When you have a baby, you want the world for them. They are your heart and your soul. You can’t help but love the bundle of joy who looks up at you with only a look that a baby can give — the kind that positively melts your heart.
As that baby grows into a smiley, bubbly little person, you think that they will always remain that way. Their life will be filled with joy and excitement. The love they have for other people that is shown with big kisses and hugs will continue to grow. Always the one to grab diapers for the new baby in the house or letting a sibling sleep in their bed because they are afraid. That nurturing, compassionate person will always be that way. Right?
Sadly, in my house, that wasn’t the case. Somewhere along the line, my child changed. They went from a precocious little one who could make any adult laugh, to someone who is surly and self-centered. Someone who never shows empathy to anyone and is never at fault. They are the cause of so much turmoil in our house and yet, they show no concern about punishment or consequence; they just do as they please.
Yes, they believe that they are the most important person in the house. They shall control the remote, they will decide what is for dinner, it is them who decides when they and their roommate will go to bed. Except, that’s not how things roll around here. We are all equals. Yet this child feels that they are above that.
I think I’m raising a narcissist. They don’t have all of the textbook qualities, but enough to make me uncomfortable and concerned. I am so very, very worried that someday they are going to grow up to be a jerk. No parent wants that for their kid. But the path that we are on makes me so scared for them.
Have you ever heard of a fun, happy, lovable narcissist? Nope, me either.
I know what a narcissist looks like as an adult. But what about in a kid? Am I blowing this out of proportion or should I be concerned?
I did a little research on my own. Here are a just a few of the characteristics that I found.
- An inflated sense of self worth (check)
- Trouble making friends (yep)
- Has to be the center of attention (that one too)
- Lack of empathy (always)
- Rarely saying thank you or expressing gratitude (it was all sounding too familiar for my comfort)
But then there were some things that didn’t click …
- Not letting others play with them for superficial reasons like social status (nope)
- Refusing to respect authority (parents, sure, but not at school or with other adults)
- Wanting others to be something they are not, having high expectations (not at all)
- Jealousy when others are seen as superior (actually, they couldn’t care less)
So, was my child a narcissist or was it something else altogether? Quite frankly, I wasn’t sure. They see a counselor and psychiatrist on a regular basis for separate diagnoses of ADHD and oppositional defiant disorder, so I went to the professionals for help.
They explained that it is unlikely that they truly have narcissistic personality disorder, as it is extremely rare. According to Verywell Family, it is just 6% of the population. But it isn’t rare to have these kinds of traits, particularly as a teenager. However, there was concern that we are checking off so many boxes at such a young age. If we didn’t start paying a bit more attention when the behaviors come, we could be in trouble down the line.
So what can I do? It is truly about conditioning my child to have more empathic and less self-centered behaviors. You have to teach them compassion. Their doctor said that this could be done with a family pet, as a narcissist will often take care of a cat or dog with kindness and empathy. Sometimes, bringing around a younger child can help. Teens tend to be more nurturing to a baby or toddler. It may sound strange, but it is somewhere to start.
They also said that I need to quit cleaning up their messes. If they tick off a friend and don’t get invited to a party or social gathering, it isn’t my place to text the mom and apologize. They need to realize what they are doing wrong and live with the consequences. That can be tough, but if they realize that they are acting like a jerk and people don’t like it, they may change their tune.
Please understand, I love my child. I taught them to crawl, walk, talk, feed themself, and read. I was the one who helped with homework and made angel costumes for the Christmas play. At one time they told me they loved me every day.
Now, I could fall down the steps and they might not even ask if I am OK. How do you reconcile that as a mom? It is really, really tough.
I won’t give up on them, though. I can’t. Because I care too much about them and their future. We will continue to work through the behaviors at home, and with professional help, to get things under control. I want my child to be successful in a career someday and have positive relationships.
With continued support, hopefully, they will.