After Joe got in trouble at home for sneaking out of the house in the middle of the night, his parents sent him into counseling to be “fixed”. It wasn’t too long during the sessions that it became apparent that Joe’s father was a narcissist. Some of the frustrations that Joe was experiencing were directly related to how his father was now treating him in comparison to his pre-teen years.
For a narcissist, the teen years of their child’s are the most challenging, demanding, and exhausting. While it is true that you don’t have to be a narcissist to experience this with your teenager, it is even worse when one of the parents is a narcissist. Here are eleven reasons why. Teens:
- Aren’t easily manipulated or deceived by parents. When Joe was younger, he went with the flow. He seemed to be happy in most environments despite any negative circumstances. This made it easy for his narcissistic father to talk Joe into doing activities his dad enjoyed, not Joe. His dad also told false stories about their extended family to keep his son from wanting to engage. As Joe became a teenager, he no longer accepted his dad’s reality and did not believe everything he was told. Joe’s father became enraged that Joe did not see things the way he did.
- Are forming their own identity. During the years of 12-18, a teenager is trying to establish a sense of who they are. They often try on different personalities or roles of other adults around them and absorb the bits and pieces they like while discarding the rest. For Joe’s father, he viewed this natural stage as an attack. Joe did not want to absorb some of the traits of his father. Since the narcissist views themselves as perfect, this discarding feels like rejection.
- See and vocalize the flaws in their parents. Not only did Joe start to discard parts of his dad’s personality that he found offensive, but he also started to vocalize his father’s flaws. Sometimes he did this to his father’s face which usually resulted in a rage attack from his dad. Other times Joe talked about it with his friends. When his father noticed that Joe’s friends were approaching him differently, his dad lost it. His father saw this as a betrayal because Joe was exposing weakness instead of touting his dad’s success.
- Don’t believe their parents are superior. When Joe was little, he believed that his father knew everything and could do anything. However, as he aged, Joe began to see his father’s limitations. Joe no longer believed that one person was better than another, rather, he believed that everyone deserved to be treated with the same respect. This was starkly different from his dad’s viewpoint who often put others down for not being as successful as he was. Because Joe no longer elevated his dad, his dad became enraged as it questioned the superior narcissistic viewpoint.
- Tend to pick oppositional political, philosophical, or religious views. One of the tell mark traits of a teenager is to intentionally pick oppositional views from their parents. This is done as a form of rebellion but is a necessary step in adopting these views in the end. If a child simply adopts their parent’s views without running it through their own filter, it not really theirs, it is still their parents. As Joe did this, however, his dad saw this as treason. Instead of allowing Joe to decide things for himself, his dad tried to bully Joe into his way of thinking. This only pushed Joe further away and made his oppositional views that much more attractive.
- Refuse to give respect without merit. Teenagers generally don’t respect authority unless they believe that it is deserved. There is nothing wrong with this viewpoint as it encourages independent and creative thinking. When a person in authority treats a teenager with respect, the same is usually returned. After several explosions, Joe no longer believed that his dad deserved his unwavering respect. This angered his dad even more because he demanded to be respected regardless of how he behaved.
- Expect the same treatment, rules, and expectations. One of the characteristics of a narcissist is an unreasonable expectation of automatic compliance. However, rules are for others, not the narcissist. So, Joe was not allowed to cuss, name call, or yell but his dad could. This inequitable behavior resulted in a build-up of resentment between Joe and his father. His father did not see anything wrong with having different rules for himself and Joe. Thus, many arguments ensued.
- See through the mask to the insecurity. At the core of every narcissist is deep-rooted insecurity that drives them to wear a narcissistic façade. Teenagers, in general, are very perceptive and Joe was no exception to this. He could see his father’s insecurity so plainly and would sometimes poke at it just for fun. This was not fun for his dad who would then brutally attack Joe for his remark even to the point of embarrassing Joe in front of friends and family. His dad did this because he feared exposure.
- Actively looking for a way to differentiate from parents. Once again, as part of a normal teenage development process, the teen often looks for ways to be different from their parents, siblings, and extended family. This is an attempt to define themselves as unique individuals. This is healthy. But to Joe’s dad, this was disloyal behavior. Because Joe’s father already viewed himself as perfect, having his son pull away made Joe’s dad feel like he was not good enough. This triggered dad’s deep-rooted insecurity which resulted in even more grandiose cover-up behavior.
- Not afraid to challenge or escalate. Unfortunately, one of the times that Joe challenged his dad resulted in a physical fight between them. Joe’s dad viewed the verbal confrontation as a mutiny to his parenting. Joe, no longer afraid of his dad, stood his ground. It wasn’t too long before they were wrestling each other to the ground. Joe’s dad refused to see Joe as an equal to him in any way, including physical, which is why he felt the need to dominate Joe. This fight destroyed their relationship on many levels.
- Can out selfish the narcissistic parent. Again, one of the tell mark characteristics of a teenager is a selfish attitude. It is a natural occurrence as the teen is trying to assert themselves into the world and find where they can contribute or add value. The selfishness often disappears once schooling is done. In contrast, the narcissist keeps their teenage selfishness through their adulthood. There is perhaps nothing the narcissists resents more than a person being more selfish than themselves. It is an affront to their being.
Fortunately for Joe, his parents were divorced so Joe was able to spend more time at his mother’s house than his father’s. This gave Joe the relieve from his dad that he so badly needed in order to recoup for the next visit. Oftentimes narcissists are willing to put their kids in a boarding school just to avoid having to deal with these teenage years.