As you become an adult, you’re more likely to recognize the signs of a toxic father. While these things may have been prevalent throughout childhood, it sometimes takes independence to show you the issues.
If you have a toxic father, you’ve likely questioned some aspects of your upbringing. While no one experiences a perfect childhood, you might be healing from trauma or having current signs of going through it.
Recognizing the signs of a toxic father can help you heal from the situation. It can also help you avoid repeating the past with your kids. You don’t have to let these experiences with your father define your life. Recognizing them is the first step in learning how to deal with them.
NOTE: We acknowledge that mothers may also exhibit harmful behavior; we address the topic of toxic mothers in a companion article.
Ten Signs of a Toxic Father
No one is perfect, but having a toxic father can interfere with your life. Identifying the signs can help you find ways to handle them.
1 – He’s a Narcissist
Narcissistic fathers are incredibly toxic, often behaving as everything revolves around them. He’ll make you feel like his needs are more important than yours, expecting you to drop everything to be there.
Some of the signs of a narcissistic father include the following:
- too much or too little communication
- lack of warmth and care for his children
- being hurtful regarding your decisions
- taking over discussions
- making you question your reality
- mistreating others and blaming them for it
- love bombing
How to deal: Seek professional help.
If you grew up with a controlling father, it takes a toll on your mental health. The issues stay with you into adulthood, affecting other relationships, including with your husband and in-laws. Seeking help from a professional therapist can help you heal and navigate the situation positively.
2 – He Needs Excessive Praise and Admiration but Doesn’t Give It in Return
A parent who constantly expects you to praise and admire them is often toxic. If you don’t do it, they might become angry or react with attention-seeking behaviors. They also don’t give you praise or admiration in return, so it’s a one-sided situation.
How to deal: Don’t live your life to please him.
If a parent always wants praise, you’ll desire it from them, too. However, living life to please your father will only make you unhappy and unfulfilled. Stay on your path and know that you don’t need his praise from him while following your dreams.
3 – He Compares You to Your Siblings
Having siblings is excellent, but it doesn’t feel good when your parents constantly compare you to them. You and your siblings are different, so expecting you to be like them is unfair.
You’ll likely feel attacked, and it can lead to insecurity when he tells you they’re better. It can also result in your father pitting you and your sibling against one another.
How to deal: Practice forgiveness.
Your father comparing you to your siblings can create resentment. Studies show that resentment can contribute to high blood pressure, increased heart rate, and an overactive nervous system.
On the other hand, practicing forgiveness can improve your health and lower stress. Resenting your dad won’t help either of you, but forgiving him for the comparisons and hurtful words can.
4 – He’s Disrespectful
A disrespectful father will make you feel you can never achieve his demands. He’ll make you feel unworthy and make comments that demean you.
A father like this won’t care how his behavior makes you feel because his goal is to diminish your self-esteem. He’ll also deny it but won’t try to change his behavior. Sometimes he’ll tell you that you imagined things and your feelings are invalid.
How to deal: Acknowledge your feelings and know they’re valid.
Your father might want you to think your feelings are invalid to avoid admitting he hurt you. However, your feelings and experiences are valid, and acknowledging them can help. Your emotions are not wrong, and you deserve to have them recognized, even if only by yourself.
5 – He Misuses Substances
Substance abuse is a sign of a toxic parent because it interferes with their personality and mindset. It often affects their ability to parent and manage other relationships. If you don’t recognize and handle the issue effectively, it could lead to a cycle where you take on substance abuse as a coping mechanism.
How to deal: Anticipate the situation and have a plan.
If your father misuses substances, you can anticipate it before seeing him. It might help to take a positive person in your life with you to help buffer the interaction.
You can prepare and ask your support person to step in if necessary. Make sure the person knows what you want or need from them, and don’t be afraid to leave if things get out of control.
6 – His Love is Conditional
Toxic fathers only show love when the child does what he wants them to. His approval and love only come when you fit his standards, often making you feel like you can’t be yourself.
Conditional love can also cause you to strive for acceptance and praise, interfering with your happiness and fulfillment. You’ll do things you don’t want to or head down a different path than your dreams to appease him.
How to deal: Surround yourself with loving and supportive people.
It can be hurtful when a parent only loves you when it’s convenient for them or if you meet their standards. However, it doesn’t mean you won’t have people who love you unconditionally. Finding a support system that loves you and wants you happy is one of the best ways you can deal with your toxic father.
7 – He Won’t Discuss Conflict
When your father gives you the silent treatment, he’s showing that he’s unwilling to discuss issues. With many healthy ways to communicate, he doesn’t have to resort to not discussing it entirely. It shows that he’s using this method to manipulate and punish you for not agreeing with him.
How to deal: Manage tour expectations and control your reactions.
You already know your father doesn’t discuss conflict, so it’s best to expect it. Rather than getting disappointed or lashing out when he won’t talk, you can practice acceptance.
It helps you control your reactions, preventing you from becoming even more upset. You’ll also have an easier time overcoming the situation when you know what to expect and maintain control of your emotions.
8 – He is Controlling and Wants You to Remain Dependent on Him
Most parents celebrate when their child becomes independent, but a toxic father won’t. He’ll do what he can to keep you dependent on him, often blocking your progression. It’s his way of maintaining dominance and control over you.
Dealing with a controlling father who wants you to stay dependent is essential. Experts indicate that having controlling parents make you more likely to experience depression and life dissatisfaction.
How to deal: Set and implement boundaries.
Children of toxic parents must create boundaries to prevent mistreatment and control. Rather than allowing him to control your life, you must gain and maintain your independence.
Your boundaries should involve telling him he can’t interfere with any aspect of your progress. Tell him what he can expect if he tries to cross the line, and follow through so he knows you won’t accept that behavior anymore.
9 – He Has Violent Outbursts and Blames Others
A toxic father regularly has violent outbursts, screaming at those around him. Afterward, he’ll blame someone else for his reaction, saying it wouldn’t have happened if they had behaved differently.
His outbursts are often unpredictable, although you might be able to identify some triggers. You’ll notice dramatic, hostile, aggressive, and cruel treatment from him when he’s upset or angry.
How to deal: Cut off contact.
This behavior is incredibly harmful, and it will continually affect your well-being. Cutting ties and releasing a family member might seem drastic, but you must take care of yourself and do what’s best for you. It can be challenging for someone to change this behavior, so protecting yourself by walking away is sometimes the best option.
10 – He Threatens You or Creates Fear
If your father threatens you, it’s a sure sign of a toxic parent. He’ll use threats and punishment to maintain control over your life. It often makes you want to engage in the behavior he prohibits, having the opposite effect of what he intended.
You might feel like you must walk on eggshells around him, indicating that he causes tension. It leads to fearing his threats and reactions, often leaving you afraid to say or do anything. The frequent hyper-vigilant state can last a lifetime and negatively affect other areas of your life.
How to deal: Live life on your terms.
While he’s attempting to force you to do what he wants, remember it’s essential to do what you want. This life is yours, and your father’s threats shouldn’t push you down any other path.
Final Thoughts on Signs That Reveal a Toxic Father
A toxic father can cause emotional and psychological damage to his children. Finding ways to handle him can make a difference in your life. Sometimes it requires getting professional help to heal from the trauma.
Your well-being is essential, and your father shouldn’t be the one negatively impacting it. You can find happiness and fulfillment despite his behavior. Don’t lose hope or let him continually mistreat you.