As people progress from one stage of life to another sometimes we can have some stress and anxiety as we make transitions. Since Psychotherapists are neutral observers of your process, we can guide you very successfully in this process. Many people may feel that is indulgent to go talk to a psychologist if you are have some stress and anxiety. Our almost 30 years of experience has show that when one is proactive and seeks support and guidance at the early stages of transition, we are able to truly make a transition that feels less “bumpy” and more calmer and happier.
We also have extensive experience in working with Adult Children of Alcoholics where they may come into their 30’s, have a very successful career and happy marriage and find that there is something essential missing in their life. Often time there are some family of origin issues such as trust, and self sabotage that may be going on that is easily treated by psychodynamic psychotherapy and the result is a future life that is free from past “psychic” ghosts.
Was Your Dad a Narcissist?
The Narcissistic Father -10 Points That Can Help
You are now in your twenties or thirties and you find yourself having problems in relationships. You look back on your own upbringing, and think about your “wonderful” father. He was the hit of the party, knew everyone and made things happen. You couldn’t get enough.
Is it possible that you were raised by a narcissist? And if so, why is it important?
We take our families for granted. This is normal. Each family is a miniature sociological experiment. Each has its own set of unwritten rules. Each family has its own secrets. But what if the secret is in plain sight? Like your Dad was a narcissist and you just thought he was your Dad. In fact, you assumed that all fathers were like your Dad. Guess what? They weren’t.
Here are ten signs that Dad may of had narcissistic tendencies — or was an out-right narcissist.
- Dad was charismatic. Everyone wanted to be around him.Narcissists are almost always charismatic. That does not mean that charisma equates with narcissism. It doesn’t. When you have a great allure it does make it easy to get people to do your bidding. If your Dad was charismatic, he was the life of the party and great to be around. You may have felt like the center of his world, but he quickly moved on. Charisma and narcissism means that everyone loved Daddy, but how much of him did you really get?
- Dad thought big! Grandiosity is alluring.
Many super successful people have narcissistic traits. They think very big. They may invent new things, or take on the world with a political cause, or promote a winning idea. Many narcissists are successful. A lawyer, businessman or physician, for instance, with a great idea, can do a lot in this world. Just know that you don’t have to be as great in order to be special.
- Dad used people, even if they didn’t know it. Everybody catered to him.A true narcissist sees others as objects in his climb to success. For a severe narcissist, that may include his family. Charisma, looks and smarts is an alluring combination. It draws in customers, partners, friends and colleagues. But, morality is often a relative thing to a narcissist, so there may be damaged relationships (your mother?) along the way.
- Dad was not around a lot. He got a lot of gratification outside the family.There are many roads to narcissism. Some are constitutionally self-centered. Some are psychologically injured early in life and are ambitious to heal a hole in their hearts (see Orson Wells in Citizen Kane). Others are seduced by their own powers of persuasion. They are too smart, handsome, charismatic or talented for their own good. So, family life carries pleasure for the narcissistic father – they are his children after all. But, he only has so much patience for the day to day blandness of family life; and there’s a big world out there.
- Mom did most of the parenting. Dad could only handle so much child rearing. Plus, he craved excitement.Raising children is hard, exhausting and often, repetitive. It’s gratifying because you just LOVE that little creature called your son or daughter. The average narcissist is really quite young psychologically. They crave excitement and enjoying the spotlight. Having an infant squirt some urine in your face while changing his diaper doesn’t cut it. Going to a play date with a six year old daughter gets old fast. Business calls. (And, getting some pleasures on the side does too.)
- You did Dad stuff with Dad. Narcissists don’t step into someone else’s shoes very often. They are too involved with their own.Good parenting requires joining with your daughter’s interests, even if it’s not your cup of tea. You watch her gymnastics or her field hockey games or go to the hobby store with her to pick up a knitting kit. When you have kids, you are no longer the center of your life; they are. The narcissist, on the other hand, will insist on doing things that he wants to do. And, while it’s great to introduce your son or daughter to new things, a father must validate their interests as well.
