What Kind Of Parenting Style Makes A Man Arrogant?

And how do I ensure that I don’t raise a self-absorbed child?

father holding his young son Rawpixel.com / Shutterstock

Many women married to narcissistic (or at least self-involved) men wonder about two things:

  1. How did he get this way?
  2. How do I ensure that I don’t raise a child who is equally self-absorbed?

RELATED: Do Not Marry An Emotionally Unavailable Man: He Won’t Get Better — But You Will

Here is the roadmap to understanding your arrogant male partner while also increasing your chances of raising a more empathic son:

There are generally two types of childhoods that yield a self-absorbed man.


The first is when his parents, especially his mother (since it is more common for parents to idealize a child who is not their gender, in my clinical experience) put him on a pedestal throughout his childhood.

It is easy to see how this manifests in arrogance in adulthood; the man simply believes what he was told as a child, and assumes that everyone he encounters thinks he is wonderful in every way. He also believes he is entitled to the same sort of worshipful treatment he received as a boy, which can lead to problems with partners in adulthood who want him to be able to reciprocally meet their needs.


The second type of childhood that is implicated in your husband’s self-centeredness is a sadder case where he was emotionally or physically abused or neglected.

Since nobody was looking out for his needs, he developed a very adaptive ability to look out for #1 at all costs. Unfortunately, while this behavior was very healthy when he was a child, in that it protected him and gave him some confidence, it usually ends up hurting the partners he is with as an adult man.

Some men with this background become a self-made man. This man is often unable to be unconditionally loving toward a partner because true intimacy and unconditional love require trust and vulnerability, of which he has very little.

A third pathway to becoming arrogant or self-involved is a combination of the two parenting styles discussed above.


This is when a man’s needs were neglected most of the time in childhood, but when he was finally paid attention to, he was idealized.

Picture a depressed or alcoholic mother who is basically emotionally absent, but when she tunes in, it is to praise her son for getting good grades or doing well at sports. This child has no real sense of his internal value and assumes that he must continue to be conventionally high achieving throughout his life in order to be loved or given any attention.

RELATED: Why Your "Confident" Kid Is Actually Arrogant (Mine Was Too)

You may ask whether all of these same reasons explain arrogant women.

There is certainly a lot of overlap, but there are also key differences. Most of these have to do with gender roles in our society.


It is harder to be an overtly arrogant woman in society than an overtly arrogant man; men are more frequently rewarded for this “confident” or “alpha” behavior. Women who are self-involved are more often covertly narcissistic or self-absorbed, asking what others feel and think even if they don’t care.

Despite the difference in outward behavior, their childhood pathways to self-involvement are much the same.

How do you avoid raising someone who thinks they walk on water?

Basically by treating them with compassion and empathy, while not inflating their self-worth in disingenuous ways or focusing all your praise on their achievements. If you want your son to feel he is intrinsically good and deserving of love, show him love.


The only way for an adult to know how to unconditionally love a partner one day is to have the muscle memory of being unconditionally loved… or to do a lot of internal work, with or without a therapist.

Note that if you are frequently irritated with your son for "being just like" your husband, individual therapy can help you work through these feelings so you don’t conflate your son and husband and you are able to be a more present and loving mother.

RELATED: 6 Perfect Comebacks For Dealing With Arrogant People

What specific things should you say to your son?

For instance, instead of "You’re the best player on the field!" you would say "I loved when you assisted your teammate there." 


Reinforce your son’s kindness and empathy rather than only his innate talent or even his hard work.

And don’t over-praise him; this can make children anxious as well as self-absorbed. Be objective and give him the gift of honesty.

For example, if your son asks you for feedback on his performance, give him honest input while still being kind.


"That’s an awesome drawing!" when he took two seconds to draw it is dishonest. "I like the idea but I think it would be better with some more effort" would be honest and still perfectly nice. Read more on what I think about fake praise here.

If this post resonated with you, couples counseling is often very useful in helping self-absorbed partners learn to cultivate empathy and perspective-taking (even narcissists).

Try asking your husband to join you; most men like this pride themselves on trying anything once, so they may be more amenable than you think. And keep fighting the good fight to raise empathic and kind children. Till we meet again, I remain, The Blogapist Who Also Refers You To This Reading List On Narcissists.

RELATED: 3 Toxic Parenting Styles That Turn Kids Into Narcissists


Dr. Samantha Rodman Whiten, aka Dr. Psych Mom, is a clinical psychologist in private practice and the founder of DrPsychMom. She works with adults and couples in her group practice Best Life Behavioral Health.