Raise your hand if you were told by a parent or guardian that you were special as a child. It’s common praise given to us as kids, but when said too often or without merit, the result could lead to a narcissistic child. But what does the path to narcissism truly look like, and what parental behaviours impact the outcome? We spoke to Mary Zamil, B.A Hons. Psyc., MA., RP (Qualifying) at, and Kathleen Crowe, Autism Therapist for Southeast Region Autism Services, to gain a better understanding of how narcissism in children develops and how parents can navigate the complexities of raising kids in the modern age. Because in a world where technology and social media reigns supreme, parents are often met with an added layer of stress as children become well-equipped to be the star of their own show.
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Understand how and where narcissistic personality disorder begins
Be mindful of your behaviour and actions around children
The old mantra, “do as I said, not as I do,” is no longer effective in today’s world. Children pay attention to their parent’s every move, and their actions can both negatively and positively impact the outcome of their child’s behaviours and emotional integrity.
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Joaquin Pheonix and Rooney Mara welcome first baby together and decide to name him River as a tribute to Oscar-winning actor Joaquin Pheonix and his fiancee, Oscar-nominated actress Rooney Mara have welcomed River Phoenix was also an actor who starred in movies like “Darkwood”, and
Joaquin Phoenix , and sister Rain Phoenix , were with River when he died. The family has rarely " I mean, River was a really substantial actor and movie star, and we didn ' t really know it," Joaquin There are people that are trying to sneak onto your land. Certainly, for me , it felt like it impeded on the
Crowe clarifies this further by stating, “Just because you have a narcissistic parent does not mean the child will be narcissistic. That said, parents or caregivers are the child’s biggest influence in life. Children watch how their parents respond to different situations. Basically, if a child sees their parents handling a situation aggressively, they learn to be aggressive. This is not always the case but is more typical.”
When a parent or guardian advises a child to disregard their actions, but still listen to rules, young children are not able to understand the difference. So it’s imperative that parents or guardians remain mindful of how their behaviour and actions can impact the children around them.
Know the difference between good and bad praise
Giving a child too much praise too often is sometimes used as an example of what causes narcissism in children. But both our experts are quick to point out that there is a difference between good praise and bad praise. Crowe speaks to good praise as a reward."It is meant to help shape a child’s behaviour. It helps them learn which kind of behaviours are acceptable right from an infant. Praise should be given often, and it doesn’t have to be elaborate. The goal is to comment on the behaviour you approve of when you see it. For example, things like, ‘I like the way you are sitting in your chair,’ ‘I like how quietly you are working,’ or “Great job matching the colours!’”
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Zamil breaks down efforts in praise further by stating, “Parents can value the children’s accomplishments and guide a child towards owning a sense of mastery. We need to help children believe that they can tackle their way through problems and bounce back from it. Allowing children to think on their own by giving them problem-solving tasks and open-ended questions will lead them to develop deeper thinking strategies and strengthen their cognitive development. It is important to analyze problems and be accurate with the steps that you take.” Being mindful of your approach is essential to drive the message home for a younger child. Simply telling them they are great all the time won’t help them grow in both body and mind.
Know what phrases to avoid saying to a child
learn-more-about-narcissistic-personality-disorderHelp children understand that perfection doesn’t exist
You’ve heard the phrase “nobody is perfect,” but if that’s true, why are parents so quick to tell their children that they are, in fact, perfect? It’s a force of habit and a product of the overwhelming love a parent feels for their child, but that one little word causes a lot of damage when it comes to a child’s emotional growth and well-being.
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“When parents refer to their children as a product of perfection, they enable their child to internalize that belief and consequently, this idea of entitlement influences their beliefs, feelings and behaviour as a whole,” explains Zamil. Parents should also focus on what a child excels at versus the illusion of perfection that implies they are good at absolutely everything.
“We need to celebrate every child’s unique and individual strengths. Not every child is athletic, good in math, or artistic. They each have their own abilities, and it is OK not to be good at everything. Helping a child find their passion and running with it will do wonders for their self-esteem and help them understand that we all have strengths and weaknesses. Often you can use their strengths to help with areas that they struggle with.” says Crowe.
Scale back their use of social media
The rise of social media has brought a lot of good to the world, but we can likely all agree that it’s also created many negative implications. Narcissism runs heavily across social media platforms. Exposing a child to the on-going use of social channels when they are young could encourage a false view of themselves and others.
