My daughter is not a narcissist. I’m sure she’ll be relieved to read this. And according to a recent study, I can take some credit for her “not too special” status.
Devin shared with me How not to raise a narcissist and my blink response was, “How cool! My daughter is sending me articles about how to raise children.” After reading this article about the latest parenting buzz, I found the conclusion to be simple; tell children that you love them. These words are to replace, “You are special.” I sense a false dichotomy.
If parents are going to tell their children that they are special, it must be the truth. It helps for a child to know that there is no one exactly like them, with their exact gifts, talents and interests. They need to know that their life has a unique purpose to be fulfilled and that they are beautiful. When I tell my child that she or he is special to me, that is the truth. Each child is objectively and uniquely irreplaceable, whether adults acknowledge that or not. And it’s a relief to know that it’s OK to be pretty darn average according to history and the world, as long as we love and are loved well.
If parents are going to tell their children that they love them, it must be the truth, too. Parental love shown through behaviors include self-sacrifice, healthy boundaries, and a fine example. Kids know when they’re being smothered, side-lined, or scammed.
Infancy is the one and only period of each person’s life that needs to be about “me, me, me.” Infants need abundant love, attention, nutrition, safety, tenderness, and avenues to build trust gradually and gently, first with one person and then another. Ideally these primary people will be a part of the baby’s life until death.
While many adults didn’t receive deep care when they were young, which leaves wounds, they have endless opportunities to heal by choosing to love others deeply, especially children, now. Caring for an infant shifts the focus from self to another person, naturally. Relentlessly. Adorably.
Most parents are good enough people; really they are. Parents don’t set out to raise narcissists. But it takes a lot of skill, energy, and finesse for an adult to see beyond themselves in order to help a child to see beyond themselves. It takes time, literally years, to usher that sweet infant from being the center of the universe to being an eighteen year old adult who is willing to sacrifice for others, to truly care about others, and who wants to share his or her gifts and talents with the world.
While recently reading A Revolutionary Entrepreneur On Happiness, Money, And Raising A Supermodel, I identified with entrepreneur Robin Chase, of Zipcar fame, when she answered the question, “Did you try to foster that (your values) in some way with your own children?”
There’s this story that lives in infamy. We’re sitting around the dining room table. My eldest daughter says, “I got straight A’s this semester,” filled with glee, making her younger siblings feel bad. I said to her, “You know, I’m not so impressed. You’re no Maya Angelou.”
I said, “There’s three things in life. You were born with the genes that you have through sheer luck. It had nothing to do with you; you can’t take any credit for that. Your environment is also dumb luck. You happened to be born to parents who believe in education. You have this great environment. You don’t get any credit for that. But you do get credit for working incredibly hard. So good for you. You worked incredibly hard. None of those other things you can get credit for.”
She fell out of her chair onto the dining room floor, laughing. She said all her peers were getting paid like $20 for each A-grade, and her mom is saying, “Well, an A is okay, but you’re not getting a lot of credit for that.”
So I absolutely did pound into them where our values lay and what they got credit for.
Narcissists are among the most difficult people to be around and they are among the most profoundly dissatisfied and unhappy. That’s why we don’t want to raise a narcissist. Parents, to the best of their ability and being responsible for what they control, owe themselves, their children, and the world, people who can be happy in their skin and engage fittingly with others.
What is your experience with narcissism? What is your take on this latest buzz about parenting? Do you have a family story that lives happily in infamy?
I’m off to prepare for company and they will be staying with us for a few weeks. Can you guess who’s coming to visit 😀 ? ~~~~~~~~ Angie Mc