NARCISSISTIC PERSONALITY DISORDER (NPD) usually begins to manifest during a child’s teenage years or early adulthood.
While many teenagers may be somewhat narcissistic, it is usually a normal stage of development and self-corrects over time. For this reason, clinicians are reluctant to diagnose NPD and other personality disorders in minors. However, when children present as callous and unemotional they may be tested by for conduct disorder.
Good enough parents seek to cultivate empathy and mental wellness in their children. Parents who have experienced narcissistic abuse, either in their personal or professional life, are often keen to prevent these dysfunctional behaviors in their children.
So, how do you spot a fledgling narcissist?
What is a fledgling narcissist?
A fledgling narcissist is an adolescent or teenage child who mirrors the behaviors and attitudes of a narcissistic caregiver or role model.
It’s distinguishing features are:
- A sense of entitlement
- Inability to accept responsibility
- A lack of gratitude
- An air of superiority
- Low empathy
- A belief that they are special
- Attention seeking
- Exaggerations or compulsive lying
- Unreasonable expectations
- Contempt for peers
In other words, they act out the narcissism present in their ecosystem in the form of role models and the culture at large.
Within the family system, a highly narcissist child is often cast in the role of The Manipulator, also known as The Mastermind.
Experiments of dominance
A fledgling narcissist usually experiments with these behaviors in the home, targeting an individual they feel confident will endure their aggression and insolence.
If the child’s expressions of superiority and dominance go unchecked, there is an increased probability that the child may become a full-blown narcissist.
Sometimes high levels of narcissism are encouraged in children. This can happen if one or both of the parents are highly narcissistic. In those instances, narcissistic behavior may be reinforced in the child(ren).
Who does the fledgling narcissist target?
They practices their behavior on a family member. Usually, this will be a sibling or anyone they perceive as vulnerable.
The targeted brother or sister will be subjected to sibling abuse which can take the form of physical, emotional or sexual abuse,
If one of the parents is the target of an ongoing campaign of coercive control by a pathological narcissistic spouse, a budding abuser may target the vulnerable parent with their aggression.
After they’ve enjoyed successful experiments at home, the fledgling narcissist will graduate to targeting someone outside the home.
These early experiments are forays into discovering how far the fledgling narcissist can go.
What you can do as a parent
Abuse should never be tolerated, especially not from your own child. Here are some actionable steps you can take with a fledgling narcissist child:
- Consider family therapy with a licensed professional.
- Make it clear that there is zero tolerance for abuse.
- Set hard boundaries.
- Be explicit with the child about what behavior is acceptable.
- Inform the child about your “deal breakers” i.e. behavior that is unacceptable.
- Write down the terms of engagement and seal the deal with a handshake.
- If the child breaks the deal, call out the behavior.
- Consistently enforce the boundaries.
Have Your Say
Have you experienced a fledgling narcissist in your life? Do you recognize some of the characteristic mentioned in this post? Please share your story in the comments below.
Ritter K, Dziobek I, Preissler S, Rüter A, Vater A, Fydrich T, Lammers CH, Heekeren HR, Roepke S. Lack of empathy in patients with narcissistic personality disorder. Psychiatry Res. 2011 May 15;187(1-2):241-7. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2010.09.013. Epub 2010 Nov 4. PMID: 21055831.