How to Recognize Your Child’s Narcissistic Tendencies and What to Do About It

Characterizing a person, especially a child, as narcissistic is a serious matter. With insights from experts, we delve into how to recognize your child’s narcissistic tendencies, providing parents with crucial knowledge about this complex personality trait.

If you have ever had a narcissist as a friend, lover, or co-parent, you are already familiar with the condition’s characteristics. True narcissists place their own wants above those of others, which most often manifests as boundary-pushing or agreement-breaking. They also lack empathy and respond with hostility, defensiveness, or criticism. Once you realize that these actions may indicate narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), it may be simpler to discover remedies.

If you have ever pondered whether your child displays narcissistic traits, the problem becomes more challenging. This is due to the fact that “self-centeredness, which is frequently associated with narcissism, is actually a natural and essential aspect of the maturation process” in children, according to licensed marriage and family therapist and owner of Renewed Relationships Counseling Group Stephanie Macadaan of California.

True narcissism is uncommon, and children cannot be diagnosed with NPD until they are older; your child may exhibit narcissistic symptoms as they mature. Here is how you can distinguish between normal and abnormal narcissism in youngsters.

How Narcissistic Traits Differ from Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D., a certified clinical psychologist and relationship expert in Los Angeles, notes, “We all have narcissistic personality traits that contribute to our self-esteem and self-worth.” “The difference with NPD is that the individual has a persistent manner of feeling wounded, wronged, and victimized and cannot tolerate your accomplishment in comparison to their own. They do this to such an extreme that they are constantly upset and unable to maintain relationships that require giving and receiving. They are privileged and have no shame about it.”

However, children and adolescents cannot be diagnosed with NPD. Dan Peter of The Parent Footprint with Dr. Dan explains that this is because their personality is still developing, and there are stages of growth that include a concentration on oneself and one’s needs. “Many children and adolescents go through phases of being self-absorbed, having an inflated feeling of confidence or self-worth, and lacking empathy for others due to their preoccupation with satisfying their own wants,” he says.

According to Macadaan, narcissistic tendencies such as these are actually rather frequent among children.

How to Determine Whether Your Child’s Behaviors Are Typical

There is a chance that your child’s narcissistic actions are odd or worrisome. President of The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, Michele Nealon, Psy.D., asserts that while all children seek attention from those around them and do so in varied ways depending on their developmental stage, children exhibiting narcissistic behavior appear to take this a step further.

A youngster with narcissistic characteristics, according to Dr. Nealon, may also:

  • Monopolize discussions.
  • Devalue others.
  • They exaggerate their successes and accomplishments and minimize those of those around them.
  • Are less capable of empathizing with others.
  • Be prone to temper tantrums and angry when they are denied their desires.
  • They challenge individuals in positions of authority when things do not go their way.

However, many of these behaviors are natural for children and adolescents during particular periods of development. Dr. Nealon acknowledges, “Children’s behavioral patterns vary as they progress through the many phases of development.” “Because of this, it’s important for parents to avoid extrapolating too much from a child’s behavior at any given stage of development.”

Complicating matters further: What may look out of the norm at one period of growth can be entirely usual and expected at another level, adds Dr. Nealon. “Temporary narcissistic behavior may come from a child’s reaction to recent development changes, drugs, or medical procedures,” she explains. In addition, a child’s conduct may appear to alter due to family or school-related stress.

To distinguish what is normal from what is not, Dr. Peters suggests considering the following:

  • The youngster’s age.
  • The child’s maturity.
  • Patterns of conduct
  • Consequences of their actions on relationships throughout time.

“Parents should watch for patterns of the aforementioned actions that are excessive, persistent, and harmful to social and familial ties,” he recommends. Dr. Peters also suggests paying attention to a child’s pronounced lack of insight and knowledge of their actions and excessive attribution of blame to others.

What To Do If You Believe Your Child’s Behavior Is Not Typical

“Early intervention for any disorder, including narcissistic behaviors, offers the best chance for improvement,” said Dr. Peters. Consider the following actions if you believe your child’s behaviors are troublesome or may indicate a narcissistic personality disorder in the future.

Discuss with your youngster how their actions affect others.

Encourage your child to comprehend their actions’ effect on others, cultivate empathy, and feel comfortable in the world without relying on others to supply their needs. Dr. Peters explains that this will add to their ability to form healthy relationships and express love and affection.

Work on developing your emotional self-awareness.

“The foundation of narcissism is frequently an inability to believe that one’s caretakers are attuned to and capable of meeting one’s needs,” explains Macadaan. In light of this, she advises parents to be aware of and monitor family dynamics that may cause disconnection.

Dr. Peters concurs, saying that understanding your own emotions and actions is the best thing you can do for your own health and the health of your child. He encourages you to ask questions like:

  • How do I treat others?
  • “How do I perceive myself?”
  • “How are my interpersonal relationships?”
  • “How can I get my needs met?”

Dr. Peters states, “Parents who are more conscious of themselves are better able to control their behavior and behaviors and set an example for their children.”

Contact a mental health professional.

If you are concerned about your child’s conduct, especially if there is a history of narcissism in your family, Dr. Peters advises you to seek assistance from a mental health care provider who specializes in children and adolescents. “It is vital to determine if your child is experiencing a developmental period and/or displaying a pattern of problematic behaviors that could benefit from treatment,” he says.

Macadaan states that assistance is possible if narcissistic behaviors feel excessive and continuous over an extended period of time. “Today, there is far more information and comprehension of hazardous behaviors,” she says. Utilizing family counseling or obtaining individual support for the parents and child can bring respite and facilitate improvements that lead to greater connection and comprehension.

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