How Parents Raise Narcissistic Children
Parents want their kids to grow up so they’re ready to take on the world.
We want them to be smart, intelligent, kind, and resilient. The last thing you want to have is narcissistic children.
But how do parents end up with narcissistic kids?
Finding Narcissistic Children
To answer that questions, researchers conducted a first of it’s kind study. They followed over 560 children for over a year and a half and focused on children between the ages of 7 and 11. A pivotal age when narcissism begins to develop.
But to find out the reasons behind narcissistic children, they also need to look at the behaviors and personality of parents. Observing these traits over time, the study revealed two important findings:
1. Kids who were “overvalued” by their parents were more likely to develop narcissistic personalities.
2. Parents who were “emotionally warm” were seen to have children with higher self-esteem, but not higher narcissism.
What is Overvaluation?
What exactly do the researchers mean when they say parents overvalue their children?
When parents were asked to describe their kids in the study, they were more likely to say they were “more special than other children” and that they “deserve something extra in life.”
But these parents will also overestimate and overpraise their child’s ability. They believe their kids are smarter, kinder, and more well-behaved than they really are. And they will dole out praise of their child’s effort or performance, even if it is undeserved
Other research, conducted by the same team, has found these parents will also over-claim their kids’ abilities. Researchers asked parents if their child knew about certain topics or people. However, some of the topics, like “The Tale of Benson Bunny”, were made up by the researchers. Parents who overvalued their kids were more likely to claim their child had knowledge of these fictional topics.
Researcher Brad Bushman says that parents should be careful what they tell their kids:
Children believe it when their parents tell them that they are more special than others. That may not be good for them or for society.
Narcissism Is Different From Self-Esteem
Some people believe that narcissism is a symptom of extremely high self-esteem. But psychologists are beginning to find that the two traits are only weakly correlated.
Narcissists feel superior to others, love attention, and think they’re entitled. But it’s still possible for them to have low self-esteem.
Here’s how the researcher describe the primary difference:
People with high self-esteem think they’re as good as others, whereas narcissists think they’re better than others.
Reduce Narcissism and Build Self-Esteem
We want our children to feel good about themselves or unique, so we might tell them that they’re special. But the researchers say that this isn’t the best way to build self-esteem:
When children are seen by their parents as being more special and more entitled than other children, they may internalize the view that they are superior individuals, a view that is at the core of narcissism.
Instead, parents need to demonstrate love to their kids by being affectionate and showing interest in their activities:
However, when children are treated by their parents with affection and appreciation, they may internalize the view that they are valuable individuals, a view that is at the core of self-esteem.
Narcissism is Complicated
Some people believe that narcissistic children simply come from narcissistic parents, but this isn’t the case. Researchers accounted for this possibility and even factoring out parental narcissism overvaluation still played a significant role.
But personalities are complex things. There are other factors that can contribute to narcissism, like genetic and environmental factors.
We want our kids to grow up having self worth, but the key isn’t making them feel unique. The best way for them to develop into strong individuals is good old fashion warmth and love.