Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Narcissistic Entitlement?

Are many parents raising teacup kids who are fragile and vulnerable as teens and adults in the face of challenges and stresses?

Lori Gottlieb, a parent and a therapist, writes a perceptive essay in The Atlantic entitled 'How to Land your Kids in Therapy: why the obsession with our kids' happiness may be dooming them to unhappy adulthoods.'

Gottlieb refers to a number of current theorists on the subject, “Happiness as a byproduct of living your life is a great thing, but happiness as a goal is a recipe for disaster. It’s precisely this goal, though, that many modern parents focus on obsessively—only to see it backfire. Observing this phenomenon, my colleagues and I began to wonder: Could it be that by protecting our kids from unhappiness as children, we’re depriving them of happiness as adults?"

She warns against parents who have a “discomfort with discomfort.” Too much protection and indulgence can prevent kids from cultivating a "psychological immunity."

"When ego-boosting parents exclaim “Great job!” not just the first time a young child puts on his shoes but every single morning he does this, the child learns to feel that everything he does is special. Likewise, if the kid participates in activities where he gets stickers for “good tries,” he never gets negative feedback on his performance. (All failures are reframed as “good tries.”) According to Twenge, indicators of self-esteem have risen consistently since the 1980s among middle-school, high-school, and college students. But, she says, what starts off as healthy self-esteem can quickly morph into an inflated view of oneself—a self-absorption and sense of entitlement that looks a lot like narcissism. In fact, rates of narcissism among college students have increased right along with self-esteem."

Maybe it's better to be good parents who allow kids a little more slack rather than trying to be super parents.