In a largely unempathetic culture, where violence and narcissism are normalised, what we need to be doing is encourage kindness and compassion, not just within our families and circles, but in the wider community. No-one wants to raise a mean kid, and sadly many parents don’t recognise their child is the bully, but if you do think that maybe your child might have some narcissistic tendencies – then don’t despair – there are some tangible strategies you can use!
Work with the teen to revaluate themselves and value their positive traits on a more realistic level, while accepting that they do (as we all do) have flaws.
Narcissists have a need to impress others rather than connect with others. Telling our child how unique and special she is leads to the child or teen needing to hog the limelight, and when that doesn’t happen, to develop resentment. Say things like, “You’re special to me”, rather than “You’re special”.
When giving compliments to your child, don’t overpraise lacklustre performance. Be honest. Really honest. Say, “You’re not very good at …., but here’s how you can work to get better.”
Do not tell your child empty clichés, “You can do anything or be whatever you want”, or “If you believe it, you can achieve it” without balancing these things with, “If you work hard”, or “It won’t be easy”. Most people are not the ‘best’ at things, so encourage your child to try his hardest, to become the best that he can be which probably won’t be the best ever.
Don’t be a permissive parent, giving in to your child’s every whim. Say ‘no’, and mean it.
Saying ‘yes’ is the easy way out, and it fosters an entitlement mentality; saying ‘yes’ is for the lazy parent.
Teach your child empathy, and that every action has a reaction.
If your child has done or said something uncaring or insensitive, work out together what impact this could have on the other person’s feelings or thoughts. Encourage friendships, and have discussions on feelings, or even when watching a movie—deconstructing emotions and feelings in books, film and real life can teach children empathy.
Make your child accountable for their actions, and help them understand that every action has a reaction. Don’t let them off the hook if they use clichés like, “I was only joking”, because chances are, they weren’t. Always challenge this excuse – have your teen explain the ‘joke’. Most of time they won’t be able to. In these ways your child will learn accountability. Teach honesty.
Animals are important. Teach your children to be kind always.
Animals are sentient beings—they fear, love, play, fight and dislike, just like humans. If your family eats animals teach your child that the animal on the plate is just as special as the family dog. Teach your child to be kind and gentle to all creatures, point out when you see an animal distressed she understands animals have feelings too. We need more love and compassion on the planet and we need to extend this to all species. At every meal, thank the animal who had his life extinguished, it’s the very least you can do; no living creature wants to die.
The teacher is always right, and so is the sports coach (unless something unethical or immoral is occurring and this discussion also needs to happen with your child). Support these significant people in your child’s life. When I was a child if I received a bad grade, I got into trouble. Today, if a child gets a bad grade, the blame is externalised to the teacher, the school, the curriculum—anything but the child. Rather than yelling at the coach to give your child more time on the field, tell your child, “The coach wants to win the game, if he thought you were his best chance for that to occur, you’d be playing. If you want to play more, you need to practice more and let the coach know you’re trying.”