- Dad could rage when upset. There is a concept called narcissisticrage. You don’t want to be on the receiving end of it.The narcissistic father (or mother) has a trigger spot. When frustrated, he can rage to hurt. Because the narcissist often sees others as objects, he can hurt you in the worst way, say the nastiest things — and really mean it. Even when dealing with kids, a narcissist wants to win. Damage is acceptable as long as he gets his way. No wonder so many family members tip toe around a narcissistic parent. They may be charming; but it’s the temper that gets everyone into line.
- Dad appreciated you – to others. Narcissistic parents love to brag about their kids. But, often these kids feel they fall short in their parent’s eyes.Our culture values looks, athleticism and money. But, we are all deeper than these things. A normal Dad validates his daughter or son; they feel loved and valued for who they are and not just for what they do or look like. The narcissistic Dad can’t help himself. Since so much of a narcissistic father’s preoccupation was on success and looks, you had easy rules to follow. Indeed, you may have complied, but it left you worried in case you are to fall short one day.
- You couldn’t really get what you wanted from him. This is subtle, but often true. You wanted his attention, but he would give it sporadically, and only when it suited him.The narcissist often reads his audience very well. The healthier ones do care, but sometimes only within the specifics of a particular moment. They are so preoccupied with admiration seeking that they nurture good will in many people (this is why politics or business suits them so well). You may feel that you are the only person in the room. And, as a kid, that’s powerful. The problem is that he will have very little follow through and little patience for really spending time with you. So, you feel like you’ve got something special (and you do), but it’s a bit out of your grasp.
- You often date charismatic, self centered people, despite many bad experiences. You discover that you are habituated to dating unavailable men or women.This is the natural consequence of a narcissistic Dad. You are habituated to seeking men or women who are exciting and powerful, but you lose out. Sometimes you may turn the tables and identify with the powerful father and be narcissistic yourself. This is a psychological trick of holding onto your Dad by identifying with him. You still lose out on real relationships, because, now you are the one who uses people and thus keeps them at a distance.
There is no cookie cutter for a psychological diagnosis, and that includes narcissism. Each human being is unique and our heuristic groupings are by nature artificial and inaccurate. That being said, we all know extreme narcissism when we see it. They are charming users who can turn on you when they lose interest, or when they want something.
If your father had all the above traits in spades, he probably fits the narcissistic diagnosis. And, even if he only had some of these signs, his self-centeredness has probably affected your upbringing and who you have become.
In future posts we’ll look at how narcissism affects sons and daughters of narcissistic men. (We are not picking on fathers. There are ample stories of narcissistic mothers to be told. But that is not for now.) Because a father’s relationship with a son is different than his relationship to a daughter, the way this all plays out can be different.
If you had a narcissistic father, you are probably suffering. You may be narcissistically inclined yourself, or you may be chronically insecure about your worth; perhaps both. Validation is not their strong point. I do hope that this piece does some service in validating your experience. If so, it’s been worth the effort.
Remember, that knowledge is the first step to freedom. If you think you’ve been adversely affected by a narcissistic parent, please tell us in the comments section. Plus, know that there is much that you can do to emancipate yourself.
The Dangers of Narcissistic Parents
How narcissistic parents substitute emotional hunger for love.
For me, one of the best examples of narcissistic parents is illustrated in the movie “The Joy Luck Club,” based on the novel by Amy Tan. In the film, a woman flashes back and, through voiceover, tells her story of becoming a child protégée as a chess champion. While the film plays one of her early victories, the woman’s voice says, “Even at that age, I knew I had an amazing gift: this power, this belief in myself… It was the only part of my life, to this day… where I trusted myself completely.”
