Do selfies make kids narcissistic?

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Today’s parents are wondering if kids focus too much on taking selfies, becoming famous, and how many likes and followers they have, can it make them into self-obsessed, narcissistic children?

There hasn’t been a lot of research done on the effects of selfies and social media on adolescent development but it’s fair to say that narcissists LOVE the culture of social media. It’s probably not surprising to you that narcissists love to post a lot of photos of themselves.

When kids spend a lot of time on all screens (ipads/TV/cell phones) the one thing researchers all agree on is kid’s ability to empathize with others has been reduced, leading to the bullying problem and a world full of not-so-nice people. We can’t just blame screen time: whether it’s schools or home life, kids today have a reduced opportunity for free play, to hurt people’s feelings and watch the results, to learn turn taking and compassion, to learn to feel sad, angry and disappointed and take responsibility for those feelings.

So whether it’s at home, at school or online, there are things we can do to create a world full of nice people for our children to grow up in, and make sure our kid is one of them.

Narcissists pursue being admired by other people and expect others to notice their superior talents and abilities. They believe they are better than others and are entitled to special privileges. When they don’t get what they want or get embarrassed, expect to see a strong emotional reaction (watch reality TV and you will see this in action). Young kids are naturally self-focused and self-praising: “Watch Me! Listen to Me!”. Getting attention from their parents is what they live for. But before kids get on Instagram, the seeds of narcissism have already started in these two ways:

  1. Parents over-valuing their child and praising them in a way that implies they are superior to others. These kids don’t see anything other than their own brilliance. They believe what they have been told.
  2. Kids being so emotionally sensitive and experiencing rejection in such a way that they build a false sense of their own superiority. “If I am awesome and perfect, then nothing bad can happen to me and I will never feel vulnerable again.” 

Does your kid…..Throw a fit if she doesn’t win a game? Blame others when he feels negative emotion? Have trouble showing compassion for others? Not show remorse when she hurts someone’s feelings? Bends the rules to suit his needs? Blames others for her mistakes? If this sounds like your child ask him the two questions below. You might want to nip narcissism in the bud before your child turns into someone you don’t enjoy being around.

Do you think you are better than others?”

Do you think you deserve special treatment?

What we do know is parental warmth and love is powerful prevention and helps create kids who are satisfied with themselves. Kids don’t need to inflate their ego when they genuinely believe they are enough. Not perfect, not brilliant, just worthy enough for their Mom and Dad to love them. The message to send to kids is: “You are special to me.” instead of “You are special.” Deepak Chopra recommends instilling in all kids “You are no better and no worse than anyone else.” My favorite because it makes me laugh is ….”You are so special and unique! Just like everybody else.” 

Remember these tips to give your kids good self esteem and connecting them with others in meaningful ways:

Praise your child when you see them being vulnerable: “I loved the apology note you wrote to Grandma, I know it was hard for you and I think you acted very bravely.” “I loved the school project you did because it was so YOU. When you are creating something you love, it shows.”

Model mistake making – Show your kids how to apologize and forgive “I shouldn’t have told you you are better than others. I can see now it was wrong. You are wonderful, and so is everyone else.”

“What can you take responsibility for?” When you hear your child blaming others, ask them, “What part of this problem is yours?” Keep asking to the point of being annoying. You are breaking down their perfect facade so if they get mad, take it as a good sign. Fill up their tank with love and warmth later.

The Golden Rule is present in every religion around the globe so it must be worthwhile. “Treat others how you like to be treated.” is something that cannot be repeated enough.

If you need a little help with raising your kids to be an adult whose company you enjoy, click here to schedule a free discovery coaching session and we’ll see what’s getting in your way. Kids learn by imitation so if your parents didn’t model these teachings, it takes a little work to create something different.

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