Unfortunately, we live in a Kardashian-esque world that places high value on looks, status, and material belongings. It's a junk culture where depth is rare and thinking about others is even rarer. Few people are able to take on another person's perspective and show empathy with any regularity. As a parent of two young boys with a narcissitic ex, I place HIGH value on teaching empathy and I work hard daily to avoid raising narcissists. So...how do you avoid raising a narcissist in a world like today's?
1. Teach them its their fault
Narcissists are unable to take blame or apologize for their actions. They never accept fault and can always find a person, place, or thing to put the guilt on. This way, they never have to experience consequences either. I have always allowed my children to experience the hurt for their choices. For example, when they fall, I'm careful not to say, "That stick was in your way", which places blame on the stick and robs the child of the opportunity to practice caution. Instead, I'll show love and empathy, but allow them to experience fault, "Oh no! You weren't watching where you were going and you got hurt. Come here, I'll hold you". Or, when something doesn't go our way, we practice, "This is disappointing. We'll have to try a different way next time" instead of being angry at circumstance which implies we have some sort of control over the universe.
Teach them to accept fault, allow them to experience guilt, praise efforts and recognize small achievements. Accepting fault for both good and bad is a learned skill.
2. Acknowledge others in need
When my boys were two year's old they had a fascination with fire trucks like any young boy. Their father would clap and get excited when a fire truck passed by, "Look boys a fire truck!", This always made my stomach cringe because I felt we were ignoring the purpose of the fire truck which is to help people in danger. I've modeled, "Fire trucks are fun to look at, but that fire truck has on it's sirens. That means someone is in danger". Similarly, when an ambulance passes by, we turn off the radio and send positive, healing thoughts to the person, or people, that may be hurt. In your home, perhaps you'll say a prayer.
Children will never do what you say, but they will do what you do. We visit farmer's markets to support local farmers and talk about where food comes from and how people eat all over the world based on what grows and lives nearby. We give dogs water that we pass in the park and take time to pet them and "give love". We hold doors for strangers and "spread joy" by waving out the window to passersby. Throwing away trash is followed with "we are a family that takes care of our world" and we always pick up litter. These small acts daily add up and help to develop the inner workings of a child to consider a world, and people, outside the self.
Remember that being a mother is not synonymous with being a martyr. In fact, you're doing your children a disservice when you don't take time for yourself, your spouse, or your interests. You're sending them the message, "You are all that matters in the world", which isn't true. It's best for them if you say, "I'm a better mother when I've had exercise" and you go for a run. Or, "I've been working long hours to provide for us, so I'm going o bed early tonight". Perhaps you secure a babysitter to catch a play, or a movie, you've been interested in. This behavior models for your child the importance of maintaining an identity of your own, pursuing your passions, practicing self-care, taking time to rest, and valuing your health overall. They, too, will do the same as they grow.
It's easy in our modern world to open an app and buy a toy. Grandparents and friends send money, toys, treats, and goodies year around. Everytime your child gets a haircut, a teeth cleaning, or hell, they survive the grocery store wth you, they're offered a treat of some kind. Why?! For existing? Its ridiculous! I turn these things down. I tell my children, "I love you enough not to buy you that toy" or "I love you enough to tell this person we don't need a balloon today". I'm not being cruel or ungrateful, but I do not want to raise children to think they're rewarded for simply exisiting. I don't want them to think they need to "get" something everytime we leave the house or they wipe their ass. There's more value in practicing patience, distracting oneself, saying 'no', and doing with what you have. I value contentment and gratitude and hope to raise boys with work ethic not an attitude of gimme gimme gimme.
What do you do in your home to teach these values? How do you model empathy, gratitude, and self-care?
Parenting expert, blogger, inventor, single mom to twins, barefoot nomad, adventure seeker, boho spirit, advocate of play