As parents, we are all guilty of wanting more for our children that we had growing up. The problem emerges when we lavish them with indiscriminate praise and approval. A recent study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences explored the origin of narcissism and found that the way parents raise their children is a significant factor. The study concluded that parents who overvalue their children and provide excessive or exaggerated praise may cause higher levels of narcissism in their kids. While some contest that genetics play a significant role in the development of narcissistic behaviors, the researchers of this study find that social learning and parental interactions play a significant role.
Are we all guilty of wanting the best for our children and doing what we can to raise their self-confidence? Of course we are, but there are better ways to build self-esteem in our children. For starters, provide praise that is linked to a behavior and be specific when praising your children. Instead of global praise like, “you are really intelligent,” it would be better to say, “I know that you worked really hard to complete this project”. Try to be more descriptive in your praise and approval. Enable your children to take ownership in their work and don’t obsess over every detail of their lives.
Self-esteem is an inside job and has greater staying power when it is not driven by external factors like praise/approval from others. Serving others can actually make children feel better about themselves and appreciate more of what they have in life. Failure can also be a time of growth and learning so we need to step aside and provide support but not fix every little problem that comes along. Be consistent in your words and actions and follow through on consequences when your children don’t follow the rules. Part of loving our children is holding them responsible and accountable for their actions. We are all overwhelmed by a society that reinforces self-centered behavior; let’s try to encourage a healthier mindset in our children.