The next scene flashes to the young girl being paraded around her neighborhood by her mother, who is carrying a Life Magazine with her daughter on the cover. She greets each person on the street, showing them the cover and introducing her child as a “chess champion” – all the while taking personal credit for her daughter’s gift. Humiliated by her mother’s narcissistic behavior, the little girl declares, “Why do you have to use me to show off? If you want to show off…then why don’t you learn to play chess?”
Most of us can relate, on some level, to scenes such as these – to ways our parents over-connected or lived through us, as a reflection of them. But when dealing with a narcissistic parent day in and day out throughout one’s childhood, the impact can be devastating. For example, in “The Joy Luck Club,” the little girl quits playing chess in retaliation to her mother’s intrusiveness. Her mother responds by giving her the silent treatment. After weeks, the young girl makes an effort to regain her mother’s approval and announces that she’s decided to play chess again. Without so much as a glance, her mother coldly replies that it won’t be so easy for her anymore. This cutting remark shatters the girl’s confidence, and, as her mother predicted, she can no longer win. Her voiceover concludes the story with, “This power I had, this belief in myself… I could actually feel it draining away… All the secrets I once saw… I couldn’t see them anymore. All I could see was–were my mistakes, my weaknesses.”
The problem with narcissistic parents is that, although the focus seems to be on the child, there is actually very little regard for the child in their parenting style. When her daughter insulted her own ego, the mother in the film no longer saw use for her the young girl’s talent. She didn’t support her daughter playing chess, because it made her daughter feel good or gave her confidence. She supported it, because it gave her the chance to feel like a winner, to bask in her child’s accomplishments and take credit for skills that were not her own.
The obsession or focus a narcissistic parent has on a child often has to do with the parent’s own emotional needs. Narcissistic parents support children’s “greatness” and encourage their talents, with the excuse that they love their child and are sacrificing themselves for the child’s future. In fact, just the opposite is often true. The so-called support these parents offer is actually a great deal of pressure, while the love they feel they’re giving their kids is, in truth, an emotional hunger that is draining to a child.
In my interview with psychologist Dr. Pat Love for PsychAlive.org, she wisely pointed out that the best thing a parent can do for their child is to have their adult needs met by other adults. When we relate to our children, it’s so important to continually ask ourselves, are we taking actions to meet their needs or are we using the child to meet our own? Is the hug we give them to offer them something or to take something from them? Is their performance in school important to us because we care about their future or because we care about our performance as a parent?
Too often, we use our children to compensate for our own unmet goalsor limitations. When we don’t feel fulfilled in our own lives, we can over-identify with our kids. In the name of being “selfless,” we can selfishly lose perspective and focus all our dreams and desires on them.
A narcissistic parent doesn’t just apply this pressure by being strict or demanding. They do it by praising their child, bolstering them up, as they would themselves. In doing so, they may believe they are helping the child to become a competent and confident adult, but sadly, they are often doing just the opposite. When we praise our child for qualities they don’t have or exaggerate their skills, we are actually handicapping the child. We arm them with the burden of being great or “the best.” They often grow up with the fear of disappointing their parent or the pressure to keep their parent happy, as opposed to vice versa. They carry a constant weight on their shoulders that can hold them back from truly reaching their full potential.
The emptiness these children feel can manifest itself in the form of an inner critic or “critical inner voice” that reminds them they are not good enough or that they need to be the best or they are nothing. Because their parents only value their accomplishments as they reflect on them, the child never truly feels they are good enough. They even struggle to develop their own sense of self. A woman I recently met described how her mother would constantly compare her to other little girls around her. “You are much prettier than her,” “She is better than you at this, but you are much better at that,” etc. This led the girl to grow up with an internal rating system. Throughout her life, she found herself constantly ranking herself and others, without even thinking about it. Her mother’s own competitive feelings with her had ultimately led the woman to make these comparisons herself. As an adult, her mother’s voice had been embedded in her mind, leaving her to continue to put herself down or build herself up automatically in every interaction.
