Narcissism in Children – Causes, Signs and Treatment

Narcissism in Children

Some children suffer from extreme narcissism, where they refuse to see, reason and think they can do no wrong since they consider themselves to be the best. They may have a narcissistic personality disorder which, if not addressed early, can cause them to harm people in the future. Let’s see how parents can handle children with this disorder.

What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) happens when a person has an extreme love for oneself, admiration and importance of their own desires, requirements, and well-being over anything else. It equates to having an unhealthy ego, and such individuals cannot tolerate being surpassed as they believe they are more important and better than others.

What Causes Narcissism in Childhood?

The exact cause of this disorder is not known, but it may occur due to a combination of experiences, atmosphere, and other psychological reasons. Some of them may be:

  • Too much pampering where the child is made to feel special when anything he or she does, however simple, is praised excessively.
  • Overdependent parenting where a balance between protectiveness and obsession is blurred.
  • Absent parenting where the parent is detached and inattentive to the child’s upbringing.
  • Too much negative criticism by the parents to the child, making him feel upset and develop narcissism as self-defence.
  • Parents who are narcissistic can transfer their trait to their children, where they see their child’s uniqueness as competition and try to quash it. Such kids can develop narcissism when they become adults and can easily assume this to be normal behaviour.
  • Adopted children or those from divorced families can develop insecurities and in turn make self-love their solution.
  • Any type of abuse can make children feel insecure and victimised. They can develop narcissism unknowingly to ease their minds.
  • Genetic anomalies can also contribute to this mental condition.
  • Hypersensitive children can also develop narcissism early on.

Girl kissing her reflection in the mirror

What are the Signs of Narcissism in Kids?

There are a few narcissistic child symptoms you can always watch out for. The below are some traits that a child with NPD will display:

  • A sense of entitlement to whatever they ask for
  • Inability to understand the needs of their fellow human being’s
  • Ideas of limitless power and achievements that are impractical
  • High self-importance levels
  • Averting their gaze and not looking into people’s eyes when they speak to them
  • Expect massive respect and adoration
  • Believe that they are better than all the other kids
  • Anxiety on separation
  • Blaming others for their mistakes
  • Exaggeration of their abilities or successes
  • Exploit others frequently
  • Selfishness and being haughty
  • Displaying envy towards others achievements
  • Pathological play
  • Opportunistic behaviour
  • Being formal even in close relationships
  • Gets hurt easily and unable to take constructive criticism

How is NPD Diagnosed in Children

The diagnosis process of NPD involves a few steps:

  • A doctor will first assess the child’s mental health.
  • They will talk to the child to understand the extent of narcissism.
  • The child’s behaviour with the therapist is also observed to see whether it is haughty or friendly.
  • Physical tests will be carried out to eliminate all other conditions that can cause this disorder.
  • If no underlying cause is found, the doctor will come up with a specific mental health care plan for the child.
  • NPD diagnosis usually involves understanding the patient’s thought process, and so the doctor will use questions, assessment activities and childhood narcissism scale tests.
  • The doctor will ask questions of the child’s school performance, behaviour with friends, number of friends and so on.
  • The doctor will make a diagnosis to see whether the disorder is actually NPD or some form of hypomania.
  • The doctor will also observe if the NPD symptoms are persistent or based on phases or moods.

What are It’s Possible Complications?

There are several effects of narcissism on children. Some of the possible complications are:

  • Relationship problems with friends and family
  • Difficulty in maintaining relationships at home and school
  • Bereft of a social circle
  • Displaying social awkwardness
  • Getting in drugs or alcohol when they grow up

The long-term damage resulting from this can be reversed with good care at home.

How is Narcissistic Personality Disorder Treated?

Dealing with a narcissistic child can be hard. But stay away from medicines. The most effective treatment is psychotherapy. Other models are:

1. Psychoanalytic Therapy

This therapy works on the child’s exalted sense of self, their defence mechanism against bad behaviour, and relationships with parents and friends. It also involves counselling parents who have NPD children.

2. Familial Therapy

Psychologist consultation

If the child’s NPD is due to excessive praising and adoration from the parents, then a psychotherapist will discuss with the parents and teach them how to regulate their love for their child in a healthy way.

3. Cognitive Behaviour Treatment

This therapy helps the child to recognize his disorder, thoughts and behaviour patterns. It uses constructive and positive thoughts to help the child change.

How to Raise a Narcissistic Child?

Parenting a child with narcissistic personality disorder needs understanding and patience. Here are a few tips:

1. Reduce The Sense Of Entitlement

While living with a narcissistic child, you need to make him understand that he is equal to others in the family and will not get preferential treatment at any cost. For example, if your child believes he is better than his siblings and ends up bullying them, you must tell him that he cannot bully others clearly but without ridiculing them.

2. Be Firm, Not Aggressive

Narcissistic children tend to have huge egos and take things personally. Aggression and violence will completely worsen them and injure their mercurial self-esteem. Try to make your point practically, sans any violent words.

3. Strike A Balance In Relationships

Mother talking to her daughter

Make your child understand the relationship balance at home, how chores have to be done by everyone equally, and how everyone has to be considerate of others needs. Explain how in the house, the parents are responsible for taking care, earning and providing food for the family while children need to go to school, behave properly and study.

4. Watch Over Conversations

Make your child understand that listening to others in a conversation is highly important and make them practice this at home. In a conversation, 50% is talking, and 50% is listening.

5. Give Them Unconditional Love

Do not shower your kids with gifts when they are successful in something and insult them when they fail. Do not attach your love to something they achieve. Love them unconditionally.

Things To Avoid

Worrying about how to raise a narcissistic child? Here are some things you should keep in mind:

  • Avoid telling him that he is the best all the time and tell him that everyone has their unique strengths.
  • Teach him how to recognize empathy and kindness and show him warmth without inflating his ego.

It is commonly believed that a person diagnosed with a mentally complex condition tends to remain the same way throughout his life. But NPD in children is a disorder that is very manageable and can be worked on.

Also Read: Bad Parenting Signs & How It Can Affect Your Child