Opinion: Narcissistic Parents Teach Toxic Masculinity

Walter Rhein

Image by Walter Rhein

One thing I remember from my childhood is the way my narcissistic father treated my mother and my sister. In his mind, he treated everybody the same. The truth is that his behavior was an example of toxic masculinity.

My father assumed that women weren’t capable of understanding mathematics or electronics. He disregarded any evidence that suggested he might be wrong.

My father’s narcissism also led him to insist he defended women’s rights. It frustrated me when he made ridiculous accusations.

On one occasion, my sister needed to program the video cassette recorder. She wanted to record a program that came on after bedtime.

I told her that she should program the recorder herself. My father became furious with me.

“You can’t tell her to program the recorder,” he said. “That’s sexist. You know that a girl doesn’t know how to do that.”

It was impossible to respond to my father in moments like these. I knew he was wrong. My sister could have programmed the recorder if she had tried.

My father’s behavior taught my sister that there were things she couldn’t do. His authority as a parent meant she was more inclined to listen to him than me.

The result was that my father made a big show of programming the recorder for my sister. He made my sister and I watch him, but he didn’t explain how to do it.

The whole time he programmed the recorder, he kept looking over at me as if to accuse me of being sexist.

My experience growing up with a narcissistic father means that I have a lot of memories like this. My father would use his parental authority to create a situation in which he taught a toxic lesson.

Today, I am the father of two girls. Whenever I fix something around the house, I make sure that one or both of them is there to help.

Parents can help their children save a lot of money by teaching them basic skills like how to fix a leaky faucet. There’s no reason to think that anyone can’t learn these things. Operating an electronic device, or simple household repairs are basic.

The worst part about my father was that he taught toxic masculinity even as he believed he taught equality. I tried to discuss the matter with him at a later date but he only laughed at me and accused me of being sexist again.

The problem with narcissistic parents is that their behavior is self-destructive. My narcissistic father made it clear he didn’t respect my opinion on anything. He mocked me whenever I had a difference of opinion.

Eventually, I learned that it was a waste of time to try and talk to him. Why should I talk to somebody who treats me with disrespect?

My narcissistic father’s pattern of behavior is unlikely to change. He can’t maintain close relationships. Nobody can stand to be around him. He feels as if he is a victim. The truth is he needs to recognize his narcissism and toxic masculinity.

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Walter Rhein is an author with Perseid Press. He also does a weekly column for The Writing Cooperative on Medium.

Chippewa Falls, WI

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