The Parenting Tactic That Accidentally Results In Narcissistic Kids

How to make sure you raise a healthy kid.

Last updated on Jun 24, 2024

Parent realizes praise won't make their kid a narcissist, but something else will. digitalskillet | Canva

Several articles made the rounds about a study of children who have narcissistic tendencies, with pieces from NPR, and the Washington Post, among others. The titles of these articles are extremely misleading, suggesting that praising your child turns them into a little bratty, entitled narcissist. 

Moms and dads: it's critically important to note that what the original study said ... is that just praise alone isn't the problem; rather, parents need to avoid praise that compares the children to others and suggests they are superior in the comparison. Praising our children isn't a bad thing, it's praising them as we criticize others that's the problem! Narcissistic behavior in children is not just self-centeredness; it is also extreme selfishness and disregard for others. Narcissistic adults have trouble in relationships, are often uncompassionate parents, and are generally unenjoyable human beings. Trust me, you don't want to raise narcissistic children! 


So, here are a few tips to help you acknowledge and praise your children without turning them into nasty narcissists:

1. Don't compare your children to anyone ... ever

Acknowledge your children for who they are, without comparing them to others. If they have done something wrong, say so, but don't say so in comparison to someone else (like a sibling, neighbor, classmate, etc.). Comparison is dangerous because there is always someone who can outperform your child in some area, so they feel endlessly doomed to failure. If your children stay focused on themselves (and achieving their own personal best) they'll succeed or falter on their own merits

@grammytalk Do not conpare your child to another child, even in the salme family. Love the child you have! Givethem the attention they need to learn and develop at their own pace. You will be glad you did! 🦋 #grammytalk #brightfuturechildcare #fyp #foryoupage #tiktokviral #childdevelopment #agesandstages #llovetheoneyourewith ♬ original sound - GrammyTalk/Bright Future

RELATED: The 2 Major Ways Parents Make Their Kids Into Narcissists

2. Get to know your children

The actual cause of narcissistic personality disorder in adults is hard to pin down. Some mental health professionals believe narcissism stems from abuse, while others believe it comes from over-involved parents who project their desires onto their children (i.e. dad wants an athlete whether the child wants the same or not). Either way, you can't go wrong by listening carefully to your children, understanding who they uniquely are, and acknowledging their distinct wants, thoughts, and feelings. You don't always have to agree with them, but you'll give them a great boost in life by really, truly letting their true self shine.

RELATED: 10 Tips For Raising Perfect, Unspoiled, Angel Kids


3. Focus on positive personality traits, not achievements

Your child's achievements are fleeting, but their kindness and good character (if nurtured) are likely to stick with them for life. Acknowledge when your child demonstrates dedication, a great work ethic, compassion, helpfulness, or is just a pleasant person in general. It's okay to periodically praise your child's achievements, too, but limit the frequency and the intensity when you do so. Focusing on their effort, character and personal traits (versus their achievements) leads to more confident and less conceited children.

RELATED: 5 Habits Parents Should Break If They Want To Raise Confident Kids

4. Don't be a Martyr Mama (or Father)

Yes, you like to feel needed and important in your children's lives but don't do everything for them. I repeat — do not do this! Letting your children think that your world revolves entirely around them leads to a sense of self-centeredness (and helplessness) in children. And they grow up expecting everyone else who "claims" to love them to also order their lives around meeting your child's every whim and wish. Show your children that you have a life of your own and have complete confidence in their ability to do things for themselves.


Not only is it miserable to neglect your own life and needs as a parent, but it also sends a truly dreadful message to your children. Being a martyr for your kids doesn't lead to confident, happy children and it certainly won't make you happy. Narcissistic characteristics are the worst! They're extremely unpleasant in children (as anyone around such a child will certainly tell you). Narcissistic personality disorder is also complicated to treat in adults. Although there is no solid evidence as to the exact cause or cure for narcissism, there are a few things you can do to hedge your bets and help raise non-narcissistic children. You will be really glad that you did.

RELATED: How To Raise A Kid Who Can Survive Life's Biggest Challenges

Lisa Kaplin is a psychologist, certified professional life and executive coach, and a highly experienced corporate speaker. She helps people overcome stress and overwhelm to find joy in their personal lives and success and meaning in their professional lives.