It’s developmentally appropriate for a child and teen to be egocentric or “all about me”. However, there does come a point when that God-given egocentrism starts giving way to selfishness, a sense of entitlement, or being down right cocky and rude. In order to make sure this can turn around, we have to look to the environment and see if the child is getting messages in anyway saying, “It is all about you!” Take note of the following 7 items and see if you identify with any of them or share any of the attitudinal beliefs.
- My child is special and deserves to have everything, every experience, and every advantage. This word “special” has lost its meaning over the course of time. Prior to now it meant that someone had a unique talent, unusual quality or was superior in some way. Now it is meant to be a part of someone’s self-esteem, and most people almost expect to hear it as a part of their routine. Every child is special to his or her parents, and each child deserves to be treated humanely and respectfully. However, just because the parent sees the child as special does not mean that others are obligated to see the child as special as well.
- My child should never suffer. (If my child is unhappy, I am a bad parent.) Failure is always a negative experience and should be avoided at all costs. Suffering is part of being human unfortunately, and we would like to shield everyone we love from suffering, especially our children. Sometimes suffering can be as large as death or illness, or on a smaller scale such as losing a competition or not getting the gift you wanted for your birthday. If a parent jumps through hoops to make sure a child never feels the pain for a failure or suffering, then they are taking away that opportunity for that child to (a) build character, (b) figure out how to handle stressful times, and (c) figure out how to handle feelings such as anger, frustration, sadness, envy, guilt, loneliness, disappointment, etc… Children need real-life experiences so that they can grow up in a real-life world and know how to function in it.
- What is good for me is good for my child. This is not always necessarily true. This phrase does not address the fact the child is separate from the parent. A child is their own unique individual with their own thoughts, feelings and beliefs. Whether it’s a parent’s decision to divorce, re-marry, date, move, etc… this belief of “what’s best for me will be best for them” will not apply. Sometimes these life choices are necessary and unavoidable. However, children have separate needs and separate interests.
- Children need freedom of expression. There’s no use in trying to stop problem behavior by being authoritarian, that just alienates kids by shaming them. No one likes to be the bad guy, however, children need boundaries. It is imperative they receive a parent’s input as they’re growing up and it is necessary to have their bubble burst when they’re acting too selfishly. Children also benefit from strong, nurturing parents who can serve as models. They desire positive, gentle corrective feedback. They also need a parent to practice what they preach and show the child what they believe to be right from wrong. Not only does this help a child develop a conscience, it also gives them someone to admire.
- Empathy for a child is the same as treating him/her as a friend, sharing all my feelings and “modeling” closeness. Children need to know the truth about their parents at all times. Good parental boundaries mean not treating a child as a friend, confidant, or confessing things to them. This may make a child feel “special”, but this is the wrong kind of special. It gives the message to the child that they are an equal and this will then blur the parent-child roles. This behavior often results in children who have little to no respect for authority, whether it is the parent’s authority or that of any other adult.
- Sex is natural, and children should not be made to feel shameful about their sexuality by adults behaving in “repressed” ways. As a parent you cannot fully protect your child from sexual over-stimulation, but your willingness to try creates a boundary that the child internalizes as a self-protective barrier. Monitoring what your children are watching on TV & movies, what sites they visit on the internet and what texts they receive on their phones will help them understand this barrier. Parents need to model adult love and affection and answer questions about sex in a straightforward manner that is age appropriate for the child to understand.
- The way to build self-esteem is to tell children how “special” they are. Children shouldn’t have to accomplish anything in order to believe in themselves and they should be spared the harmful effects of competition. Competence, confidence and self-esteem come from taking the risk of trying something and finding out what you really can do. You get the experience of mastery that becomes a part of how you see yourself. If you don’t make a child accomplish anything or spare them from the effects of competition, then you are taking away self-esteem building opportunities. If stumbling or failure happens, then it’s more learning that a child gets to do and helps them become stronger and more realistic about themselves and what they are actually capable of doing. Not everyone can be good at everything, and helping your child figure out what skills they possess is key to forming a positive identity.
I hope the above 7 tips were helpful and resourceful. If you need additional support, or to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced trained therapists, call (317) 569-0046. We provide individual, marriage, family, & adolescent counseling for Indianapolis and the surrounding areas including Fishers, Carmel, Zionsville, Noblesville and Westfield. You my also visit our website at www.imaginehopecounseling.com.
Source: Why is it Always About You? Sandy Hotchkiss, LCSW