Sunday, January 19, 2014

6 Ways To Help The Narcissistic Child

My son's kindergarten teacher said something one day that really stuck with me. It was field day at his school and the class was hot and sweaty after an afternoon of relay runs, sack races and tug o' war. She was passing out icy popsicles in a rainbow of colors when one child exclaimed

"Hey! I didn't want this flavor!"

I watched as her eyes narrowed and she turned to speak to him:

"You get what you get and you don't throw a fit." 

I loved that. 

How often do children need to hear that sentence spoken to them? 

Honestly, my own two children seem to need to hear it quite a bit. On some days it feels like it should be on a recorded loop in their head when their vocal chorus threatens to take over: 

"I didn't get the one I wanted." 

"I don't like it." 

"It's not quite right." 

"I want that!" 

"But I want it!!!" 


We need morals and good examples set for our children more than ever. Today children are being raised to be narcissists. And it takes a lot of dedication, consistency and persistence to raise them unlike the world, unlike the flesh, unlike the sin surrounding us, threatening to engulf us all like a tsunami. 

All children are susceptible to becoming mini narcissists or "narc's" for short. As parents we are in a constant battle against media, against the pressures of other parents condoning their children getting too much too soon and so many reality shows showing excess in homes, cars and disposable income for entertainment that it often seems as if everyone wants to jump on the band wagon with them. 

When Divorce Ups The Chances Of A Narc Child: 

It's not just the coveted iPhone that a parent buys his six year old, or the new teddy bear from Build A Bear he buys her every month or the showering of excessive clothes that creates an issue and possibly a narcissistic child. It's allowing a child to have too many experiences too soon. They can begin to feel entitled to have more and more experiences before they are truly ready for them. 

A parent may unwittingly give into their child's every whim due to their guilt over the divorce… yet this isn't in the best interests of the child long term. It's actually quite detrimental and continually sets the  bar higher and higher each time. Selfish behavior exhibited by children can be learned by a parent who is selfish himself. This is why each generation keeps producing more narcissists… because the children (genetics may have created a baseline for it, and we know all children are ego-centric to some extent but eventually change) … learn from a narcissistic parent to subscribe to "Me! Me! Me!" and emulate them. 

Examples Of Narcissistic Thinking: 

"You owe me!" 

"Serve me!" 

"It's not fair!"  


"Pay attention to me!" 

"If you don't, I'll blow up!" 

"Give it to me!" 

"You better…" 

"Buy it for me!" 


I remember one day right after my divorce was finalized…  my children and I had had a wonderful afternoon at the park… kicking the soccer ball around, walking the trails and them on the swings as they laughed with glee… afterward we piled into the SUV and headed for ice cream. Pulling into a McDonald's parking lot was met with disappointed grunts from the backseat. I glanced in the rearview mirror and spoke "Is there a problem?" 

There came a flood of vocal protests of why couldn't we go to Marble Slab or Cold Stone Creamery? Why couldn't we get waffle cones with sprinkles and a wide array of flavors to choose from? Inward I sighed and bristled but held steadfast to calm and pulled the car into a parking space to turn around and address them. 

"Look, guys… here's the thing. When I was little there wasn't Marble Slab in hot pink neon lights… there wasn't Cold Stone Creamery and tons of flavors. When I was little we had McDonald's… and you know what? That's good enough. Not everything in life comes with banners, confetti  and trumpets. Sometimes the little things are the best things. You know… simple is okay… not something to be sneered at or thought of as less than. Maybe there needs to be a bit more gratitude and less griping." 

We don't have to give in to every whim
 our child cries out for. 

We can stand firm and say "No." 

That's good parenting. 

What they failed to understand is that their level of living with me differed currently from when I was married. And honestly... that was a good thing in my book in regards to them. Sure, their higher level of living remained relatively the same at their father's… but that didn't make it right. That didn't make it healthy. What they failed to understand is that they were spoiled and didn't know it.  No one "owes" them Marble Slab. 

No one "owes" them anything. 

All children require is shelter, a bed, food and healthcare. Children need to be reminded occasionally that their parents home, their cars, their level of living is not theirs. Their parents money, and lifestyle is not theirs nor their success… they are merely temporary recipients of it on some level… while living with them. Children today often erroneously believe they will graduate from college living the same level of income and enjoying the same economic security as their parents… only to be devastatingly brought down a few notches by the reality of student loans, mounting debt and job interview after job interview. 

Divorce & Children: 

Often children feel as though they are entitled, or owed something due to life being glaringly unfair. He or she can't seem to wheedle the item they so desperately covet from one parent so they begin an unmerciful agenda on the other one (sometimes at the other parents egging). This sets up the parents in a battle of their own… because if one parent gives in to blatantly aggravate the other estranged parent and overindulge the child, they are potentially creating a little monster. Likewise, if the doting parent is merely choosing to subscribe to more for their child due to their own insecurities and wanting the child to like them (let me be your friend over parent) rather than setting healthy boundaries it creates all sorts of unnecessary chaos and strife. 

