You know you’re a narcissist if:
You snap at your kids for interrupting your all important Facebook update.
Your ability to have fun with your family is dependent on how you “feel” at the moment.
Your sense of accomplishment has more to do with your effectiveness at work than your effectiveness at home.
Your creativity and passions are only exercised in solitude.
At the root…it’s all about you.
I have a close relationship with a person like this. It may not characterize him completely, but there are times when it’s unmistakable.
To be honest, it is pretty hard to be around when “Mr. Narcissism” decides to show up. I’ve even thought about saying something…but I don’t think he would listen.
What’s really scary is that I can see his kids paying close attention when the worst arrives. They are riveted by it. And why not, they love their dad!
It’s humbling to admit, but I am that man…if only for a moment.
I first heard this term used by Dr. Jean Twenge, a professor at San Diego State University. In fact, the term found its place as the title of one of her books.
Generally, it refers to those who were born in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. The millennial’s, as they are also known.
A broad generalization? That’s possible.
But I am a product of this generation, and a parent to boot.
That means that I am raising kids in the midst of one of the most entitlement centric eras of our time. Our narcissism has a very attentive audience.
Overcoming the Perils of “I”
Although it is a sobering account, and maybe one that holds only partial truth for you, Dr. Twenge’s view of narcissism is intriguing.
Take a few minutes and read the FAQ she did for another book she co-wrote, titled “The Narcissism Epidemic.”
Thankfully, narcissism has varying degrees. Most of us don’t exhibit full-blown narcissism, but the problem is that our comparisons to others keep us from simple investigation.
But what do you do? You could go to the extreme and do without any “me” time. Or, maybe your best bet is to just embrace your drive for self-fulfillment.
I can’t say that either of those sounds very promising.
How do you avoid teaching neglect and self focus to your kids?
1. Understand the underlying cause. According to Warren B. Seiler Jr. M.D., narcissism finds its origin in unmet needs. This doesn’t mean unrestrained doting, but when physical, emotional, spiritual, and psychological needs aren’t met, a focus on self is close to follow.
2. Quality and quantity matter. Dr. Seiler specifically mentions the two as inseparable. Quality is great, but without an ample “quantity of quality time” there are fewer opportunities to encourage physical, emotional, spiritual, and psychological growth.
3. Make sure to say no. Seiler also indicates when the important needs are met a child will understand and benefit from dismissing a request. These situations are actually very important to the development of a healthy, non-narcissistic child.
4. Lead by example. Shocker! Our kids will model the behavior that we live in front of them. The great thing is that we can have a profound, positive affect as well. Seiler writes that “They will naturally direct their energies towards the welfare of others and being aware of and ministering to the feelings and needs of others to the degree that their needs are completely met by their parents.”
The Apple…Well, you Know
As dads, our needs are certainly important. We need to spend time tending to them. But our kids must see that we are willing to sacrifice for them.
They need to see that they are worth our time and energy. That it isn’t always fun or convenient to care for another person. That self-denial is God-given and necessary.
It is in these moments that we show them the true motives of our hearts.
Beyond that, most things pale in comparison.