When you have had an upbringing in a narcissistic environment the most important thing that you need to do if you want to protect yourself from further abuse is to identify the narcissists in your lives and learn how to physically or emotionally remove them. Since men tend to be more narcissistic, a good place for you to start this process would be to learn the signs of a narcissistic father.
As a general rule, a narcissistic father will view his children as either a positive or negative extension of himself, he will project his identity onto his children, he will try to shape his children into the “perfect” children, and he will subject them to a variety of different narcissistic behavior patterns.
In this article we’re going to guide you through the hidden aspects of a narcissistic father’s tendency to view his children as a positive or negative extension of himself, project his identity onto them, and try to shape his children into the “perfect” children.
That said, we strongly suggest that you seek the guidance of a qualified professional to unpack all of the emotions of narcissistic abuse and that you familiarize yourself with our library of information about the narcissistic behavior patterns that haven’t been included here if you want to have the best chances of accurately identifying a narcissistic father.
A Narcissistic Father Views His Children as an Extension of Himself
When speaking about a narcissistic father viewing his children as an extension of himself, we’re talking about an extension of his identity.
It’s important to remember that narcissists have two identities. They have their true identity that is fragile, vulnerable, and insecure and then they have their falsified identity that is designed to portray the narcissist as successful, charming, charismatic, inspiring and so on.
What this means is that the child of a narcissistic father could potentially remind the narcissist of their true identity, which they despise, or of their falsified identity, which they cherish.
If the child of a narcissistic father were to remind them of their true identity, the father would likely designate his child as the scapegoat.
The Scapegoat Child
A narcissist needs a scapegoat to regulate all of their suppressed negative emotions because they have an emotional inadequacy that prohibits them from being able to regulate these negative emotions through non-narcissistic methods like self-awareness, building healthy relationships, therapy, and self-reflection.
From a narcissist’s perspective, a scapegoat represents aspects of their true identity that they hate with a passion. For example, if a narcissist were to have a son who was a really sweet and insecure kid, the narcissist would most likely use him as a scapegoat because the child’s demeanor triggers the narcissistic father’s internalized anger about his own true identity.
The reason that a narcissist is so aggressive towards people and things that remind them of their true identity is because an unhealthy/abusive upbringing has caused them to develop a belief that their true identity is weak, unloveable, and abandonable yet they don’t have the emotional capability to manage that level of shame so they attack the source of their shame instead.
The Golden Child
If the child of a narcissistic father was to remind him of his falsified identity, he would most likely designate the child as the golden child.
The golden child is the child that the narcissist favors the most because they excel at something that provides the narcissistic father with a lot of validation, admiration, and reassurance, also known as narcissistic supply.
For example, if the child of the narcissist was a D1 college recruit for football, this would bring the narcissist a lot of narcissistic supply because they view the child’s prowess as a reflection of themselves and their own parenting.
The sad part about the golden child is that while it may seem like a cushy position to be in, it is not.
The reason being that the “love” that the narcissistic father has for their golden child is very conditional.
If the golden child were to lose the ability to accumulate narcissistic supply for the narcissist, they’d be kicked off of their pedestal of privilege and treated like the scapegoat or one of the other roles that the children of narcissists play.
Suggested Reading: How Do Narcissists Treat Their Children?
A Narcissistic Father Will Protect His Corrupted Identity Onto His Child
As you can imagine, there are a tremendous amount of negative effects of being a scapegoat or golden child of a narcissistic father.
It’s really important to understand these negative effects because they’re going to illuminate many hidden signs of a narcissistic father and this is particularly true for the negative effects of being a golden child.
The Scapegoat Child
It would take a miracle for a person who grew up as their narcissistic father’s scapegoat to walk out of that environment unscathed.
When a narcissist experiences something that contradicts their falsified identity, like one of their children reminding them of their true identity, it jeopardizes their emotional stability and places them in grave psychological danger.
We briefly mentioned this before but the reason a reminder of their true identity is so significant is because their unhealthy/abusive upbringing has taught them that their true identity is unloveable, abandonable, and weak.
This unhealthy/abusive upbringing we mention consists of unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent primary caregivers. This means that the primary caregivers didn’t mirror the child which means they didn’t reflect or “mirror” the emotions, feelings, thoughts, and needs of their child.
When a child doesn’t have their emotions, feelings, thoughts, and needs mirrored, they’re unable to develop a realistic sense of self and they’ll have a long list of emotional inadequacies.
To get the validation, admiration, and reassurance that their primary caregivers are unable or unwilling to give them, they’ll search their external environment for it instead.
What this does is it teaches the child that their true identity is unlovable, abandonable, and weak but the falsified identity they created to get the validation, admiration, and reassurance is loveable, desirable, and strong.
How does this explain a narcissist’s hostility towards people and things that remind them of their true identity?
