Parents Beware: The Narcissist Generation


So I met with a clinician that I respect and admire, as she’s been in the business longer than I have, and has a ton of insight into the issues of today. You know what we talked about?

Teenagers. Or more rather, The Narcissist Generation.

Now why do I say this, and why the heck am I picking on the teenagers anyway? Doesn’t that make me an old fart for picking on the kids even though they have a big target on their foreheads anyway?

First of all, I’m not picking on anyone. I’m warning people. If you don’t know that something could be a problem, then how can you do anything about it? (Conversely, if you know about a problem, and do nothing about it, you might as well condone it).

Secondly, I’m not just going to sit here and point out a problem. I’m going to give you some stuff to help you. Sound good? OK.

Now why do I call teenagers the Narcissist Generation? In order for me to do this, I have to define what Narcissism is. For those of you who don’t know, Narcissism was named after a character from Greek Mythology named Narcissus. He was a pretty boy who “falls in love with a reflection in a pool, not realizing it was his own, and perishes there, not being able to leave the beauty of his own reflection. (Wikipedia)”

Think about all the stuff teens do online and with their friends. They pimp out their Myspace. They update their Facebook status constantly. They shoot videos on Youtube and take pictures of themselves so their friends can see them. All the world’s a stage, and they are trying to find their place in the spotlight somehow.

Now Narcissism is defined in the Big Red Diagnosis Book as:

– A huge sense of self-importance

– Frequent thoughts of success, power, beauty or ideal love.

– A belief that he/she is special or unique

– A need for constant admiration

– Takes advantage of other people

– Lacks empathy or can’t identify with the needs of other people.

– Envies others or believes people envy him or her

Now take a look at that and try to tell me that any teenager you run into doesn’t fit that criterion in some way (they have to meet 5 to fit the diagnosis). Ironically enough, we actually believe that some of these things are good things for them to believe or feel. They should have a good sense of self-importance, right? (there I go with Should again) Teenagers should have admiration, and believe that they are special and unique, right?

Wrong. Here’s the problem: We’ve worked so hard to try to make sure that our children have every possible option they can have. We give it to them freely, because we love them. You know what happens?

They don’t appreciate it. In fact, they expect all those great privilages from you as a parent.  Like the sun rises in the East and sets in the West, they expect to get the best, the most, and the newest.

As a result, you get Narcissism. So how do we stop it.

1. Stop feeling guilty. For the love of St. Peter and all that is holy, let go of the guilt you have and make sure your kids, “get everything you didn’t get.” This isn’t about you feeling better about your childhood, its about teaching your kids what’s right and wrong.

2. Admire your kids, but in a healthy way. Show your kids they are great for doing the right thing, not just because they exist.

3. Don’t be afraid to take something away from them if they’re abusing it. If you don’t set a boundary with them, they will continue to abuse you, their siblings, their peers and whatever you give them. They need to know that abusing anything is a bad idea, and is generally unhealthy.

4. Teach them about reality, but in a cool way. Don’t just tell them that the world isn’t fair (that’s my job). Show them how the real world works, in a way that is helpful to them. If they’re into skateboarding, take them to a skate shop and ask the owner to talk to them about how much it costs to run it and keep it going. If they want to be in music, take them to see a musician, and see if you can interview them about their success (and failures).

See, just because your world revolves around your kids, doesn’t mean THE world revolves around them. They need to learn this, but in a healthy way that makes sense. If you want someone to give them a verbal reality check, then that’s where I come in. I’m actually not bad at it, and they seem to like the way I do stuff. Go figure.

Do you agree? Comments Welcome!