“Children who are raised with parents who lack unconditional love, warmth, affection and appreciation towards their child are also seen as contributing factors to the development of narcissists. These children seek admiration from others by eliciting an image that others would portray as an exaggerated sense of pride in achievements, talents and self-importance, the belief of superiority and envy of others, leading them to carry themselves with arrogance, being boastful and pompous,” says Zamil.
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That said, the hard work begins with parents and their understanding of the impacts social media could have on their children. “It is of critical importance to recognize the influential factors and how they are set on the basis of societal expectations, parents expectations and other external factors such as social media that filters a certain set of personifications that embed the ideology of having one way of becoming accepted, successful and embraced.”
Learn to exercise empathy
When asked if telling a child “no” is a good way to offset bad behaviour, Zamil is quick to point out why simply saying “no” isn’t helpful. “There is no power in using the term ‘no.’ This is because it feels incomplete to a child and leaves them questioning the ‘why?, Which assimilates a negative thought process that includes self-blame, shame, anger and resentment.” Instead, Zamil recommends showing empathy toward children. “Because narcissists are known to show no empathy towards people’s feelings and emotions, moral development is the foundational component that elicits human compassion and morality. Parents can exercise empathy in order to help their children understand how the other person processes the situation from their point of view and interpret how someone else's feelings and emotions can be impacted.
This is based on emphasizing self-awareness and learning how to become aware of other people’s feelings other than their own ego. Children with narcissistic personality disorder may exhibit aggression and the unwillingness to forgive due to the nature of not having yet developed the capacity to process emotions due to cognitive dysfunction in the frontal cortex, which is responsible for, processing emotions, reasoning, control of drives and emotional behaviour.”
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Allow children to learn from their own experiences
Kids need their own space to grow, and a parent who hinders that space could potentially block a child’s ability to think and learn for themselves. Zamil details, “when examining pathological narcissism and hypothetical underlying factors that influence narcissism in children, we view a child's experience with parenting styles. Specifically, those that demonstrate the following; being extremely overprotected, maltreatment and overvaluation. These factors limit the opportunity for children to learn from their own experiences, appreciate their achievements and become codependent on others for approval, guidance and feedback.” When a child isn’t capable of managing their feelings towards experiences, they could risk impacting their ability to have relationships as an adult.
“Children who didn’t learn to manage their experiences at a young age may suffer in adulthood because of their inability to formulate healthy relationships. They may experience difficulty with regulating their emotions and behaviour, excessively deform reality to enable their grandiose feelings about themselves and have an incapacity to make decisions for themselves, exercise moral judgement and experience brain abnormalities due to impaired emotional regulation.” says Zamil.
Develop coping strategies
Effective communication is an essential tool in any relationship, and the one between parent and child is no different. Teaching children how to communicate their feelings healthily can help them better manage emotional stress and learn how to cope with conflict. Zamil says it begins with a strategy, “When building on a child’s disorganized behaviours and negative interpretation of the issues they are facing – it is essential to introduce reliable skillsets that influence their emotional state and help them become more optimistic, hopeful and stable individuals. Some calming strategies that folks can use include breathing exercises, releasing bundled up tension through art therapy, acting out anger through play therapy, meditation or yoga, walking out their frustration, and talking out loud, etc. Modelling accuracy and flexibility will begin to set the tone for kids to cope with future adversities.”
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Taking these actions could benefit parents a great deal when it comes to disciplining their children.
Provide unconditional love and support
We all thrive in an environment filled with unconditional love and support — at any age. Children seek support from their parents because, after all, you’re their rock! Zamil highlights unconditional love and support as a lesson in adapting to healthy communication for a child, but also as a means of managing unruly behaviour if the signs of narcissistic personality disorder appear.
“Narcissistic children have trouble with being able to process emotions and taking responsibility for their actions. Parents can be supportive by refraining from blaming their children for their behaviour. Instead, try providing them with guidance, affection and unconditional love by acknowledging their feelings — but not accepting impulsive behaviour. Children need to know that even if they make mistakes, they will still be loved and accepted by their parents. Children will take risks without the fear of being rejected, abandoned or judged, instead redirected, encouraged and guided in the right direction in life.”