When a narcissist is reminded of their true identity, they’re reminded of their emotionally inadequate belief that they’re unloveable, abandonable, and weak, which triggers a tremendous amount of negative emotions like shame.
Unfortunately, one of their emotional inadequacies is an inability to regulate their own emotions which means that they’re incapable of managing the negative emotions that get triggered from the reminder of their true identity.
To avoid emotionally imploding, they project all of those negative emotions onto their scapegoat so they can protect their fragile sense of self and continue to believe in their falsified identity.
What does this mean for the scapegoat? They’re going to adopt all of the negative emotions that their narcissistic father is projecting onto them and adopt these negative emotions as their own.
It’s for this reason that scapegoats are often an emotional wreck, susceptible to abusive relationships in adulthood, and possess many symptoms of PTSD.
The Golden Child
Given the nature of the relationship between a golden child and a narcissistic father, there’s a lot more communication which means there’s a lot of different ways that the narcissist can project their identity onto them.
Being the golden child is an extremely dangerous position to be in!
The Narcissistic Father Projects Maladaptive and Toxic Beliefs Onto His Children
It’s very common for the narcissistic father to project a ton of maladaptive and toxic behaviors regarding how to have relationships with other people.
For this we’re going to focus on the relationship a narcissistic father would have with his son who is the golden child as it is much more common to see maladaptive behaviors regarding relationships being projected on the son of a narcissistic father than it is a daughter of a narcissistic father.
Sadly, these maladaptive behaviors we speak of are almost always incredibly misogynistic and toxic. For example, a narcissistic father could tell his son that women can’t be trusted, that women aren’t worth investing in, that women are just going to hurt them in the long run, or that women are just sexual tools to have fun with.
On top of this, the son will then witness the father reinforce these disgusting beliefs with his behavior towards the women, particularly the mother, in his life.
On the flip side of things, a narcissistic father could also teach his son to be aggressive towards other men, to be possessive and protective of his woman because other men are trying to steal her, to not trust other men, and to make sure that they don’t show any type of weakness to other men.
As you can imagine, these types of toxic and backwards beliefs are going to cause a lot of trouble for the child in his adult relationships.
The Narcissistic Father Tries to Mold His Child Into the “Perfect” Child
One of the nine personality traits outlined by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) is a preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
We often think about this aspect of narcissism as something that happens in the future because it is very common for victims of abuse to hear the narcissist in their life talk about the fantasies they have for the future.
With that being said, there’s a very important aspect of this trait that often gets neglected and that is that narcissists also have fantasies for the past. This is very important to understand as it has a strong correlation with the relationship a narcissistic father has with their golden child.
Imagine a narcissistic father who grew up with extremely grandiose fantasies of playing in the NFL, being rich and famous, and winning a ton of awards but never quite made it. Every single one of his coaches told him that he wasn’t athletic or good enough.
This narcissistic father has fantasies about going back in time and proving his coaches wrong. However, this fantasy isn’t about going back proving the coaches wrong by being the best player. No, this fantasy is about going back and forcing the coaches to see how they failed for not seeing the narcissist’s greatness.
The grandiose sense of self and belief that one is special/unique that all narcissists possess means that they’re incapable of acknowledging their own failures because they truly believe that they didn’t fail.
Obviously, narcissists can’t go back in time and fulfill their fantasy but in a twisted way they can use their golden child to do so.
If this narcissistic father were to have a golden child who also played football, they could live vicariously through the child and not only fulfill but exceed their fantasy of going back and forcing his coaches to see his greatness.
What this would look like is the narcissistic father having a huge role in the golden child’s career. He’s at every single practice, every single game, training him outside of team training, but he is doing it for himself, not for the golden child.
It’s for this reason that the title as “golden child” is so conditional. If the child fails, the narcissist will be furious because his fantasy wasn’t fulfilled and it would trigger his suppressed negative emotions. If the child succeeds, then not only has the narcissistic father fulfilled his fantasy, but he also has changed reality by living vicariously thought his son and absorbing his achievements.
The golden child is a really sad role because the narcissist doesn’t see the child’s strengths and values, instead the narcissist tries to build an individual who they deem as strong and valuable.
What Should You Take Away From This Article?
The damage that a narcissistic father can do to one’s cognitive development is unfathomable but when learning about narcissistic parenting it’s important to remember that there’s a significant overlap among the behaviors of narcissistic parents and maternal antagonistic parenting, parental behaviors that inspire children’s negative feelings (e.g., negative verbal comments, controlling others through guilt).
It’s for this reason that we want to remind you of the importance of seeking guidance from a qualified professional when unpacking the trauma that comes from narcissistic abuse.
About the Author
Hey, I’m Elijah.
I experienced narcissistic abuse for three years.
I create these articles to help you understand and validate your experiences.
Thank you for reading, and remember, healing is possible even when it feels impossible.