Narcissism. We all have a general idea of what it is and how narcissistic individuals impact those around them. Maybe you have experienced a narcissist, or have heard stories from friends or family, but it is clear that they can be more than a bit unpleasant.
“Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of ultra confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.” (source)
Narcissism can be a genetic trait, but, more often than not, it is developed overtime in relation to a specific parenting style.
Researchers wanted to know what parenting styles were more likely to create a narcissistic personality, so they surveyed 565 children ages 7 to 11. They also interviewed their parents (415 mothers and 290 fathers).
Their results showed that parents who praise their children excessively, tell them they are superior to others, and deserve special treatment are more likely to raise a narcissistic child who may grow up to be a narcissistic adult. This is especially true for children between the ages of 7 and 11.
Researchers stated in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences:
“When children are seen by their parents as being more special and more entitled than other children, they may internalize the view that they are superior individuals, a view that is at the core of narcissism. But when children are treated by their parents with affection and appreciation, they may internalize the view that they are valuable individuals, a view that is at the core of self-esteem.”
Basically, it is important to show affection, but not teach your children that they have your affection because they are better than everyone else. It is also important to remember that narcissism may develop because of a child’s need to protect an insecurity.
There are ways to help a child feel good about themselves without encouraging narcissistic tendencies. Here are some tips!
- Teach children to connect not impress. Make sure to tell your child you love spending time with him or her because you love him or her, not because of what the child can do. Your child will mimic this in future relationships.
- Teach Empathy. Children need to understand that their actions can hurt another person. By teaching your child to be aware of other’s emotions or feelings, you are giving them social skills that will stay with them into adulthood.
- Encourage friendships. It is important to allow your children to build friendships. Friends will tell them the truth and teach them that they do not need to be perfect to be liked. These times are also ideal for teaching your child how their actions affect others.
- Be gentle. At their root, most narcissists, and especially narcissistic children, have low self-esteem. Discipline is important, but do it with respect and care. Remind them that it is okay to make mistakes, but it is important to apologize. They know they did something wrong. Teach them how to make it right.