16 Powerful Ways To Help a Child Deal With a Narcissistic Father

When you choose to divorce a narcissist, you can expect to be faced with multiple complications. One of your biggest worries will undoubtedly be how to protect your child from a narcissistic father if you co-parent. 

To help a child with a narcissistic father thrive despite the situation, always set a good example, encourage open communication, help them work through their feelings, actively build their self-esteem, consider counseling, avoid coddling, and teach responsibility.

For more insight into each of these pointers for helping your child thrive despite having a narcissistic father, read on. 

How To Help a Child With a Narcissistic Father

Once you’ve severed ties with your ex-partner, your child will require some assistance in having a healthy relationship with them without being negatively affected.

Below are a few pointers on how you can help your child thrive despite a relationship with a narcissistic father.

1. Always Set a Good Example

Never stoop to immature or disrespectful behavior. Children notice how parents handle bad situations.

You’re on the right path if you always hold your own and set firm boundaries without losing your cool.

2. Provide Plenty of Praise

Paying attention to your child’s positive efforts will reinforce positive behavior. If your child mimics narcissistic behavior, don’t retaliate; rather, give high praise when they do things the right way.

3. Actively Focus on Building Their Self-Esteem

Narcissists often chip away at others’ self-esteem and confidence. Focus on giving your child extra self-esteem-building attention to reinforce a positive self-image.

4. Listen To Them & Acknowledge Their Feelings

Narcissists will require their children to be who they want them to be. This can leave children mimicking the wrong behaviors for the narcissist’s approval.

To mitigate this, teach your child that it’s okay to be themselves and that their feelings are validated and allowed.

When your child experiences these feelings, listen, acknowledge, and validate them without bad-mouthing their father.

5. Give Corrections in Positive Ways

When a child makes a mistake or behaves badly, positively correct them. Positive reinforcement is the best route.

Talk with your child about the error, explain why it was wrong, and provide positive alternative behaviors. 

A mother having a serious talk with her young daughter.

6. Don’t Criticize the Father When Child Is Present

Keep complaints and criticisms about your child’s father to close friends or a therapist. Bad-mouthing your child’s father only casts you in a bad light and sets a bad example. 

7. Explain That Adults Are Not Perfect

Kids may develop an unrealistic idea that adults are always right. Gently explain that this is not always the case and that adults can make mistakes too. 

8. Encourage Open Communication With Your Child

Children of a narcissist often grow up to be codependent people with low self-esteem. This often means they don’t communicate clearly about who they are, what they want, and how they feel.

Instead, nurture an attitude of “we can talk about anything” without you getting wound up or upset. This will help your child develop greater self-esteem and comfort in being themselves.

9. Spend Lots of One-on-One Time With Child

When a child spends time with a narcissistic parent, they are groomed to put the needs of the parent before their own because the narcissist sees them as an extension of themselves.

This develops a toxic bond that can have long-term consequences as the narcissist tries to manipulate the child into the person they want them to be.

Spending as much one-on-one time with your child can mitigate this by showing them a balanced approach and providing good examples of a healthy relationship while teaching them that it’s perfectly normal to be themselves.

A mother reading a book to her two young children in bed.

10. Seek Counseling for Your Child if Needed

Children of narcissists often suffer one or more of the following negative effects that can only genuinely be addressed and worked through the help of a trained/qualified counseling therapist:

  • Depression
  • Lack of self-esteem
  • Anxiety
  • Self-doubt
  • Indecision
  • Difficulties being emotionally intimate
  • People pleasing
  • Codependency
  • Self-blame

11. Be on the Lookout for Gaslighting

Gaslighting is a manipulative form of abuse used to develop confusion and self-doubt in a child’s mind to gain control and distort their reality, thus breaking down their self-trust.

One way to protect your child against this is to teach them to always inwardly ask themselves, “Do I think that statement is true?”

Validating your child’s feelings and helping them effectively sift through stories and truth can be a great way to thwart gaslighting.

12. Teach Them To Take Responsibility for Their Own Actions

Narcissists don’t take responsibility for their actions. Instead, they play the blame game and try to manipulate others into thinking things are their fault.

