We missed our flight. It’s a long story that involves me never looking up what time our flight left and a hefty fee of $231.00.
So anyway, we’re still in Idaho until this afternoon. With a little bit of time to kill, I read an article in The Atlantic recommended by a friend of mine. It’s called “How to Land Your Kid in Therapy: Why the obsession with our kids’ happiness may be dooming them to unhappy adulthoods,” by Lori Gottlieb. It’s all about how kids with parents intent on their children’s happiness still become jacked up adults. On a day like today, when I have already erred royally, it is particularly germaine.
If you don’t have time to read the article, watch this short video featuring the author. But if you do have time to read the full article, you won’t be sorry. I especially enjoyed reading all of the comments from readers. Whoa, nelly! As you may imagine, when someone denounces the power of the ever popular self-esteem movement, there’s gonna be blood.
From the article:
A few months ago, I called up Jean Twenge, a co-author of The Narcissism Epidemic and professor of psychology at San Diego State University, who has written extensively about narcissism and self-esteem. She told me she wasn’t surprised that some of my patients reported having very happy childhoods but felt dissatisfied and lost as adults. When ego-boosting parents exclaim “Great job!” not just the first time a young child puts on his shoes but every single morning he does this, the child learns to feel that everything he does is special. Likewise, if the kid participates in activities where he gets stickers for “good tries,” he never gets negative feedback on his performance. (All failures are reframed as “good tries.”) According to Twenge, indicators of self-esteem have risen consistently since the 1980s among middle-school, high-school, and college students. But, she says, what starts off as healthy self-esteem can quickly morph into an inflated view of oneself—a self-absorption and sense of entitlement that looks a lot like narcissism. In fact, rates of narcissism among college students have increased right along with self-esteem.
Meanwhile, rates of anxiety and depression have also risen in tandem with self-esteem. Why is this? “Narcissists are happy when they’re younger, because they’re the center of the universe,” Twenge explains. “Their parents act like their servants, shuttling them to any activity they choose and catering to their every desire. Parents are constantly telling their children how special and talented they are. This gives them an inflated view of their specialness compared to other human beings. Instead of feeling good about themselves, they feel better than everyone else.”
I find all of this fascinating in lieu of all my recent praise of Seabass for walking, talking, signing, and generally being freaking adorable. It’s also fascinating because, *ahem,* this article is describing me and a lot of my friends. I mean absolutely no disrespect to my parents – they were loving and supportive and superb disciplinarians – but I believe I am a victim of the “narcissism epidemic.” And look! I have the therapy sessions to prove it.
Enough outta me. What do you think? Do you believe that happiness is the key to life for your children? Are you willing to do anything to ensure their happiness? Are you child-centered or parent-centered? And how do you think we can avoid raising another generation of narcissists?