Are we raising a generation of deluded narcissists?
This question is being raised in view of a study showing that, “college students are more likely than ever to call themselves gifted and driven to succeed, even though their test scores and time spent studying are decreasing” (Foxnews).
Dr. Keith Ablow suggested that, “We must beware of the toxic psychological impact of media and technology on children, adolescents and young adults, particularly as it regards turning them into faux celebrities—the equivalent of lead actors in their own fictionalized life stories.”
While there are important concerns associated with the study, please don’t just read this kind of analysis and merely shake your head at the problem. Let it motivate you to look closely at your own situation? A danger for some parents is the delusion that they’ve protected their kids from narcissism by shielding them from media and technology influences.
Be especially guarded against the tendency to highlight these kinds of studies to foster a deeper sense of how you’re doing it right. Tend first to what happens under your own watch. Follow the pattern of “Log out of the eye first before splinter checking other eyes!” (see: Matthew 7:1-6).
Please don’t make the mistake of constantly looking at the way others get it wrong while failing to keep your own child’s egos in check. The corrupting forces are not only media and technology. Some parents foster in their children the notion that the world revolves around them. Imagine how sad it would be to constantly repudiate the “world” for its failures only to find out that you failed to properly guide your own. It’s alarmingly disturbing how easily we discern issues in others and cannot see them in our own lives and families.
Almost a year ago, I wrote a piece titled, “Don’t raise a narcissist (advice for parents).” Among professionals, narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is assigned to someone who meets five or more of the nine symptoms of the disorder. Parents should look closely at these characteristics and correct them if they observe their children behaving in narcissistic ways. But parents must also avoid doing things that encourage narcissistic ways of thinking.
- Are you parenting in ways that foster narcissistic symptoms?
- Are you modeling narcissistic behaviors as a parent?
- Do you always have to be right or to know more?
From a Christian perspective, everything about narcissism conflicts with the narrative of the gospel. Narcissists are unlikely to truly see themselves as undeserving sinners who desperately need God’s grace in the Savior.
Be careful not to overreact when detecting some of the symptoms in your children. The sin nature is often displayed in a gravitational pull toward narcissism — in all of our lives! The essence of sin is selfishness and narcissism is a form of sinful self-absorption. Let’s teach our children to name and renounce narcissistic self-deception by leading them to be sober-minded in God’s grace. It’s best when our children learn to self-check these tendencies under the great truth of the gospel.
The gospel calls us into a life ordered according to the mind of Christ:
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:3-8).