Even though it’s almost always unconscious, when we grow up, we tend to repeat patterns or live out our parents’ prescriptions for our lives. We can break this chain as parents by seeing our child as a separate person. We can acknowledge our kids for real traits they have and support what they love to do. For example, instead of saying, “The picture you drew is amazing! You are the best artist,” we could say, “I love all the colors you used in that picture. It really seems like you had so much fun drawing it.” Think about the effect your words, actions, and attitude will have on your child as a person. Do you want them to grow up to work hard for their achievements, or to give up when they realize that they fall short of being the best?
As mindfulness expert, Dr. Donna Rockwell so eloquently expressed in another recent interview for PsychAlive.org, “The best way we can teach [our children] is by being interested in them as people. And instead of saying ‘I need you to be a doctor or a lawyer or a candle maker,’ to discover what do you love about life and what’s interesting to you and what do you want to be… And they are born already gifted, already extraordinary at something, and we ruin that if we try to negotiate how they’re going to grow in life.”
The most we can do as a parent is provide for our children, love them for who they truly are, and help them to develop into their own capable, unique person. We should always aim to care more about our child’s character than how he or she appears. What kind of person are they? Are they kind? Compassionate? Patient? Resilient? When we lead by example, we can help our children to be independent, and therefore, more confident in facing the world. When we do this, we teach our children that it is even okay to fail, that they are strong enough to persevere, push through challenges and improve to become the kind of person they themselves seek to be.
Read more from Dr. Lisa Firestone at PsychAlive.org
Join Dr. Lisa Firestone and Dr. Donna Rockwell for the free April 18 Webinar “Mindfulness: The Way to Happiness and Meaning.”
Maternal Narcissism Survey: Is This Your Mom?
Maternal Narcissim… Is this your Mom?
IS THIS YOUR MOM?
I’m offering you a survey today from my book: Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers. Maybe you have wondered as so many women have…what is wrong…why do I feel this way. Take the survey and if this fits for you, come join us in the new sisterhood. Narcissism is a spectrum disorder with the most severe end of the spectrum considered a narcissistic personality disorder. A woman can have several narcissistic traits and not fit the personality disorder. Mothers with only a few traits listed can negatively affect their daughters in insidious ways, which is explained in Dr. Karyl McBride’s book:
Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers
(survey excerpted from book)
(Check all those that apply to your relationship with your mother)
- When you discuss your life issues with your mother, does she divert the discussion to talk about herself?
- When you discuss your feelings with your mother, does she try to top the feeling with her own?
- Does your mother act jealous of you?
- Does your mother lack empathy for your feelings?
- Does your mother only support those things you do that reflect on her as a “good mother”?
- Have you consistently felt a lack of emotional closeness with your mother?
- Have you consistently questioned whether or not your mother likes you or loves you?
- Does your mother only do things for you when others can see?
- When something happens in your life (accident, illness, divorce), does your mother react with how it will affect her rather than how you feel?
- Is or was your mother overly conscious of what others think (neighbors, friends, family, co-workers)?
- Does your mother deny her own feelings?
- Does your mother blame things on you or others rather than own responsibility for her own feelings or actions?
- Is or was your mother hurt easily and then carries a grudge for a long time without resolving the problem?
- Do you feel you were a slave to your mother?
- Do you feel you were responsible for your mother’s ailments or sickness (headaches, stress, illness)?
- Did you have to take care of your mother’s physical needs as a child?
- Do you feel unaccepted by your mother?
- Do you feel your mother was critical of you?
- Do you feel helpless in the presence of your mother?
- Are you shamed often by your mother?
- Do you feel your mother knows the real you?
- Does your mother act like the world should revolve around her?
- Do you find it difficult to be a separate person from your mother?
- Does your mother appear phony to you?
- Does your mother want to control your choices?
- Does your mother swing from egotistical to depressed mood?
- Did you feel you had to take care of your mother’s emotional needs as a child?
