parenting a narcissistic child

We have all witnessed the antics of a spoiled brat. These pompous little creatures walk through their days feeling superior and entitled, often while displaying a disturbing lack of compassion for others. Narcissistic children don’t just happen. There are many factors that are said to contribute to a child exhibiting narcissistic traits, some inherent, some environmental….but many due to misguided parenting. Imagine the parents who, when their only desire was to help their child acquire a healthy self-esteem, now have a little terror on their hands. Think the Veruca Salt character in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

Parenting a narcissistic child is serious business. Why? Because the last thing any parent wants is to introduce an adult into the world who has narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), a serious mental health disorder that can leave a long line of suffering victims in its wake. When parents finally acknowledge that their perfect child is actually an enfant terrible there are many steps they can take to correct the course.

About the Narcissistic Child

While all children are self-centered by nature, the usual course of psychological development slowly shifts their frame of reference from an egocentric one toward a more balanced, empathic sensibility. A child with narcissist tendencies typically has a highly vaulted sense of self that goes beyond self-centeredness. The child sees themselves as superior to other children, and will even challenge authority figures for center stage. Some traits of a narcissistic child may include:

  • Lacks a sense of gratitude
  • Has a sense of entitlement
  • Lacks compassion toward others
  • Exhibit bullying behaviors
  • Act out when criticized
  • Blames others for their shortcomings or mistakes
  • Tell lies to elaborate on their achievements, or to deflect accountability for faults
  • Egotistical
  • Intensely competitive and will do what it takes to win

Factors that Contribute to Child Narcissism

Parenting styles, while often well-intended, can be a source of fuel behind narcissism in children. In addition, dysfunctional parenting techniques can also set up the child to develop these unpleasant traits. Sometimes disordered parent pride seeps into the parenting style, such as constant boasting about the child’s superiority in sports or academics. The child may be average in ability, but the parent’s own need for recognition and admiration clouds this reality and they place the child on a pedestal. the Some of the factors associated with child narcissism include:

  • Being over-indulgent parents
  • Controlling, authoritative discipline that insists on perfection and always winning
  • Neglecting or abusing the child
  • Over-valuing the child
  • Excessive criticism of the child
  • Genetic traits

5 Helpful Steps for Parenting a Narcissistic Child

If your child rules the roost, marching around like a mini King Tut, it may be time to rein in the little despot. Here are some tips for parenting a narcissistic child:

  1. Make your praise matter. Lavishing praise on a child for every little act they do only results in a watered down effect. It becomes virtually meaningless to the child, other than bolstering their sense of self to unrealistic levels. Instead, be selective in complimenting the specific effort they indeed excelled at, and give a detailed backup, such as “Great job today on your science fair presentation, Johnny. The exhibit was really persuasive, especially the way you ordered the steps.”
  2. Send a message that you love and accept your child just as they are, defects and all. If a child only feels valued for being perfect in every way, they will acquire a fear of failure and an excessive need to compete and win at all things. Kids need to feel loved unconditionally, and encouraged when things don’t go as hoped. Let the child know you are there for them and be ready to offer positive feedback if they ask how they could do something better.
  3. Emphasize the Golden Rule from the time they are toddlers. Demonstrate this rule, to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” in your own actions so the child grows up seeing this rule in action. The effect of the Golden Rule is the development of empathy and compassion. As the child grows older, point out situations where they may not have adhered to the rule, and give an example of a better response for that situation.
  4. Say no to your children at least as often as you say yes. This means not to indulge their every whim or request, instead be selective in giving them what they ask for. Showering toys and gadgets on them will only result in a spoiled child. Kids who are over indulged grow up to be unappreciative and lazy. It is important for parents to set boundaries for what the child will be permitted to do, such as iPad time, TV time, video game time, what movies they are allowed to see, etc.
  5. Teach your child the value of work. When a child becomes accustomed to having everything just handed to them, a sense of entitlement results. Even young children can gain a sense of accomplishment from doing extra chores in exchange for a special privilege or some allowance. The practice of spending time doing a task or chore builds character and self-confidence that is not given to them, but earned.

Signs of Narcissistic Personality Disorder in a Child

If the child has a more severe from of narcissistic behavior it is called narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). This disorder is recognized when the traits of narcissism cross into destructive or hurtful behaviors and actions, as well as social problems.  Children with NPD may engage in pathological play, do not make eye contact, display opportunistic behaviors, have separation anxiety, find it difficult to maintain friendships or get along at school, and are exploitive of others for their own personal gain. If the child has NPD they should be evaluated and treated by a child psychologist, and family therapy will also be prescribed.

The Treatment Specialist Locates Mental Health Treatment for Children

The Treatment Specialist can assist parents in need of help for parenting a narcissistic child through free mental health locator services. The team of highly experienced specialists can guide parents toward the most appropriate family therapy, individual therapy, or treatment for their child’s unique needs. For more information about our free service, please contact The Treatment Specialist today at (866) 644-7911.


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