How to Deal With a Narcissistic Teenage Daughter

Maybe your daughter says, “You never do anything for me!” as you’re en route to the store to buy her more soccer equipment. Or maybe she insists she shouldn’t ever have to clean the bathroom because it’s not her job. No matter how she expresses it, dealing with a narcissistic teenage daughter can be tough.

If your teenage daughter is a bit self-absorbed, you’re not alone. Rest assured that her insistence that she’s the center of the universe doesn’t necessarily reflect upon your parenting practice.

Instead, the idea that the world—and everyone in it—revolves around her is often just a phase. Over time, you’ll likely see signs that your teen is able to look outside herself and consider other people’s feelings more often.

Narcissism in Normal Development

The term "narcissist" is usually used to describe someone who is vain, as opposed to someone who has a narcissistic personality disorder—which is a diagnosable mental health condition. People with narcissistic personality disorder have difficulty functioning. They struggle to maintain healthy relationships and their education and employment are affected.

It’s estimated that about 6% of the adult population may have a narcissistic personality disorder. But it’s rarely diagnosed before the age of 18. It’s unlikely that self-centered behavior from your teen is a sign of a bigger problem.

Being egocentric is part of normal teenage development. It helps adolescents separate from their families and form their own unique identities.

Egocentric thinking and self-centeredness usually start to taper off by about age 15 or 16. While you are waiting out this stage, there are steps you can take to help deal with a narcissistic teen. These strategies can help you cope while also helping your daughter realize that the earth doesn’t revolve around her.

1

Build Empathy

Dealing with a narcissistic teenage daughter can be a challenge.
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Empathy—the ability to understand and share the feelings of another—goes beyond little-kid lessons like learning to share and say "sorry." Teens are still actively building empathy skills too. This is a prime time to focus on helping your teen understand empathy at a deeper level.

To do this, look for opportunities to interpret how other people might feel. Ask questions like, “How do you think your teacher felt when the student yelled at her?” or, “How do you think your friend felt when ​you canceled your plans at the last minute?”

Similarly, when you’re watching the news, ask questions like, “How do you think it feels to be that family?” Regular conversations about other people’s feelings will remind your teen to be concerned for other people.

2

Volunteer Together

Saying “Eat your broccoli because there are starving kids in the world” won’t promote a sense of compassion. But volunteering together at a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter could remind your teen to be a giver, not just a taker.

Volunteering can help your teen recognize that she has resources to help alleviate other people’s suffering. She might volunteer to visit residents at a nursing home or tutor younger children who struggle in school. Get her involved in choosing community service work, and make it a family priority to help others. 

3

Induce Awe

Studies show that when teens feel awe, they are reminded that the world is much bigger than they are. Whether your teen experiences a sense of awe by gazing at the stars or by visiting a museum, do things that help her think about history or the natural wonders of the world. You don't necessarily have to visit those places in person. Looking at images can also be awe-inspiring. 

4

Be a Good Role Model

Show your teen you’re invested in helping other people. Whether you stop to help people when you see a need or you take meals to your elderly neighbor every week, incorporate service into your daily life.

Your attitude towards others will trickle down to your teen. So demonstrate the importance of being kind, generous, and compassionate.

5

Encourage Your Teen to Expand Her Thinking

A narcissistic teen will assume other people’s behaviors are somehow related to her. So when a friend doesn’t call her back, she might assume her friend is mad at her. Or she might insist that the teacher who gave her a poor grade doesn’t like her.

Gently ask questions like, “Is that the only possible reason your friend didn’t call back?” Help your teen see that while her conclusion is definitely a possibility, there are also dozens of other alternative explanations.

6

Don't Connect All Consequences to Possessions

If all of your teen’s consequences focus on her belongings, she may grow to believe material possessions are the most important thing in life. It’s OK to restrict her cellphone privileges or take away her electronics sometimes, but make sure you use other consequences too.

Consider disciplining her by taking away experiences, such as going to a friend’s house over the weekend. Or assign extra chores, like doing more yard work, for misbehavior.

7

Refuse to Overindulge Your Child

Showering your child with expensive gifts or lavish experiences may reinforce your daughter’s notion that she’s extra special. It may also teach her that her self-worth is built around having stuff—and showing those things off to others.

