Indian neuroscientist, Abhijit Naskar wrote, “No other being is lesser human than the one who thinks of others as such.” Found more commonly among men than women, people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) often possess a heightened sense of grandiosity, crave attention and admiration, and tend to lack empathy. Other signs of narcissism include having an over-inflated self-worth, lacking gratitude, and having superficial, exploitative relationships. Although psychiatrists hesitate to diagnose children under the age of 18, it is commonly accepted that the groundwork for NPD starts in childhood.
Nature vs. Nurture
While genetics can certainly influence NPD, most of the literature suggests that narcissistic tendencies take root due to parents who “overvalue” children during early developmental stages, telling them they are superior to others and that they should be entitled to special treatment. Rather than showering “great and special” children with praise every time they win a “participation trophy,” dads can show restraint and reserve accolades and celebrations for hard-earned achievements.
Additionally, studies have found that early childhood neglect and trauma, such as chronic invalidation, criticism, and abuse are significant risk factors for the development of NPD.
The Importance of a Healthy Value System
When we teach right from wrong, we help children fine-tune their built-in moral compass. When we teach patience and tolerance, children learn to express feelings in healthy ways. When we teach accountability and responsibility, we discourage temper tantrums, we discourage blaming others for mistakes and failures. When we teach to recognize other people’s views, we instill virtues of empathy and kindness.
The Separation-Individuation Stage
During pregnancy, mother and child are bonded as one. After birth, infants and young toddlers feel a great need for closeness to their loving and admiring mother. As toddlers grow, they realize the need to separate and be their own person, all while adoration from mom is a source of immeasurable delight. During these years, also known as the separation-individuation stage, children begin experiencing moments of separation and the realization that they are not all-powerful. It is healthy for children when mom sprinkles in comments that help them become aware that mother and child are unique and separate beings—both physically and emotionally.
During separation-individuation, children undergo a mental transformation as they learn that they and their mother are different entities, introducing emotional turmoil and a stage of life called “The Terrible Twos.” Unchecked, exhibitions of toddler power often spiral into feelings of entitlement and acts of manipulation. If parents don’t impose limits, we influence unscrupulous behaviors and bossy emotions of omnipotent superiority.
The Individuation Stage
During the individuation stage, which typically coincides with the start of adolescence, cognitive advances influence children to assert their independence as they seek out their identity. If the natural progression doesn’t develop in healthy ways, pre-teens and teens can get hung up on themselves with an unquenchable thirst for affirmation and adoration. Unchecked, these inclinations can eventually manifest as self-centeredness, rudeness, and/or insatiable desire.
Experiences of youth can profoundly influence attitudes, behaviors, and the entire trajectory of someone’s life. When parents overpraise children, we might unknowingly induce narcissistic character traits. To curb these tendencies, appropriately ration praise. Teach children to seek gratification not from others, but in their own independent functioning. Provide support and guidance during a child’s all-important formative years. Remember, in addition to coddling and overpraising, neglect, abuse, and sub-standard parenting can all contribute to NPD.
“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.” —Philippians 2:3-5 NLT
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When it comes at a high emotional price for yourself? Do your attempts to resolve differences with someone leave you feeling wrung out and discouraged? Do you sense that your best traits (goodness, kindness, cooperation) somehow become a disadvantage with someone who is supposed to be a partner? This book answers these questions and more. Readers will be inspired to set their own pace in life, as opposed to letting the controller call the shots.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder, often mistaken for a too-big ego or inflated self-esteem, is in actuality a severe psychological condition that ruins marriages, social relationships, work environments, and the sufferer’s own sense of self. Complete with an exclusive section on the epidemic of “net narcissism” due to social media, The Everything Guide to Narcissistic Personality Disorder is the complete guide to a misunderstood disorder that impacts millions everyday.
Unmasking Narcissism offers a fully realized, yet compassionate portrait of narcissism that will help you on your path to healing without compromising your own mental health and wellness.
PLEASE NOTE: As an Amazon Associate, Fathers Truly Matter earns from qualifying purchases. The information in this post should not be construed as providing specific psychiatric, psychological, or medical advice, but rather to offer readers information to better understand the lives and health of themselves and their children. It is not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician, psychiatrist, or psychotherapist.