not live up to my expectations).
Lack of Empathy – The narcissistic father is unable to recognize and validate a child's feelings.
Co-Dependency is the expectation that the child will care for them for the rest of their lives. This includes both emotionally and physically, as well as financially. If the child attempts to break the dependency, the father will use guilt and shaming to achieve their dependency goals.
Why Does He Become a Narcissist?
The truth is that we are all a little narcissistic. Many of us, however, keep our narcissism in check with expressions of humility. So, why do some fathers fail to maintain a sense of balance through humility? According to Psychology Today, narcissism is a learned behavior that begins in childhood. Maybe the boy child was coddled a little too much. Perhaps his parents took care of him out of guilt rather than letting him stand on his own two feet. Perhaps there was praise for doing something incorrectly. Or perhaps the idea that “boys will be boys” was drilled into his head a little too frequently. And instead of correcting the parenting and teaching him some humility, it continued well into adulthood. You now have someone who is unable to function in any other capacity.
How to Raise a Child with a Narcissistic Father
You, like everyone else, will want some normalcy in your life, and healing from Daddy is a good place to start. It may appear to be a daunting task, but it will be well worth it in the long run. It is entirely up to you how you choose to heal. Here are a few ideas to consider:
Some things you should keep to yourself – Yes, we all want to share our deepest secrets or achievements with someone. Because narcissists lack empathy and compassion, it is best to share your secrets or achievements with someone else.
Set limits – just because you recognize the hurtful things he says does not mean you have to accept them. Recognize him as soon as he begins a tirade. “Stop playing mind games” and “Dad, this is not constructive” are two ways to assert that you are aware of what he is doing and will not be abused.
Accept him for who he is – this is difficult. When we notice something is wrong, we want to make it right. You cannot change him; he must make that decision on his own. The more you try to help him, the worse he will become.
Consider getting into good therapy – look for therapists who specialize in domestic violence (which includes emotional abuse) or narcissistic abuse.
Cut ties – as an adult, you have far more control over what happens in your life. If your father resorts to physical violence, you are not obligated to continue the relationship. It's challenging. Also, before you cut ties, consult with your therapist, if you have one.
If you must leave, do so because initially acknowledging the abuse will make it more likely. When confronted, some fathers will enter physical territory. If you do not feel safe, do not stay. Leave. Keep your car keys and phone with you at all times so he doesn't interfere with your departure.
Change your future – Many young women who have a narcissistic father end up with a narcissist as a partner. Make an effort to remember the signs and recognize them in your partner. Avoiding a repeat of the past allows you to meet a wonderful partner who genuinely loves and respects you.
Many of us have had narcissistic parents, so you are not alone! We can truly change the future for ourselves and our children by joining therapy groups and seeking counseling to heal.
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