Children: The Ultimate Narcissists

Jess McGlynnOctober 22, 2012

This week I read an interesting article about children and narcissism.  It suggested that in order for a child to feel loved and secure, for their very survival, it is necessary for them to display narcissistic behaviour.  They have to know that they are the centre of their parents world, that their every desire and need will be met. 

I totally agree with this.  Narcissism is often thought of as a negative emotion but I do believe that children need to know that their world is secure.  They need to know that when they are hungry, they will be fed, when they are sad they will receive reassurance etc.   And for one thing, I live with the ultimate narcissist.  She truly believes the world revolves around her and that what she wants takes priority over anything and everything.  

I suppose then the question is, when do you begin to teach your children that they are not, in fact, the only person in your life and that they need to learn empathy and awareness for other people?  At what stage can you begin to withdraw from the cycle of meeting every demand instantaneously but still have a self-assured child?

When I watch Meg play with her friends she is always the leader, the one navigating and directing the game.  When she’s had enough, she gives the sign and they all go and play something else.  Is that her personality coming through or her inability to understand that what another child wants to do might take precedence over what she wants?

I’m often met with statements such as “I don’t want to go to preschool” and no amount of reasoning will weaken her resolve.  That is what she has decided and therefore she will not go to preschool.  When she is, ultimately, dropped off at preschool despite her protestations I am often met with a meltdown.  This will be an out and out screaming, rolling round on the floor, bright red, tears flowing tantrum.  Simply because she hasn’t been able to have her own way.  

I’m not one for testing out psychological theories on my children (who is?) but I do wonder that if we didn’t provide Meg with the tools to understand the world around her and see that she isn’t the only person in it whether there would be a natural progression in her understanding.    Perhaps it’s linked with her mental development, and she simply hasn’t got to that ‘stage’ yet.

Is it a gradual process that we begin to stop jumping to attention when our child cries or asks for something?  I find myself saying more and more these days “in a minute” and “not now” and I can’t really remember how old Meg was when I started doing that.

My Other Half commented that he believes that narcissism is always there, hidden underneath.  He still thinks he’s the centre of his parent’s universe.  That when he needs them, they will drop everything and be there for him.  So, either he’s emotionally underdeveloped or narcissism never really leaves us (I’m not commenting either way!)

The article also suggests that when our narcissism is responded to positively, we learn to love ourselves.  Without self-love, you cannot love another.  So it’s vital that parents respond to the narcissistic demands of their children in order to aid them in their emotional development and so that they can love others.  Which seems like the egg and chicken really – if we don’t teach our children that they are the most important person in our lives, they won’t be able to love others.  But in order to love others they need to put aside their narcissistic tendencies.

I know there are no easy answers to these questions and really I’m just commenting out loud.  At the moment I’m spending a lot of time thinking and considering what things will be like next year and the level Meg needs to be at before she starts school.  I want to make sure that I’ve done a good job in equipping her to know who she is and to know that she’s loved.  At the moment she still has a very narrow worldview, believing that she is the central point and I’m worried wanting to know that by this time next year we’ll have done all we can to make sure that she is a happy well-rounded little girl who is able to have empathy for others and not just a “me me me” attitude. 

I haven’t done the article justice in anyway so you can find it here if you’re at all interested to read it.  Feel free to leave me a comment with your thoughts too.

For now, I’ll end with a message from my lovely daughter demonstrating her view on the world:

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