The Making of a Little Narcissist
A study recently published in the National Academy of Sciences reveals how to raise a narcissist, a person who believes they are better than everyone else. This study suggests several things that can contribute to the raising of a narcissist; however, one contributor is completely in our control. Every parent needs to know about this one contributor so they can avoid it. Specifically, this study suggests that parents help “turn their children into little narcissists by overvaluing them.” Really? Yes, children believe it when parents tell them they are more special than others and entitled to special privileges. Over time, they internalize that belief. They begin to treat others as less special than themselves. They act as though they deserve special privileges and entitlements. They become little narcissists. Parents might overvalue their children in subtle ways or very obvious ways. Consider just these three ways that parents can overvalue their children and communicate that they have special value or deserve special privileges.
- Parents overvalue their children when they claim their children have special knowledge of many different topics, even one’s that don’t exist. In a study by the same authors, parents were asked if their children knew about “Queen Alberta” or “The Tale of the Benson Bunny.” Some parents claimed their children knew all about them. Ironically, the researchers made the topics up. When we claim our children know more than they actually know, we overvalue them. We risk creating a narcissist.
- Parents contribute to the creation of a narcissist when they protect their children from consequences. When children are accused of wrongdoing and our immediate, adamant response is to defend their integrity, we may do them an injustice. Perhaps we need to do a little investigation first. We need to assure our children are innocent before we defend. Consider their track record. Get more information. Gather the evidence. Then determine a course of action. If we defend our children in spite of a poor track record and in the face of evidence to the contrary, we are teaching our children to overvalue themselves. We are helping to create a narcissist.
- Parents help raise a narcissist by treating their children as though the world revolves around them. You know what I mean: letting them get out of helping around the house because they are special; encouraging their coach to give them special treatment because they are so much better than the other players; pushing teachers to let a grade slide because our little angel tried so hard or had other obligation; demanding others treat your child special because of their position or the position of your family; or, giving your child special treatment because they are so sensitive. These actions only help create a child who believes they are more special than others, a narcissist, entitled to special privileges.
Instead of treating your child as extra special, express realistic affection and warmth. Allow them to fail and grieve that failure, get back up, and try again. Let them experience the consequences of misbehavior. Appreciate the talents they have but teach them to appreciate talent in others as well. Encourage them to humbly accept what the coach tells them, even if they do have a better record than the guy who starts before them. In fact, teach them to encourage that other player rather than begrudge them. Teach them to listen to and respect their teachers and other adults in their life, even if they disagree with them or dislike them.
The choice is yours. You can treat your child as extra special, deserving of special privileges and entitlements and raise a little narcissist. Or, you can show your child affection, let them experience consequences, and teach them to be considerate of others. Then you can watch your child grow into a humble caring young adult.