Your child might see their narcissistic father denying responsibility when they have done something wrong, which could lead to your child thinking that is the correct way to handle things.

Instead, instill a sense of action and consequence from an early age.

Do this by controlling how you react to things, setting rules and expectations, listing consequences for bad behavior, teaching effective problem-solving skills, and praising/rewarding genuine progress.

13. Avoid Coddling

While it may sound averse to narcissistic behavior, narcissists often see their favored child as extensions of themselves.

You may find the parent coddling or making excuses for their child’s unacceptable behavior, and that’s because they rely on the child’s dependency on them for their happiness and feelings of self-worth.

A coddling narcissist is grooming a child and deriving feelings of worth from it. When your child tries to act independently, the narcissist loses control, and the situation spirals negatively.

Teach your child that coddling isn’t love and that having a mature, balanced, and responsible approach is more rewarding. 

14. Share Stories About Thriving in Spite of Pain

Children learn effectively through stories that they can relate to. It’s a great way to teach your child how to identify negative situations and deal with difficulties healthily and positively.

Consistently share relatable stories with your child that can help them identify the negative narcissistic behavior and teach them how to manage it in a healthy manner. 

A mother talking to and sharing stories with her daughter while they sit on the couch.

15. Model Consistency

Narcissists can have a way of making children view them as the “fun” parent. Incessant emotional manipulation through being the “fun” or “crazy” parent can create confusion and instability that can harm your child’s development.

By modeling consistency and having firm boundaries, you can teach your child that you’re the “safe” parent. Providing structure and stability will give your child a sort of security buffer that protects them against psychological damage.

16. Have Your Child Spend Time With a Positive Male Role Model

Children learn by watching those around them and mimicking their behavior. Quite simply, if a child likes someone and looks up to them, they will start to develop approaches and habits similar to that person. 

You may worry that because your child has a relationship with their narcissistic father, they may start to engage in narcissistic behavior, which is a genuine risk.

By introducing male role models to your child who are fun to spend time with and take an active interest in your child, your child is likely to engage in constructive actions similar to this person (if they take a liking to them).

In such scenarios, you can expect your child to develop positive habits and even become interested in learning more about the positive perspectives of their new role model.

Of course, you should be careful who you introduce into your child’s life — safety is a top priority.

Narcissistic Parent Brainwashing

Narcissistic parental brainwashing is the process of manipulating a child into believing a false narrative about the co-parent.

In most instances, this involves bad-mouthing the other parent or getting the child to believe that the other parent isn’t normal, is dangerous, isn’t clever, or doesn’t have their best interests at heart. 

Explaining Narcissism to a Child

You may feel tempted to tell your child that their father is a narcissist and explain their behaviors, but this can be damaging.

It’s better to give your child a broad overview of narcissism so that they can (in time) recognize the behavior of their father.

You can do this by teaching your child what emotional abuse and manipulation look like in adults without focusing it on their father. 

You can also teach your child to be honest about how they feel about certain behaviors, be a good role model, and actively manage your anger so that your child feels safe and can draw their own behavior comparisons between you and their other parent. 

Related Questions: 

Do Narcissists Know They Are Lying?

According to Psychology Today, narcissists would rather be admired than liked, and because they are masters at making first impressions, they often decide to lie to make themselves appear better than they are.

While they might know they are lying, they could believe it’s for the best. Lying can be used to boost their self-esteem and gain control over others.

Do Narcissists Know They Are Abusive?

It is safe to assume that narcissists know when they are being abusive, manipulative, and deceitful.

This is because there’s an element of premeditation and planning that must go into it along with lies that must be told to garner support and admiration. It wouldn’t be wise to assume that narcissists are unaware of their behavior.

Final Thoughts 

While you may not be able to fully protect your child from a relationship with their narcissistic father, you can help nurture your child so that they’re fully aware of how abuse works and how to thrive despite it.

By being the “safe” parent and teaching your child about boundaries and the importance of being themselves while developing confidence and self-esteem, you can mitigate their exposure to ongoing narcissistic behavior.