Text by Corina Tan
Narcissism gets thrown around a lot. It is often used to describe someone who seems excessively vain or full of themselves. In psychological terms, this description is actually referred to as Narcissistic Personality Disorder.It is an idealised image of grandiosity that a person creates of themselves in order to avoid deep feelings of insecurity.
The disorder itself involves a pattern of self-centred, arrogant thinking and behaviour. With a constant need for admiration, coupled with a lack of empathy and consideration for other people. People with this personality disorder are extremely resistant and sensitive to criticism which they view as personal attacks.
The development of this disorder has been linked to genetics. But it has also been attributed to parent-child relationships. Parents who overly adore or overly criticise their children create an extreme dimension that rarely matches the child’s actual experiences or achievements.
Here are things that parents do that may contribute to Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) in their children:
- They overvalue their child
There is nothing wrong with loving or cherishing your child. But parents who react in extreme proportions cause their children to learn that they are special and entitled to praise every time they complete even the most mundane task. There are also parents who repeat the mantra that their child is cuter, smarter and better than other children. When you teach your child that they are superior to everyone else and deserve special treatment, you are setting a precedent that isn’t helpful in real life. Researchers discovered that children who believe they were more special than other children had higher rates of narcissism.
They lack warmth
Children look to their parents for love and affection. So when they are met with a cold or callous attitude their development is compromised. Emotional neglect is heavily tied to narcissism. So don’t forget to give your child the attention they deserve and reciprocate love whenever they seek it from you.
They over-indulge their child
If you are truly interested in the well-being of your child, it is best not to give them whatever they want in order to make them happy. Children who are indulged and given their every desire growing up will believe that they are entitled to everything they want, and this is associated with narcissism.
They don’t delay gratification
When children learn early in life that they do not need to work hard to earn anything. And are given praise simply for existing, smiling, or laughing, they soon learn that they are entitled to things even when they don’t earn them. Accolades that come easily and without any struggle are a recipe for extreme entitlement.
They don’t have boundaries
Creating a system of organised rules and a pattern or schedule for when the right time is to do things, will help guide them in growing within a certain set of boundaries which shape their personality and character. There is a time to wake up, a time for brushing your teeth, a time to have meals. A time for a nap, time for play, time to wash up, time for dinner and time for bed. Creating schedules with your child, helping them navigate through their day, following the guided time allocated and achieving daily goals are all associated with living life within expected boundaries.
When they want things beyond these boundaries, like ice cream before a meal, or going to bed an hour later. Parents need to be brave enough to say no and to start doing so even from a very early age. To make excuses and allow children so much leeway in their early years will create a pattern of indulgence that children will remember and carry with them into adulthood.
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They overlook emotional management
Characteristics of a narcissistic child include aggression and poor emotional management. Parents need to be able to guide their child through their emotions and teach them how to manage them productively and positively. Without this structure, children begin to vent through aggression and other unhealthy ways. In order to do this, parents cannot outsource such a fundamental thing to the nanny or the maid. Spending time with your children in order to be there when they have meltdowns and guide them through how to manage their feelings will help them grow into healthy adults.
They mistake happiness for goodness
Every parent wishes for their children to be happy, but sometimes this isn’t possible. Life itself is full of ups and downs and teaching them how to handle disappointments is part of life. So instead of focusing on keeping them happy, parents need to focus on teaching their children to be good. Goodness is something that exists regardless of the outcome of any situation. Good characteristics of a person shine through during the toughest time, when most people tend to complain, whine and get upset. If a child is taught how to manage difficulties and have a good approach to adversity and challenges, they will be better people in those trying situations. Alternatively, if the focus is solely on being happy, it will be akin to encouraging deceptive and selfish traits instead.
They mistake wants for needs
Children develop quickly and are much smarter than we give them credit for. They are able to ask for things that they want from a very young age, but not everything they ask for is really needed. A 5-year-old may know how to ask for a phone, and you may think it’s cute. But do they need it and should they have it? It is a parent’s job to navigate between the two and discern want is needed and what could be problematic.
Delayed gratification helps children learn the value of resilience and have a growth mindset. It helps them understand that there is a time and place for everything. And to accept that many times what they want is not the same as what they need. They will soon learn that what they really need is already given and sufficient to survive and thrive. but what they want, they need to work hard for and wait for the appropriate time when good work merits a reward.