Many people either suffer from narcissism or know someone who does, which can have a negative impact on everyone around them. While most people associate this mental disorder with adults, there are children who suffer from it as well. Many of these children became known as bullies and can make life miserable for the children around them. Understanding how to tell if your child is narcissistic and why they have developed these tendencies can help you find ways to alter their behavior and decrease the risk they will bully someone else.
What Is Narcissism?
The first step in the process is to define narcissism. When you understand the definition of narcissism, you will be able to more easily identify whether your child is suffering from this condition and find ways to help him overcome the challenges and change his focus. According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, the narcissism definition is the same as that of egoism, which is “excessive concern for oneself with or without exaggerated feelings of self-importance.” For many children who are suffering from narcissistic tendencies, their self centered attitude can play a dramatic role in how they treat other people and what they expect out of life.
A Strong Sense of Entitlement
The number of children and teenagers who have a high sense of entitlement has been increasing. there are many reasons for this fact. However, this doesn’t mean most children who feel entitled are narcissistic. While they may fit the definition of narcissism, they may not receive an actual diagnosis. This doesn’t make dealing with their behavior any easier, though. In fact, many parents still find it extremely difficult to help a child with narcissism to overcome their behaviors and treat others with the respect they deserve.
A sense of entitlement is what causes children and teenagers to feel like they are owed everything they want. This false sense that everyone owes them can cause them to be disrespectful and creates a poor work ethic. In some cases, this behavior is triggered by the way they are raised, which is why parents need to be careful about how they handle situations. Even in their own lives, how adults act often plays out in how their children act. For this reason, if you notice narcissistic tendencies in your child, it may be time to look at how you handle life’s challenges.
How to Tell If Your Child May Be Narcissistic
No one wants to think their child may have narcissism and may only think of themselves, but it’s important to know what to look for. If you don’t identify narcissism in your child early enough to fix it, you are setting your child up for a lifetime of difficulties. To help you determine if you should seek professional help to deal with narcissistic tendencies, watch for the following signs:
- Only thinks about or talks about himself
- Craves attention and admiration from others
- Believes he’s special and above everyone else
- Exaggerates his abilities and achievements
- Experiences fast, severe mood swings
- Sets unrealistic goals that can’t be accomplished
- Strives to win at all costs
- Doesn’t consider other people’s feelings
- Fantasizes about success, power and money
While none of these behaviors are concerning on their own and in moderation, when these behaviors define your child and how he acts at all times, it can become a serious issue. Children need to learn how to strive for their own goals while taking other people into account. Taking a self centered approach to life won’t provide the satisfaction individuals crave in their accomplishments. Narcissism can also cause serious strain on relationships, particularly romantic relationships, friendships and family relations.
One of the most important things to remember if you think your child may be a narcissist is that just because someone exhibits the behaviors of narcissism doesn’t mean there is an actual mental disorder in place. Some children are naturally competitive or they may feel insecure and exhibit these behaviors as a defense tactic to help them feel better about themselves. If there is no underlying psychological disorder, it’s up to you to help your child overcome these difficulties.
What Causes Narcissism?
There have been many studies to determine the cause of narcissism, and for the most part, these studies have led to theories, but no concrete causes. For instance, some studies have linked selfies and narcissism together. Other suggested causes can include the way individuals handle stress, how parents handle achievements when the child is young and even whether children were ignored as children. This indicates there is a delicate balance for parents between being nurturing and supportive to help children grow up feeling loved and over doing it to the point the child develops an overinflated sense of self importance. The bottom line is there is no concrete cause so it’s important for parents to do what they can to prevent it and provide assistance if the behavior does develop.
What Can You Do to Help?
If your child is exhibiting the behaviors of narcissism, there are steps you can take as a parent to help change their viewpoint and the behaviors that result. It’s important to help your child see that his behaviors not only have a negative effect on the people around him, but they also can lead to trouble in their own lives as well. Few people want to expend the time and energy on someone who only thinks of himself and doesn’t care if he hurts other people along the way to getting what he wants. In the eyes of a true narcissist, nothing is ever their fault.
Thankfully, there are things you can do to help your child turn his life around and drop his narcissistic tendencies. The following are some tips to help your child dealing with narcissism:
- Set Clear Expectations — Your child needs to know what is expected of him, whether it relates to chores or school work or anything in between. This is especially important during times of conflict to give your child a sense of security.
- Don’t Fight Back — Children with narcissism behaviors want you to fight back because it helps them feel important. Instead of arguing back, remove yourself from the situation until you are calm until you can respond in a calm manner. Set consequences and stick to them.
- Train Your Child How to React — If your child reacted to a specific situation in a narcissistic way, watch out for similar situations and prep your child ahead of time. Letting him know what is coming and how you expect him to act will help mold his behaviors.
- Don’t Try to Be His Friend — You may want your child to like you, but that’s not your job. Instead of trying to be his friend, be consistent in your rules and their consequences. Hold your child responsible for his actions so he can learn responsibility.
- Instill Work Ethic — It’s hard to build feelings of entitlement when you already know you have to work for what you have. Make your child earn what he wants instead of just giving it to him.
- Use Positive Reinforcement — It’s easy to give your child attention when he does something bad, but you can help so much more by praising and drawing attention to his good behaviors. When children are rewarded for good behavior, they are more likely to repeat it.
Narcissism can be extremely difficult for everyone involved. As parents, it can be difficult to accept your child may be exhibiting narcissistic behaviors. Thankfully, it’s in your hands to help your child overcome the behaviors. While professional help may be necessary in serious cases, especially where mental illness may be involved, many cases can be resolved with careful parenting decisions and positive reinforcement.