Do you suspect that you are raising a narcissistic child? At that age, there is hope. As a parent, you have a lot of ways to regulate this trait and guide your child towards empathy. Children are at a teachable stage where they form new habits with ease.
If you know of a narcissistic spouse, sibling, kin, or friend, chances are this person has had these traits since childhood. A narcissistic child emotionally abuses or manipulates others innocently and gets away with it into adulthood. Unfortunately, this mental disorder grows tough to tame in adulthood. In addition, this now narcissistic parent may pass on this habit to their children.
This explains why most researchers and child psychologists avoid labeling any child as a narcissist. They argue that a child’s personality will continue developing until their mid-20s. Hence, a child who behaves entitled will not necessarily turn into an adult narcissist, and so forth.
So, this guide will help you identify narcissistic children and give you tips on positive parenting. But before I get there, let me help you understand what we mean by a narcissistic child and the key character traits.
Who is a Narcissistic Child?
Narcissism is a personality disorder whereby the individual has a yearning for control. They manipulate others to achieve their selfish goals. In other words, this person always targets another person with emotional needs, to make them their victim. Consequently, the narcissist gets nourishment from the attention and respect they get from the victim.
Usually, most ties with a narcissist are superficial and lack any empathy. The narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) often comes with substance abuse, eating or bipolar troubles, and other psychiatric disorders that hinder its treatment.
Child neglect, trauma, or unnecessary appraisals (over-pampering) are some of the reasons that trigger narcissistic habits in kids. This child looks up to others to fulfill the emotional void they have.
For example, a child who feels not accepted as they are by the parents will have a constant need for warmth and approval. In turn, the child becomes self-centered, to the point of hurting other kids.
5 Signs/Symptoms of a Narcissistic Child
#1: Sense of Entitlement/Denying Dependence
All kids naturally look up to adults for admiration and dependence. They get age-appropriate attention and will acknowledge this care. More so, kids value correction and will be grateful for it.
However, narcissistic children deny that they are dependent on anyone. Rather, they have an entitled view to any nurturing they receive from the adults. And, they will neither return this attention nor accept correction.
#2: Constant Need for Attention
A narcissistic child feels stably loved. They feel that they get conditional love that only comes when they succeed. This scenario is quite common in competitive families where kids are rewarded for the highest achievements only.
For example, the child may get praise and notice only when they become top for their science fair contest. And, when the child scores an “A” in mathematics, the parent may ask for an “A+”. This constant pressure to perform leaves the child looking for attention and approval from the parents, siblings, and peers.
#3: Lack of Empathy
Since a narcissistic child has a constant need for attention, the child struggles to relate to others. This child never sees the other person’s point of view, hence, grapples with closeness. In turn, a narcissistic child has limited social interactions. This kid is the one who always feels out of place in a team or a crowd. The retreat may lead to anxiety and depression, triggering self-destructive habits.
#4: Breaking Boundaries
Does your child break the rules? See, if a narcissistic child knows that misbehaving will get them what they want, they will constantly break rules at home and school. Think of instances when kids get away with whining over nothing. Or, a parent who buys toys for a child throwing fits at Walmart just to make them stop screaming. The child simply discovered that mischief works.
#5: Impulsive Behavior
A narcissistic child acts without any thought or whim. For example, they are the first to interrupt you when talking, cut queues at school, blurt out things, and take random risks. This child has low self-control. More so, they may get on the defensive if they sense you treat them, not the behavior, as the problem.
Tips and Recommendations to Avoid Raising Narcissists
#1: Teach Empathy and Compassion
Children can switch from being self-centered to becoming empathetic as per your guidance. Here, you can show empathy and compassion by creating the right conditions at home that sustain empathy.
For example, do random acts of kindness, thank your kids for doing their best, and let them know that it is okay to make a mistake while learning. Next, volunteer at a nearby homeless shelter; adopt a pet and read stories and books that teach about empathy and kindness.
#2: Encourage them to Pursue Their Passions
Most narcissistic children are born creative. They know what they want and will use those around them to get it. Use this drive to guide your child into pursuing their passions as early as possible. This approach helps the child stay busy instead of lonely away from the peers. Plus, they feel wanted and valued as a special member of the family.
#3: Nurture Responsible Behaviors
Finally, counter the impulsive behaviors in narcissistic children by encouraging responsibility. For example, let the child know that every action has a repercussion. It will make them think before engaging in unnecessary risks.
- Reward them for being patient
- Walk the talk
- Practice effective listening
- Get down to the child’s level
- Strive to keep your promises
- Know which battles to pick with the child
Children can outgrow their narcissistic tendencies. They do so with the help of parents and their peers, using course-correction strategies. If you fear that you are raising a narcissistic child, start by taking the personality test. Then, examine the child’s lifestyle to pick out any abuse, neglect, or over-pampering that could be triggering the behavior. Finally, counter it with passion, compassion, and responsibility.
Children learn fast. They adapt to the home environment you create. With the right guidance, you can turn any narcissistic child into an empathetic one.