How To Prevent Narcissism In A Child? 7 Ways to Make Sure You Are Not Raising a Narcissist
Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a personality disorder marked by a sense of grandiosity, the need for constant attention and admiration, and a lack of empathy.
Narcissism in children is usually characterized by inflated self worth, emotional fragility, and a lack of empathy.
While personality disorders are typically diagnosed at 18 years or older, some children may show traits of narcissism.
This doesn’t mean they’ll go on to develop narcissistic personality disorder and may simply be typical for their developmental stage.
This article contains strategies to make sure you are not raising a narcissist.
Ready? Let’s get started!
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What Is Narcissism?
Most people associate narcissism with excessive self-love and grandiosity, but while narcissism may involve grandiosity, the narcissist self-love is extremely shallow and depends on other people to fuel it.
However, narcissistic hunger for perfect attention and admiration can never be satisfied.
Narcissism is better viewed as a continuum from self-interest to excessive self-absorption and entitlement.
Read more on narcissistic traits, how to spot a narcissist and deal with them: 13 Traits to Help You Spot a Narcissist Early On — and How You Can Defend Yourself Against One
Narcissists are not inherently evil. Sadly, their wounds push them to act in unconscionable and, sometimes, damaging ways. This isn’t to excuse their behavior, but to better understand them and learn how you can avoid raising a narcissist.
Origins Of The Narcissistic Wound
A narcissistic wound, also referred to as “emptiness wound,” is how manifests a parent’s unclear or broken boundaries and failure to give their child a sense of love, respect, worth, and trust.
In this sense, narcissism is a natural result of the response to trauma of emotional deprivation and neglect. (Not having their basic needs met)
As they grow up, these children become hypersensitive to neglect or criticism.
Whenever they feel threatened and in danger of losing their sense of omnipotence or superiority, they become “reduced to size” and open to intolerable emotions of shame and despair.
Losing special treatment from others cases an emotional injury.
The narcissist will try to escape this pain by:
- Desperately seeking alternative sources of admiration and attention
- Manipulating and even hurting other people
- Becoming enraged or depressed
- Numbing their pain using alcohol or drugs
What Is Healthy Parenting?
There is a difference between healthy parenting and overindulgence.
Healthy parenting involves:
1. Nurture which is unconditional love
2. Structure and healthy limits
Overindulgence, on the other hand, involve misguided nurturing and inadequate structuring.
Healthy parenting helps fulfill the child’s basic emotional needs and helps him learn responsibility and the tools he’ll need to cope with the real world.
While for the most part parents are doing the best they can with the tools and knowledge they have, living in a society that rewards narcissism and self-absorption, parents are challenged beyond their capabilities.
How To Avoid Raising Entitled And Overindulged Child?
#1. Don’t Invest More In An Outcome Than Your Child Does
While there is nothing wrong with encouraging your child to do their best, the problem is when we push and send the message that the child has to win at all costs or that his only worthy when he accomplishes things.
When it comes to school grades or sporting events, don’t pressure your child to get more than what he is aiming for.
Parental pressure can increase your child’s risk of stress and affect their performance and well-being in general.
It can also convey the message that grades and achievements are more important than things like empathy, kindness, and other social skills.
What to Do Instead?
The rest of the world is already emphasizing how important achievements are, so it’s more important than ever for the parent to focus on good values and providing support for their child by focusing on solutions.
#2. Allow Little Free Play Time
Every child needs free play time to learn social skills, self-regulation, and different cognitive skills, such as imagination and introspection.
In fact, studies show that children who are overscheduled often feel overwhelmed and pressured, which can cause a number of behavioral issues and emotional challenges. (1)
So allow little free time when scheduling your child’s time.
#3. Be Reasonable About What Is Dangerous And What Is Not
When trying to protect your child, be mindful of your fears – some of them may be yours and not realistic.
This will allow the child to practice reasonable risk-taking skills and become more confident and independent.
So what makes a risk reasonable?
- When the benefits outweigh the risk of the experience
- When the consequences of any potential risks are minor or insignificant
- When the parent realize the risks involved and knows that the child has taken appropriate action to minimize any potential consequences
#4. Allow Your Child To Tolerate Discomfort
Discomfort is a normal, appropriate response to a situation.
Resist the urge to overreact to every negative encounter your child has.
Allowing the child to tolerate a reasonable amount of discomfort will help him learn self-regulation skills that are essential for his well-being.
How to Help Your Child Tolerate Discomfort?
While emotions usually serve a purpose, sometimes we experience anxiety or fear unnecessarily.
Help your child learn that just because she’s feeling nervous about something, doesn’t mean that it’s a bad idea.
Show her the benefit she’ll gain from that experience and encourage her to do it anyway – when it’s safe to do so.
How to Help Your Child Self-Regulate?
Teach your child that his moods don’t have to depend fully on external circumstances. Rather, he can have some control and take steps to improve his mood.
That isn’t to say that he should suppress any negative emotions, but it means that he can take steps to move on from that mood, rather than pouting, complaining for hours, or isolating himself.
Help your child identify steps he can take and activities he can do to calm or cheer himself.
#5. Adjust Your About Child Raising In Light Of Your Child’s Temperament
Every child has his own temperament – his way of approaching the world.
There are five characteristics that defines an individual’s temperament:
- Activity level
- Emotional intensity
- Frustration tolerance
- Reaction to new people
- Reaction to change
This is not something your child chooses or something that you created.
Recognizing patterns in your child’s temperament will help you anticipate your child’s responses to certain situations and adjust your expectation accordingly.
If you know that your child find it difficult to feel comfortable meeting new people, you can help him by spending a few minutes with their teacher until he feels more comfortable.
#6. Help Your Child Learn That There Are Many Paths To Success
Impose our dreams on our children and trying to make them fit into a particular mode, is a setup for failure.
#7. Remember That The Goal Is To Raise Independent Adults
Encourage your child to think for themselves, to respectfully disagree with authority, and to tolerate the critical gaze of his peers. (Furstenberg 2006)
How Narcissistic Personality is Formed?
While the exact cause of narcissistic personality disorder is unknown, there are different childhood developmental, parenting behaviors, and neurobiological factors that may contribute to the development of the disorder:
- Overindulgence by parents.
- Continuous praise by parents for perceived looks or talents.
- Excessive admiration coupled with lack of realistic feedback.
- Unpredictable or unreliable caregiving.
- Severe emotional abuse.
- Manipulative behaviors learned from parents
- Deficits in the development of right brain activity.
Can Narcissism Be Healthy?
Healthy narcissism is about having a healthy sense of entitlement and self-regard – the right to want to have your basic needs met.
These needs may include; getting support, receiving respect, feeling special and unique, being celebrated and acknowledged, etc.
Healthy narcissism is the core element of healthy self-esteem and healthy relationships.
In pathological narcissism, however, entitlement is associated with boastful grandiosity that modulates underlying feelings of inferiority, shame, and rage.
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- Portions of this article were adapted from the book The object of my affection is in my reflection, © 2008 by Rokelle Lerner. All rights reserved.