- Do you feel manipulated in the presence of your mother?
- Do you feel valued, by mother, for what you do rather than who you are?
- Is your mother controlling, acting like a victim or martyr?
- Does your mother make you act different from how you really feel?
- Does your mother compete with you?
- Does your mother always have to have things her way?
Note: All of these questions relate to narcissistic traits. The more questions you checked, the more likely your mother has narcissistic traits and this has caused some difficulty for you as a growing daughter and adult.
Narcissism and Entitlement: “Do I Have to Stand in Line?
When living large means something different
A client once told me a story about how her narcissistic mother would never stand in lines. She was too important and had no patience. She also liked to gamble, but when she went to casinos she immediately got a wheelchair, though she was clearly not disabled, so that she could be pushed to the front of the line. This same mother would stand in the middle of the aisle at grocery stores and ask perfect strangers, “Could you find this for me?”
A recent story bowled me over with no pins standing. The daughter of a narcissistic mother had just had a home birth and her mother was there to help. Five hours after the birth while the young mother was nursing the baby on the couch, her mother asked her to get her a snack because she was hungry and so tired!
What is entitlement? It is the unreasonable expectation that one should receive special treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations. For the narcissist, they come first. They are unable to feel empathy towards others and therefore they operate from their own need base. When they speak, others are to jump. They somehow believe they are special and unique and should be treated so. Another client reports the example of going out to dinner with her family. She says her mother treats the wait staff like serfs in her personal kingdom. “She truly acts like she is the queen of the lizard lounge.” Yet another sign of narcissistic behavior rearing its strange and ubiquitous head.
Where does this sense of entitlement come from and what can we learn from it? As parents in a difficult time, how do we keep from raising entitled kids? Are we spoiling our children? Is our culture continuing to give messages that it’s all about you and you deserve the best and you deserve it now? Is instant gratification a norm with recent technology and every app and piece of knowledge at our fingertips in a New York minute?
Some document that narcissists are like six-year-olds. They were emotionally arrested in development at an early age. Where does this come from? Were they spoiled? Many say there was too much focus on self-esteem and coddling children and the parenting models need to change to a focus on accountability. But, where does empathy fit into this model?
Narcissists are brewed in families where feelings are denied, projected and not dealt with. The children are not attended to emotionally. Maybe they are given lots of goodies, play every sport imaginable and always wear designer labels. And, some were just plain ignored. In both cases their feelings were not important. “A child too, can never grasp the fact that the same mother who cooks so well, is so concerned about his cough, and helps so kindly with his homework, in some circumstance has no more feeling than a wall of his hidden inner world.” Alice Miller. If a child does not learn to identify feelings and have those feelings validated and acknowledged, that child does not learn to trust him or herself. If someone cannot tune into their own feelings and learn to responsibly process those feelings, how can they have empathy for others?
A recent clinical experience working with eight and nine year old girls was enlightening. These sweet little girls were developing cliques of buddies and speaking and acting awful to those who did not belong. Were they becoming bullies? Were they entering the “mean girls” drama? One can lecture about being nice to others. One can read them books about being a good friend. Some use punishment. What really works? Empathy for others comes when the child can feel their own feelings of being rejected and left out. Having those feelings validated makes them feel real. Then they can better understand the feelings of the “left out” group of kids. They can use the skills they used for themselves to understand the others and it makes more sense to them. Without this, they tend to normally focus on the issue of being accepted or not.
When adults feel stressed and overwhelmed, and who doesn’t these days, what is the magical key to taking care of self and not acting like a six-year old who deserves immediate attention? If that six-year old suddenly takes center stage, there is a risk that others will be treated poorly. Think road rage. Think reactions to poor customer service. Think dealing with incompetence in the business world. We all know and have experienced these frustrations. We can’t change others. But, we can tune into self. We can give self-compassion and gently deal with our own feelings and as soon as we do, it has a calming effect. It also instantly helps to see the concerns and plight of others.
