This week the Interwebs have been all abuzz about how narcissists are made by their parents. It seems that kids who are "overvalued" by their parents, who are praised to the rafters night and day, grow up to be self-centered brats, too wrapped up in themselves to notice anyone else. Parents are right now, this very minute, completely losing their minds. They are castigating themselves for every little comment they've ever made. Inside their brains, they're questioning, "if I tell little Timmy that he did a great job on his spelling test, will he become evil?"
What a bunch of crap. I've got to worry about THIS now, too?
When autism first started to be a 'thing', it was all mom's fault. The myth of a "refrigerator mom", a termed probably coined to be deliberately inflammatory, seemed designed to lay all the blame for any behavior problems at the feet of good old mom, when the reality is much more complex. Then youth crime was decided to be the fault of absentee fathers, completely disregarding the other factors which encourage criminal behavior. And now it's our fault that our children are self-centered little brats. It's popular to blame parents for everything. We're convenient scapegoats, and we fall for those stories like a piano hitting the pavement from three stories up.
Most parents want the best for their children. Most parents are always self-checking, wondering about every decision and comparing themselves to other parents. Most parents are anxious about not doing anything which might harm their children, because we love our offspring dearly. We want them to succeed, to grow up feeling comfortable with themselves and the world they live in. We try to help them feel good about themselves in the best way we know how, and I refuse to feel bad about that.
I certainly wasn't pampered as a child. I wasn't raised thinking that I was the second coming of Da Vinci or Einstein. My parents didn't "overvalue" me. In fact, I can't even remember my parents going on and on about how wonderful I was. When I got straight As, well, that was expected. You didn't get praised for doing what was expected in our house. When I got a rare pat on the back, it meant something.
And yet, when I left for college, I was a pompous, self-involved, self-entitled teenager filled with a sense of my own "unique" specialness. When I got to college, I found out that just about every other freshman was exactly like me. Snobbishness was commonplace. Everyone showed up at college with a good measure of narcissism--and got their butts handed to them by life. High school is one huge popularity contest, but college is all about anonymity. Nobody cared that you were homecoming queen; everyone was now a tiny fish in the Mississippi River, trying to fight the current. By the time I left college, my so-called narcissism was cured.
Right now, my son displays narcissistic behavior, in spite of our parenting. We don't praise him to the rafters. We don't tell him that he's the
smartest, the best, and the brightest, even if we might hope for that in
a tiny corner of our hearts. When he does well, we tell him so. If he fails a test, we tell him to study harder next time. If he misses a goal in soccer, we tell him to practice more. We've always emphasized that he is responsible for his own behavior. My son will share his toys, and he is kind to others, but his number one priority right now is himself.
But he's a kid, and his only method of interpreting the world around him right now is himself. He sees it, he hears it, he touches, he smells, and his is the brain that processes the information in terms of himself, the only point of reference he has at the moment. Narcissism is part of normal development. Of COURSE children are self-involved. That is how it is supposed to be, and there's no age limit on it. Kids can be self-involved right up until they leave for college, and a tiny number of them never outgrow that. They either grow up, or they don't. Narcissistic Personality Disorder is not about bad parenting, and it is wrong for the media to focus on that in order to sell clicks on their website.
Talk about narcissistic.