On Not Raising Narcissistic Children

Last week I mentioned a helpful book for parents on how to “unspoil” their children (HERE).  Along those same lines I found some helpful parenting advice in Keith Campbell and Jean Twenge’s The Narcissism Epidemic.  This is not a Christian resource for parenting, but it should be read alongside Christian parenting books and the biblical principles for parenting.  Here are some (edited) steps that Campbell and Twenge give to help “temper narcissistic impulses” in our children:

1) Say no, and mean it.  There’s nothing wrong with saying no to your child.  If you say no and your child whines and screams and then you give in, you’ve just taught your child that whining and screaming is effective.

2) Don’t give your child too much power.  Five-year-olds should not be picking out the family car, their bed, or even their own clothes all the time.  …Yes, preschoolers love having a say in what they wear, and giving them some power prevents too many morning battles.  They key is ‘some’ power.  …Most young children can’t yet make good decisions if they are given too much say.  Instead, it works best to give the child limited choices.  Be sparing with how often you ask a young child, ‘Do you want…?’  Instead, say, ‘Were going to the park.’

3) Carefully consider the messages you are sending to your children about competition and winning.  Yet, it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, but teaching winning at all costs is not going to work out well in the long run.  Cheaters are usually caught eventually, and even if they aren’t, they shortchange themselves by not learning material or doing something on their own.

4) Think twice before you buy your kid something that announces how great he is.  A shirt that says, ‘Spoiled Rotten’ is cute until the kid does something bratty – which, let’s face it, is going to be about three minutes for most kids.  Unless you’re Prince William or Harry, don’t dress your daughter in an outfit claiming she is a ‘Princess.’  She’s not.  Get over it.  Similarly, putting a bib on your child’s neck that announces, ‘I’m the boss’ is likely to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Sure, kids change our lives, but there’s no need to announce that they now run the household (p. 86-89.

Sometimes parents may lament how “rough” they had it growing up or how “disciplinary” their parents were.  They are resolved to be easier on their kids than their parents were to them (to the extent that they can be “best friends” with their own kids).  This kind of thinking sometimes leads parents to say “yes” too much, buy their kids too many things, and let their kids get away with things kids should never get away with.  Add this type of parenting to the narcissistic culture in which we live and before you know it, our children are budding narcissists.  Thankfully, these trends can be reversed (and avoided) by firm and loving Christian parenting.  (To be continued…) shane lems hammond, wi

6 Replies to “On Not Raising Narcissistic Children”

  1. I was with you in part until you got to #4 which could be pushing it. In the good old days before slogans or cutesy phrases were even on clothing at all, there were still narcissistic people. There are still people who are raised in good homes with good values that are narcissistic. There are also those that are given everything they want, have the princess t-shirts and are spoiled rotten as children who are NOT narcissistic. They turn out to be loving, caring individuals. There is no one size fits all way to raise children. They are all different.


  2. Narcissism is as much a part of original sin as any other sin, that being said narcissism, the idea of being like God, knowing good and evil really shows us what Satan’s downfall was and how he used it to appeal to man’s own ego.


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