Narcissists are created—not born.
And, it’s fair to say that no one parent—or set of parents—sets out to create the people who will go on and make us all miserable when they snub us, or make us feel insignificant and unimportant. But, inadvertently these people keep showing up in our social circles, at work, and across from us in restaurants.
While it is easy to be dismissive and see ourselves as superior to the parents that raise these children, it helps to understand that this is generally done out of love—albeit, misguided love. It’s also the tendency for those raised this way to continue this madness with their own children.
Some have argued that a self-involved parent who emotionally neglects their child will undoubtedly raise a narcissist; and some say that an overly-involved “helicopter parent” who never holds their child accountable for their actions will wind up with these regrettable results.
I’m of the mindset that both of these statements are true. There are, however, five key elements that parents can follow to ensure that they are not unleashing another narcissist onto the world:
Be kind when your child makes a mistake.
Once again, don’t sweep mistakes under the mat, or advise your child not to worry about them, because this will enable your child and set them straight down the path we are all trying to avoid. The trick really, is to embrace that mistakes will happen and our finest hour is when we improve upon them. I have found that this gives a small child a realistic view of life, and helps them to feel loved.
Sometimes, when I am with my girls and they stare transfixed at another child throwing a devil tantrum, I will take the opportunity to investigate their ability to identify with that child. This will then lead to a conversation about understanding someone else’s emotions.
My kids are really little—two and five years old—so the path we follow can be interesting at times, but I find it necessary. It opens my eyes to where they are developmentally, and it opens their eyes a little, too. All in all, I am of the mindset that it can’t hurt and, most likely, helps quite a bit.
Encourage them to show kindness to others.
The library in my town has a whole section for children, and seeing as how the winter in New York this year has been an ongoing phenomena, me and my girls have spent quite a bit of time there on the weekends.
I have noticed that when other moms show up with their kids after we have had the run of the place for a bit, the dynamic gets a little awkward. My two girls seem to want to keep to themselves and shut others out. This is totally understandable and not too removed from basic “Animal Kingdom” behavior, but it is also a perfect place for me, as a dad, to intervene.
From what I gather, it is a useful thing to encourage small kids to be inclusive and loving to children whom they perceive as strangers. It’s really just instinct that keeps them from being more extroverted, so in this case, the intervention is a great idea. They all have a better time because of it.
It’s kind of a family joke and has been for years when my ex-girlfriend reminds our girls in a brash tone that “some kids get nothing,” but under that humor is a real lesson. We never let our kids lose sight of the fact that we live in a very wealthy country—comparatively speaking—and we are even more fortunate than a lot of the people in this country.
Let me clarify that this is, of course, done in the most loving way, but it is done. As far as what I have observed in the past, a sense of entitlement is two steps to the left of narcissism and it’s a slippery slope from point A to point B.
Limit the electronics.
So many of our friends, like me and my ex, have enthusiastically started parenthood by vowing to keep children away from screens and promising to bring them up in the same vein as Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King. A year or two down the pike, when the second child is born, most of us cave in and buy them tablets from Amazon once we realize how desperate we are for a break once in awhile.
No harm, no foul. Where the wealthy may have a nanny to rely upon, the rest of us have iPads. I do, however, make sure I keep track of how often they are staring at them. As with most other things in life, a little mindfulness goes a long way.
All in all, it doesn’t take much more than a little common sense to raise caring and nurturing little beings, but this sense is not as common for some as it is for others. I don’t think it’s a matter for blame though. Every time I catch myself engaging in the same dysfunctional patterns I used to despise my parents for, I realize how difficult it is sometimes, despite our best efforts, to remove ourselves entirely from our upbringings.
So if a person has narcissistic tendencies it will take a little more work to raise children without those same tendencies—but it certainly isn’t impossible.
Author: Billy Manas
Editor: Lieselle Davidson
Copy Editor: Catherine Monkman