What Causes Children To Become Narcissists

It seems like many people think that kids who are narcissists have ended up as such because their parents haven’t shown them enough love or that they simply haven’t been taught proper morality, but that’s not always true.

Children can become narcissists for many reasons and this can manifest in many different forms. 

First, let us clarify what the term narcissist generally means.

A narcissist is a person who has something called a narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). People with NPD are usually unable to feel empathy for others, they are manipulators, and tend to believe they stand above everyone else. Not to mention that they’re quite arrogant as well.

And while it may sound far-fetched, this is a problem many people have and it isn’t easy for them to simply turn it all off and act like a normal human being.

Even in childhood, they have many problems connected to narcissism. Needless to say, parents can have a big effect on whether their children will grow up to be narcissists, but it isn’t as simple as that. In fact, one study found that when we treat our children as if they are better than everyone else and overvalue them it can contribute to their narcissism as they’ve never learned the importance of self-awareness.

Your child loving herself with the same intensity as you do might sound like a healthy thing but if it is driving them towards narcissism, it could become a major issue in the future.

It must be stressed, however, that the findings of this particular study don’t mean this is what is going to happen in every single case, or that teaching your children the importance of self-love is something to steer away from. But as parents, we should be teaching our children that they are not above the rest and that everyone matters equally.

In a piece for Psychology Today, Elinor Greenberg Ph.D. dived deeply into the topic and even made a list of four parenting scenarios that could contribute to the creation of a narcissist child. The scenarios include narcissistic parental values, devaluing as narcissistic parents, ‘the golden child’, and the exhibitionist’s admirer.

Here are some of the key points from Greenberg’s article and the four scenarios are described as follows:

Scenario 1 – Narcissistic Parental Values

“Love is conditional: When you come in first in the race, win the science fair or star in the school show, you are showered with praise and attention. When you do not, you are a disappointment. Everyone in the family is supposed to be special and prove it over and over again. No matter how much you achieve, the pressure is never off. As one woman said: “When I came home with a report card with all A’s, my father asked me if anyone got an A+.”

“Children in these families do not feel stably loved. It is hard for them to enjoy anything for its own sake if it does not confer status. Instead of being supported by their parents to explore what they like and want to do more of, they only receive support for high achievement. Their parents are not interested in their children’s “real selves,” they are mainly interested in how their children can make the family look good. They want to be able to brag to their neighbors: “Look at what my kid did!”

Scenario 2 – The Devaluing Narcissistic Parent

“If there are two or more children, the parent will praise one and devalue the others. The “good one” can quickly become the “bad one” and suddenly a different sibling is elevated. Nobody in the family feels secure and everyone spends their time trying to pacify the explosive Narcissistic parent.”

Scenario 3 – The Golden Child

“Everyone wants to be seen realistically and loved unconditionally. If children believe that their parents only value them because they are special, this can contribute to an underlying insecurity. No one wins all the time. No one is better than everyone else in every way.”

“Children who are idealized by a parent can begin to believe that they are only lovable when they are perfect and worthy of idealization.”

Scenario 4 – The Exhibitionist’s Admirer

“Some children grow up in a Narcissistic household where there is an Exhibitionist Narcissist parent who rewards them with praise and attention as long as they admire and stay subservient to the parent. These children are taught Narcissistic values but are discouraged from exhibiting themselves for admiration. Instead, their role in the family is to uncritically worship the greatness of their Narcissistic parent without ever trying to equal or surpass that parent’s achievements.”

“This is an excellent way to create Covert or Closet Narcissists. The children learn that they will be given Narcissistic supplies—attention and praise—for not openly competing with the Narcissistic parent and that these supplies will be withheld, and they will be devalued if they openly try to get acknowledged as special. All their value in the family comes from acting as a support to the ego of the Exhibitionist parent.”

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