Where did empathy go? Where did self-compassion go? If we want to change an entitled world and rail against the unrelenting rise in narcissism and entitlement both in ourselves and our parenting, we need to bring back the much needed empathic responses to self and others.
“It’s surprising how many persons go through life without ever recognizing that their feelings toward other people are largely determined by their feelings toward themselves, and if you’re not comfortable within yourself you can’t be comfortable with others.” Sydney J. Harris
Do Facebook and Other Social Media Encourage Narcissism?
Excessive use of some social media may be narcissistic.
Does Facebook enhance your self-esteem or does the popular method of connecting with people and “making friends,” actually detract from a strong sense of self and promote narcissistic behavior? There appears to be conflicting perceptions and evidence regarding this question.
Facebook has more than 750 million users worldwide. It facilitates people keeping in touch online with a network of “friends” and the size of these networks varies from a handful to hundreds of thousands. One of the things that has not been clear is whether there is any relationship between the number of friends a person has and the number of their real-life friends. Some experts have observed anecdotally that social network friends are very different than real-life friends.
To provide a more scientific perspective, researcher Geraint Rees, and his colleagues at the University College of London examined the fMRI brain scans of 125 frequent Facebook users. After the scans, the number of online and offline friends were recorded. The researchers reported that the typical subject had on average, 300 friends on Facebook. They concluded that having more friends online did not significantly make particular regions of the brain larger or more active. However, the researchers concluded there was a positive correlation between the number of friends the subjects had online with the number of friends they had offline.
A Canadian study at York University, published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, of Facebook users ages 18-25 reviewed the subject’s use of the Facebook as well as the content they posted on their profiles. The subjects were also evaluated using the Narcissism Personality Inventory and measured according to the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale. The researchers looked closely at evidence of the participants “self-promotion” on their Facebook sites. Self-promotion was defined as things such as updating their status every five minutes, frequent posting of pictures of themselves, photos of celebrity look-alikes, and quotes and mottos glorifying themselves. The researchers concluded that the people who used Facebook the most tended to have narcissistic or insecure personalities.
Christopher Carpenter of Western Illinois University conducted as study on narcissism in Facebook, published in Personal and Individual Differences. His study showed grandiose exhibitionism correlated with self-promotion and entitlement/exploitiveness correlated with anti-social behaviors on Facebook.
According to research by Amanda Forrest of the University of California and Joanne Wood at Waterloo University, published in Psychological Science, they found those with low self-esteem feel safer sharing on Facebook. However, the study also found that those with low self-esteem frequently post updates that work against them. They tend to criticize their friends with negative details of their lives, making them less likeable as “friends.” Forrest and Wood also found that those people with high self-esteem, who usually posted more positive updates, received more positive responses.
Russell Clayton at the University of Missouri along with colleagues Alexander Nagurney at the University of Hawaii and Jessica Smith at St. Mary’s University, published their research in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, which concluded high levels of Facebook use by couples were correlated with negative relationship outcomes such as cheating, breakup and divorce.
A study by Larry Rosen at California State University, presented at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association, showed how teens who spend too much time on Facebook are more likely to show narcissistic tendencies and display signs of other behavioral problems. Rosen said the negative effects of teens overusing social media include making them more prone to vain, aggressive and anti-social behavior and that excessive use can lead to poorer academic performance.
Dilney Goncaleves, at the IE Business School in Madrid, conducted a research study which argues that much of how we judge our success in life is by comparison with others: ” The problem is that Facebook gives us a limited view of our friends’ lives, and that view tends to be unrealistically positive.” He added that the more friends you have, the more likely you are to spend your day enviously reading about someone else’s paradise vacation, new girlfriend or job promotion.