Set limits on how much you give to your child. Remind her that life isn’t all about elevating her status. Instead, she has time and talent she could give to others.

8

Limit Electronics Use

Many of the ads your child sees online and on TV try to convince her she needs to buy certain products to appear more beautiful or wealthier than others. Those messages could reinforce a focus on superficial things.

Plus, most teens spend a fair amount of time on social media. Whether your teen is obsessed with taking the perfect selfie or she’s bragging about your latest family vacation, social media may serve as an outlet for her narcissism.

That's why it’s important to set healthy limits on screen time. Encourage her to participate in a wide variety of activities to help her become well-rounded.

9

Focus on Your Teen's Efforts

When your teen gets an A on an exam, it may be tempting to praise her for being smart. And when she scores the winning goal in a game, you might feel compelled to point out that she’s a great soccer player. But praising your child for her accomplishments will fuel her ego.

Instead, praise her efforts so you can build character, rather than inflate her ego. Say things like, “I can tell you studied really hard,” or “You really hustled on the field today.” Then she’ll know you value her effort more than her achievement.

10

Build a Healthy Self-Image

While a shiny new necklace or being nominated for prom queen may temporarily help your teen feel good about herself, you don’t want her self-esteem to be contingent on outside events.

Help her build a healthy foundation for self-worth, so she knows she can still feel good about herself even when she fails or gets rejected. Whether she takes violin lessons or joins a service club, healthy activities can help her feel good about herself. When she genuinely feels good about herself, she’ll feel less compelled to brag to others about her accomplishments.

11

Assign Chores

It’s important for everyone in the household to contribute to the family, including your teen. Keep her down to earth by assigning regular chores. And you don’t have to pay your teen for everything she does.

Assign duties, like emptying the dishwasher, cooking family meals, and vacuuming common areas of the home. Tell her she can gain access to her privileges as soon as her chores are complete.

12

Teach Healthy Coping Strategies

Hostility, cruelty, and arrogance often stem from a teen’s attempts to mask uncomfortable feelings, like sadness or embarrassment. Your teen may insist the coach cut her from the team because he’s an idiot or her teacher gave her a bad grade because she’s jealous of her.

Teach your teen healthy ways to deal with insecurities and uncomfortable feelings. Journaling when she’s sad or talking to a friend when she’s embarrassed, for example. could help her address her emotions in a healthier way.

Talk about emotions often. Share your experiences with failure or rejection and the temptation you may have felt to blame other people or put others down. Explain the healthier ways you found to deal with your situations.

13

Pick Your Battles

When your teen brags about being superior or insists she be given special treatment, ignoring her comments may be the best response. Arguing or debating with her may only give her more attention.

So choose your battles wisely. When her words or her behavior are hurtful to you or other people, address them. But don’t feel as though you need to call her out for every self-centered comment she makes.

14

Make Your Teen Responsible for Her Choices

One of the best ways to deal with a narcissistic teenage daughter is to make her responsible for her behavior. Don’t rescue her every time she makes a mistake, and don’t step in to save her from failure all the time.

Instead, let her experience logical or natural consequences for her behavior. If she breaks something, make her buy a new one. If she misses the bus on purpose, charge her for your time to drive her to school. Help her problem-solve, but encourage her to take steps to address the situation on her own.

15

Seek Professional Help

If your daughter’s narcissistic ways are causing serious problems in her life, seek professional help. If, for example, she’s unable to maintain friendships because she alienates her peers, or she’s struggling to get an education because she’s frequently getting suspended, talk to her doctor. A referral to a mental health provider may be in order.

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Article Sources
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  1. Kacel EL, Ennis N, Pereira DB. Narcissistic personality disorder in clinical health psychology practice: Case studies of comorbid psychological distress and life-limiting illness. Behav Med. 2017;43(3):156-164. doi:10.1080/08964289.2017.1301875

  2. Shiota MN, Keltner D, Mossman A. The nature of awe: Elicitors, appraisals, and effects on self-conceptCogn Emot. 2007;21(5):944-963. doi:10.1080/02699930600923668

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