People sometimes use the word “narcissistic” casually to describe someone who is self-involved or self-aggrandizing. Narcissism is a clinical condition, however, and if the father of your teen evidences numerous characteristics of narcissism, it could be a real problem with the potential to negatively impact your child. According to a 2013 article at PsychologyToday.com, traits of narcissistic fathers include acting vain, taking advantage of others, appearing excessively charismatic or having elaborate fantasies of future goals. Narcissistic fathers might have anger issues, respond to criticism negatively, and might not provide warmth or support to children.
Narcissistic dads can affect male and female teens differently. With sons, narcissistic fathers might be overly competitive, never allowing a son to match his performance, according to PsychologyToday.com. Sons might feel defeated after being overly pushed to compete. Narcissistic dads might focus on a teen daughter’s appearance, complimenting her beauty or commenting on her weight. This could create sensitivity and vulnerability issues in your teenage girl because she might have trouble finding validation in other relationships.
However a mother or other family members might feel about a narcissistic father, put a teen’s needs first and offer positive, consistent affirmations about their worthiness, according to clinical psychologist Linda Martinez Lewi. Criticizing or humoring a narcissistic father openly might create conflicted feelings in your teen. Put-downs about her dad will make her feel disloyal for liking and loving him. Jokes about his behaviors signal that she should accept them; this might be sending the wrong message. Parenting isn’t supposed to be a popularity contest, according to EmpoweringParents.com, so don’t worry about behaving differently than the child’s father.
Mothers might worry that the narcissistic behaviors of their co-parent could affect their teen through copying. Characteristics of developing teen narcissism might include acting entitled about receiving desired clothes and privileges or acting out when these privileges are denied, according to EmpoweringParents.com. Teens might feel comfortable arguing their points rather than accepting a “no” answer. Before assigning blame to the child’s father, examine the possibility of other factors. Circumstances such as divorce or being accustomed to getting her way might explain the circumstance.
One of the problems associated with narcissistic parents is called “parentifying,” in which the teen must take on the role of parent in meeting her actual parent’s needs. Fathers might insist on being generously complimented for their skills, or say, “If you cared about me, you would do what I want you to do,” according to Old Dominion University professor Nina Brown, in her article titled, “Parental Destructive Narcissism.” You might notice your teen working hard to “please” her dad for approval, because narcissists withhold affection or warmth as a condition of performance. Talk with your teen privately to affirm your unconditional love, and let your co-parent know that his behaviors aren’t acceptable. Serious cases of parent narcissism might benefit from counseling or medical attention.