When The Child Emulates Their Abusive Parent: 

The child who feels a lack of structure and healthy boundaries in his or her environment or sees one parent (or both) behaving narcissistic, even dominant or downright abusive… is at a higher risk of becoming a narcissist himself. Divorce upheaves a child's entire world and if they were already exposed to a home environment that was less than healthy due to one parent's domineering ways toward their spouse… the child's social skills and healthy expression may be lacking,  anger taking the place of a healthy dialogue and expression of self. When anger takes over it may become a way of living… of coping however ineffective in interacting with others and often through trial and error of tantrums the child will learn how to manipulate those around them… not much differently than an explosive abusive adult. The child learns how to manipulate by time and time again trying different behaviors on for size and gauging his or her parents reactions. If they get what they desire through coercion of acting out they learn by cause and effect that throwing a fit gets them what they covet… again and again. They switch between moods like channel surfing or Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde…. sweet as pie one moment when they are receiving what they want and the next… lashing out in a rage for not getting the attention, materialism etc they wanted. 

Narcissism Or Aspergers? Maybe Both

This behavior, this switching back and forth between being cool and collected, even loving and alternately throwing fits can hauntingly resemble Aspergers and the fits that sometimes go with it. It is possible for adults with Aspergers to be confused as Narcissists… personally curious about this, I've scoured message board after message board online and found many others to be puzzled about this too. Aspergers naturally has a seed within that causes one to appear a bit more egocentric. As parents it's important to discourage egotistical tendencies and encourage healthy expression of feelings, empathy and giving in our children and why children with Aspergers need all the early behavior intervention that they can obtain to function as well as possible in society as adults. Often we hear Asperger's groups online rally solely for acceptance... acceptance is of course needed. However let's also try to keep in mind that denying the fact a child could benefit from help is to be of disservice to them. Today it may be a question for some people to ponder… could someone with Aspergers also be a sociopath? Anything is possible… as genetics drawn from two people can produce a child that may exhibit characteristics of several different diagnoses. If someone who is a narcissist or on the extreme a sociopath marries someone with Aspergers traits (preys on them, uses them) is it possible for them to then produce a child who later grows up to be a sociopath with Aspergers-like traits? Possibly, yes. 

Minimize The Buying & Say No To Fear: 

One of the best things all parents can do is minimize the buying, minimize the indulging and don't give in to a child out of fear of their fits. It takes guts (and tough love) to stand your ground especially if you have other parents giving you the evil eye in public or feel at your wits end behind closed doors. But don't give in with excuses or special privileges… like "Okay, just this once…" as it makes the child feel superior. This subliminally tells the child they are in control, that they are running the show and it instills a lack of empathy for anyone else's needs or feelings. It becomes all about them and what they need right then instead of being sensitive to the fact others around them also have a need for time, attention, love, space and to voice their own thoughts. 

Teach About Coping By Pointing Out Others Behaviors & By Example: 

To help minimize lashing out in their child a parent can teach their child (at an early age is best but better late than never) how to respond in times of stress, anger and frustration by pointing out how others are coping or their lack of. When we see someone lashing out in traffic and engaging in road rage, that is not the time to ignore it. That is the time to engage our children and have a conversation with them… pointing out the wrong behavior and ask them what they think about it… then ask them how they think the people could have handled it differently if they had a chance at a do over. It will open the lines of communication and help your children see that there is a better, more mature and healthy way to handle anger… that it's not the anger that's bad but what we do with it. If we witness someone, maybe a sales clerk having a difficult time with a customer in public yet see them handle it with dignity, empathy and grace… we can use that scenario to have an honest conversation with our kids… pointing out how well that the situation was handled despite how undoubtedly difficult it was. When we are setting a stellar example ourselves in how we treat others, when we use our manners and smile, when we say "please" and "thank you"… when we ask someone how they are doing at the register, at the drive thru window or the bank… our children notice and over time will follow what we lead by example no matter what we say. 

Help For The Narcissistic Child: 

1. Don't engage in power struggles with your child. 

2. Use positive reinforcement (praise) when they vocalize their feelings in a healthy manner, help others or make good choices. 

3. Teach them (role play if necessary) that when setting boundaries with people they can practice saying "It bothers me when…" or "I become frustrated when…" instead of lashing out. 

4. Encourage and set an example of giving so they don't grow up to believe only taking is acceptable. Get them involved with volunteering through a local charity or church.  

5. Get them to thinking and having an open dialogue… is this issue going to matter tomorrow? Or in an hour? On a scale of one to five how big a deal is this? That you aren't getting your way? That you can't get the toy you want? That you can't go on the play date? Can we find a solution? Is there a cheaper alternative? Maybe some manual labor like raking leaves or washing the car could help you earn the money needed for that new toy. Can we check the calendar and see when another play date is available? Focus on problem solving, hard work and being content with what we have versus being stuck in negative emotions, a "give me" attitude and focusing on what we don't have. 

6. Anger usually always follows hurt. Let's discuss what's really going on here… what are you hurting from? Did someone hurt your feelings? Are you disappointed by something? 

Victory Is Possible: 

When we discover positive ways to help our children and battle any narcissistic tendencies they lean toward we can find victory… in our parenting and our children's lives. Reading the word of God… our bibles regularly with our children and having an open dialogue with them about what is selfless and Christ like versus flesh and world like keeps their eyes open to what is good and pure versus selfish and sinful. We can read all the parenting books in the world looking, searching for an answer regarding our children's behavior… but we really don't have to search any further than our bible… the answers we are often searching for are right there within it's pages… just waiting to be read.

© ~ 2014 

                                                         To My Readers: 

                                                   Thank you for reading, 

                                                 commenting and sharing!