How to Treat the Narcissistic Child
Narcissism is defined as an excessive preoccupation with the self, a constant need for attention and an inability to recognize the feelings and emotions of others. Adults with narcissistic tendencies tend to be destructive to those around them, but so too can children who exhibit narcissistic tendencies. Treating them means understanding the nature of the problem and applying steps that the narcissistic child can recognize 1.
Understand that narcissism often stems from a number of internal wounds 1. The child likely feels bad about himself and is using grandiose or entitled behavior to compensate.
Make the child aware of her negative feelings and offer her the opportunity to talk about it. Narcissists are incapable of admitting they have a problem--often because they are afraid of how they will be perceived--but with trust and encouragement, a child may be persuaded to open up. Once the negative emotions are identified, they can be resolved more readily.
Don't enable the child. While sympathy and understanding are necessary, that doesn't excuse the child from conforming to the same standards applied to the other children. If you make exceptions or excuse the child, it only feeds his sense of entitlement. When handing down a punishment, make sure the child understands why he is being punished and how his actions have consequences.
Speak to the child after appropriate punishment has been meted out. Show her that acting out doesn't get her the things she wants and encourage her to find other ways of seeking her goals 1.
Teach the child to detach from his emotions and observe himself from an objective perspective. Work towards getting him to take responsibility for his outbursts and accept the consequences, rather than letting him blame it all on other people.
Work on social lessons designed to improve the child's perceptions. Focus on tasks that involve delayed rewards that she must work for rather than instant rewards she thinks she's owed. Use lessons the differentiate between real crises (such as getting lost on the way home) and small ones (such as dropping a cookie on the ground) and lessons that help her identify and understand the emotional states of others.
Encourage the child for exhibiting genuinely good behavior; it helps him to develop a healthier sense of ego.
Beware of idealization. Narcissistic children might praise you to the stars and make you feel like you're the most important thing in their lives. They're apt to devalue you on a dime and turn on you quickly. Don't fall for flattery, but exercise patience and fairness in dealing with the child's behavior.
- The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists; Eleanor D. Payson; 2002
- Beware of idealization. Narcissistic children might praise you to the stars and make you feel like you're the most important thing in their lives. They're apt to devalue you on a dime and turn on you quickly. Don't fall for flattery, but exercise patience and fairness in dealing with the child's behavior.