I just read this article on the New York Post, which I LOVE:
"This week, a study came
out confirming that narcissists are largely bred, not born. The study,
conducted by the University of Amsterdam and Ohio State University,
found that “narcissism in children is cultivated by parental
overvaluation: parents believing their child to be more special and more
entitled than others.” (That’s scientific-speak for Special Snowflake
Syndrome, and the researchers are talking about the other parents at
your youth league soccer practice.)
This is great news, because it means there are steps we can take to prevent unleashing more little egotists on the world.
And this is bad news, because these steps are actually pretty
common-sense; the study cited parental warmth, not praise, as a
counterbalance to the trend. It’s also kind of depressing that we’ve
even come to a point where narcissism — the increase of which
contributes to societal problems such as aggression and violence,
according to the research — has become so widespread that an entire
study was conducted in the first place. (Then again, selfie sticks are
now sold in drugstores for $24.95, so the mystery ends there.)
Anyone who’s spent time with a toddler recently does not need to be
told that narcissism is the status quo in children. Remember how Martin
Luther King Jr. once said that the moral arc of the universe is long,
but it bends toward justice? In kids, it bends toward narcissism.
After all, we are talking about a segment of the population that sees
nothing wrong in waking their parents up at 4 a.m. to demand pancakes
and episodes of “Dinosaur Train.”
And that’s why parents exist. It’s partly to keep their kids clothed
and fed and safe and loved, and partly to prevent them from becoming
The way to raise a narcissist is pretty evident: Tell your child they
are wonderful, the very best, the most special of the specials on the
sports field and the classroom and in the country and possibly on the
planet — and keep telling them that. Or, just be a narcissist yourself.
Done. Cool, we’ve settled that.
But what if you’d like to raise someone who’s confident, kind and aware of others?
Here are nine ways to make sure your child doesn’t become a narcissist.
Say no. A recent school of thought seems to treat
“no” as a kind of ultimate buzzkill, a tamping down on childish
creativity and artistic self-expression. This is nuts. It’s fine to tell
your children no, especially when they’re trying to set something on
fire. In fact, a lot of life is being told no and then trying to come up
with alternative plans. They might as well learn this young, so it
doesn’t come as a shock five minutes into their first job.
Teach them basic manners. A lack of manners is the
ultimate form of narcissism. Whether it’s someone who is rude to
waiters, has bad table manners or can’t be bothered to dress for the
occasion, lack of manners is signaling to the world that you have no
need to conform to any silly “social codes” or “basic ideas of decency,”
and that all that counts is your own comfort. But wait, you say. There
are plenty of well-mannered narcissists! Yes, but they’re a lot more
pleasant than the ones who sneeze into their dinner napkins or take food
off your plate without asking.
Teach them how to manage frustration. Much has been written about
good old-fashioned grit, a person’s ability to confront failure and
learn from it. Studies have found it to be one of the best indicators of
later happiness in adults. Teach a kid how to overcome adversity, and
you’re also teaching him or her about disappointment, another invaluable
life lesson that’s cut off when parents attempt to cocoon their
children from anything unpleasant.
Pull a Louie. There was a fantastic episode of
“Louie” a few seasons back where his daughter is enraged because her
sister got something that she didn’t.
“Listen,” he says. “You’re never gonna get the same things as other
people. It’s never gonna be equal. It’s not gonna happen ever in your
life, so you must learn that now, OK? The only time you should look in
your neighbor’s bowl is to make sure that they have enough. You don’t
look in your neighbor’s bowl to see if you have . . . as much as them.”
Pretty much everything Louis C.K. has to say about parenting is dead on,
so if you’re looking for more pointers and great life lessons, just cue
up your Netflix account.
Be kind. To other people, not just your child. This
one might seem painfully obvious, but it’s worth remembering that your
kids don’t just notice how you treat them — they notice how you interact
with the world. You know how some of the most successful people are the
ones who are unfailingly lovely to everyone, from shoe shiners to CEOs?
People like that lead by example, creating wonderful environments to be
emulated. Parents who are rude to everyone but their children are
sending a message that there are people who matter (their kids!) and
people who don’t (everyone else!).
Travel with them. Take trips with your kids, whether
it’s to another country, another state or even a town nearby that’s
completely different from the one you live in. It doesn’t have to be
expensive. A change of scenery will be enough to reinforce to your kids
that not everyone lives the way they do: that life goes on differently
in other places, that people come from different races and nationalities
and economic situations, and that it is not acceptable to simply exist
in a bubble of people who reflect their own worldview.
Love and approval are different. Loving your kids
unconditionally is one thing, but that love doesn’t need to translate
into constant, unconditional, 24/7 approval and praise of everything
they do. You can love someone while redirecting their behavior or being
disappointed by their actions. The two aren’t mutually exclusive.
Read to them. A recent study found
that reading fiction helps people improve their empathy, because it
encourages them to place themselves in others’ lives and understand
their actions. In that way, reading is like traveling — with your mind.
Run errands with them. Not all of life can be
fascinating, interesting and wonderful, and no lesson reinforces that
better than bringing your kids along on some errands. While the recent
parenting emphasis on “quality time” is fine, boredom is its own
powerful life lesson. So is the message that you have to spend a portion
of each day doing things that are necessary, though not magical, and
that not every activity revolves around kids. It’s also a great time to
bond with your kids in a casual, low-pressure setting."
Great ideas to think about for this coming new year.
Thanks for reading,