Psychology researcher Soraya Mehdizadeh at York University in Toronto, conducted a study, published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking of 100 Facebook users and measured activities such as photo sharing, wall postings and status updates and frequency and duration of use. After measuring each subject using the NarcissismPersonality Inventory and Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale, Mehdizadeh discovered that narcissists and people with lower self-esteem were more likely to spend more than a hour a day on Facebook and were more prone to post self-promotional photos and showcase themselves through status updates and wall activity.
Laura Buffardi and W. Keith Campbell, researchers from the University of Georgia, conducted research, published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, which supports the Canadian study. “We found that people who are narcissistic use Facebook in a self-promoting way that can identified by others,” Buffardi reports. The researchers found that the number of Facebook friends and the way posts are made on profiles correlates with narcissism. Nearly all young people today use Facebook and it has become a normal part of social life, says Campbell, but “narcissists are using Facebook the same way they use their other relationships—for self-promotion with an emphasis on quantity over quality.”
A University of Michigan study conducted by Elliot Panek and his associates, examined Facebook and Twitter. “Through Twitter,” Panek concludes, they’re [young people] are trying to broaden their social circles and broadcast their views,” and in the process, over evaluate the importance of their opinions. Panek concludes that “among young adult college students, we found that those who scored higher in certain types of narcissism posted more often on Twitter,” whereas among middle-aged adults, narcissists posted more frequently on Facebook.”
Alex Jordan at Stanford University conducted a study, published inPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin, of 80 Facebook users, focusing on the number of positive and negative experience their peers were experiencing. He found they consistently over-estimated the fun their friends were having and underestimated their negative or unhappy experiences. He concluded that Facebook may be worsening the tendency to think everyone else is enjoying themselves more than you are. “By showcasing the most witty, joyful, bullet-pointed versions of people’s lives, and inviting constant comparisons in which we tend to see ourselves as the losers, Facebook appears to exploit an Achilles’ hell of human nature. And women may be especially vulnerable to keeping up with what they imagine is the happiness of the Joneses,” Jordon contends.
Not all the research is critical of the impact of social media nor supportive of the narcissism claim.
A 2012 study by Bruce McKinney, from the University of North Carolina, published in the journal Communication Research Reports, concluded that Facebook users are not as narcissistic as once thought. He concluded that it may be time to redefine narcissism, as it may have become the social norm for young people.
A study by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., published in Cyberpsychology Behavior and Social Networking found that viewing and editing your Facebook profile could boost your self-esteem. This research is based on Objective Self-Awareness theory, as reported by Adoree Durayappah, in a Psychology Today article. The theory suggests that people the view the self as both a subject and an object, and that Facebook can be a tool to promote greater self-awareness.
Jeffrey Hancock at Cornell University has published research in theCyberpsychology Behvior and Social Networking journal which concludes Facebook can have a positive influence on the self-esteem of college students because Facebook by and large, shows a very positive version of ourselves.
So it seems like the jury is still out about the relative impact—positive or negative—of social media such as Facebook, particularly for young people, although there is mounting evidence to show a link with narcissism.
Parent Teen Issues
Help for Parents of Troubled Teens
Dealing with Anger, Violence, Delinquency, and Other Teen Behavior Problems
Parenting a teenager is never easy, but when your teen is violent, depressed, abusing alcohol or drugs, or engaging in other reckless behaviors, it can seem overwhelming. You may feel exhausted from lying awake at night worrying about where your child is, who he or she is with, and what they’re doing. You may despair over failed attempts to communicate, the endless fights, and the open defiance. Or you may live in fear of your teen’s violent mood swings and explosive anger. While parenting a troubled teen can often seem like an impossible task, there are steps you can take to ease the chaos at home and help your teen transition into a happy, successful young adult.
Normal Teen vs. Troubled Teen Behavior
As teenagers begin to assert their independence and find their own identity, many experience behavioral changes that can seem bizarre and unpredictable to parents. Your sweet, obedient child who once couldn’t bear to be separated from you now won’t be seen within 20 yards of you, and greets everything you say with a roll of the eyes or the slam of a door. These, unfortunately, are the actions of a normal teenager.
