Narcissism usually forms in childhood and recognizing it early on can help to treat the condition before it becomes a defining trait of your child’s life. To identify narcissism, you’ll want to know the signs that are distinct in children.
People who are narcissistic have an over-inflated sense of self importance. They believe their needs are more important than those of other people, and they see other people as extensions of themselves.
Inwardly, their ego is fragile, and that’s part of the reason why they create a cold, distant, and easily offended outer shell. While this seems to be obvious, spotting the condition in children can be tricky.
Children are naturally self-absorbed, particularly early on in life. It’s natural for them to think of themselves first. They are just beginning to explore the world and have little reference for how to interact with other people.
How To Spot Narcissism in Children
Because it can be difficult to tell if your child is a narcissist, it can be helpful to compare how a narcissistic child behaves as compared to a normal child. Here are seven distinct differences.
A normal child wants attention too, and they act in a way that is age appropriate. They also show gratitude and appreciation for that attention.
A narcissistic child sees attention as something to which they are entitled. They don’t express gratitude to anyone, including their parents, for being nice to them or for taking care of them.
2. Sense of Superiority
Children who are not narcissists aspire to be great, and they may role-play being a superhero, but they show an awareness that this is not the case. They realize that they will have to work to achieve their goals.
A narcissistic child feels that they are already great, and they also believe themselves to be superior to other people. They frequently treat their friends as if they are lesser than them.
A normal child understands that they must work to get what they want in life. They learn early on that to get what they want, they must often give something in return.
A narcissistic child believes that they are entitled to whatever they want. They don’t believe they should have to work for anything. They are demanding and expect that they will receive what they are asking for without having to do anything to get it.
4. Realistic Needs and Expectations
A normal child has needs and expectations that are both realistic and age appropriate. They don’t expect that the world will cater to them, and they don’t demand that others live up to their expectations.
A narcissistic child usually has unreasonably high expectations for other people. They expect that they will be the center of attention and others will cater to their needs. They need the adoration of their peers, and if they don’t get it, they react with narcissistic rage. This may take the form of frequent temper tantrums.
5. Friends and Family
A normal child has healthy relationships with their family and friends. They make friends and they conduct themselves in a manner so as to cultivate those relationships.
Narcissistic children, on the other hand, have difficulty making friends and keeping them. Their relationships with their family members are often demanding and strained at best. They are critical of others once they get to know them, and they feel offended easily.
6. Separation Anxiety
While normal children will miss their family members if they are separated from them, they are able to express those emotions in a healthy way and process them. They are also able to handle the separation once they understand the reason for it.
A narcissistic child, on the other hand, experiences serious separation anxiety when separated from family members. They feel as though they are being abandoned and may react with strong emotions. It will be difficult to get them calmed down, and their anxiety will last for the entire length of the separation.
7. Exploitative Nature
A normal child will quickly learn that relationships are a matter of give and take. They learn that it is unacceptable to use others for what they can give to them. They understand they must also contribute to the relationship in a positive way.
A narcissistic child, on the other hand, sees others as mere extensions of themselves. They expect that they will give them what they want and need without having to return the favor. They take advantage of the weaknesses they identify in other people and use them to their advantage.
If anything goes wrong, the narcissistic child will blame everyone else except themselves. They believe that other people exist solely to serve them, including taking the blame for problems that arise.
It can be disconcerting for a parent to discover that their child has traits associated with narcissism. They might want to know what causes it, and they might feel responsible for the problem, but neither helps resolve it.
If you find that your child is exhibiting traits of narcissism, it’s more helpful to begin to address the situation so that you might help them to heal from this mental condition.
If caught early enough, you can get your child the appropriate therapy to help them overcome what is likely fragile self-esteem. Getting them the help they need will be the best gift you’ll ever give them. It will help them to have a normal and satisfying life.
You can also help by loving your kids even with their flaws and making it clear to them that even when they make a mistake, you will not withdraw your love. Additionally, when you praise them for something, be specific so they know that you are truly appreciative of what they did.
You also want to keep your praise in the present tense rather than saying something like, “You’re always so good at that!” Just stick to the here and now so that they understand their current achievement is being praised rather than their general ability.
It’s also important that you give praise readily when it’s deserved, but don’t overdo it. The more you compliment a child, the more they crave your compliments. It’s best to strike a good balance between too much and too little praise.
Finally, it’s important to teach your child about the Golden Rule. This concept helps them understand that the needs of other people are important. By helping them see that other people deserve to be treated in the same way they would like to be treated, you can prevent narcissism from taking root.
Learn more about the signs of narcissism in the post, “7 Characteristics of a Narcissistic Person.”
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