As the parent of a troubled teen, you’re faced with even greater challenges. A troubled teen faces behavioral, emotional, or learning problems beyond the normal teenage issues. They may repeatedly practice at-risk behaviors such as violence, skipping school, drinking, drug use, sex, self-harming, shoplifting, or other criminal acts. Or they may exhibit symptoms of mental health problems like depression, anxiety, or eating disorders. While any negative behavior repeated over and over can be a sign of underlying trouble, it’s important for parents to understand which behaviors are normal during adolescent development, and which can point to more serious problems.
When Typical Teen Behavior Becomes Troubled Teen Behavior
|Typical Teen Behavior||Warning Signs of a Troubled Teen|
|Changing appearance. Keeping up with fashion is important to teens. That may mean wearing provocative or attention-seeking clothing or dyeing hair. Unless your teen wants tattoos, avoid criticizing and save your protests for the bigger issues. Fashions change, and so will your teen.||Changing appearance can be a red flag if it’s accompanied by problems at school or other negative changes in behavior, or if there’s evidence of cutting and self-harm or extreme weight loss or weight gain.|
|Increased arguments and rebellious behavior. As teens begin seeking independence, you will frequently butt heads and argue.||Constant escalation of arguments, violence at home, skipping school, getting in fights, and run-ins with the law are all red flag behaviors that go beyond the norm of teenage rebellion.|
|Mood swings. Hormones and developmental changes often mean that your teen will experience mood swings, irritable behavior, and struggle to manage his or her emotions.||Rapid changes in personality, falling grades, persistent sadness, anxiety, or sleep problems could indicate depression, bullying, or another emotional health issue. Take any talk about suicide seriously.|
|Experimenting with alcohol or drugs. Most teens will try alcohol and smoke a cigarette at some point. Many will even try marijuana. Talking to your kids frankly and openly about drugs and alcohol is one way to ensure it doesn’t progress further.||When alcohol or drug use becomes habitual, especially when it’s accompanied by problems at school or home, it may indicate a substance abuse issue or other underlying problems.|
|More influenced by friends than parents. Friends become extremely important to teens and can have a great influence on their choices. As teens focus more on their peers, that inevitably means they withdraw from you. It may leave you feeling hurt, but it doesn’t mean your teen doesn’t still need your love.||Red flags include a sudden change in peer group (especially if the new friends encourage negative behavior), refusing to comply with reasonable rules and boundaries, or avoiding the consequences of bad behavior by lying. Your teen spending too much time alone can also indicate problems.|
Seeking professional help for a troubled teen
All teens need to feel loved
Teenagers are individuals with unique personalities and their own likes and dislikes. Some things about them are universal, though. No matter how much your teen seems to withdraw from you emotionally, no matter how independent your teen appears, or how troubled your teen becomes, he or she still needs your attention and to feel loved by you.
If you identify red flag behaviors in your teen, consult a doctor, counselor, therapist, or other mental health professional for help finding appropriate treatment.
Even when you seek professional help for your teen, though, that doesn’t mean that your job is done. As detailed below, there are many things you can do at home to help your teen and improve the relationship between you. And you don’t need to wait for a diagnosis to start putting them into practice.
Understanding Teen Development
No, your teen is not an alien being from a distant planet, but he or she is wired differently. A teenager’s brain is still actively developing, processing information differently than a mature adult’s brain. The frontal cortex—the part of the brain used to manage emotions, make decisions, reason, and control inhibitions—is restructured during the teenage years, forming new synapses at an incredible rate, while the whole brain does not reach full maturity until about the mid-20’s.
Your teen may be taller than you and seem mature in some respects, but often he or she is simply unable to think things through at an adult level. Hormones produced during the physical changes of adolescence can further complicate things. Now, these biological differences don’t excuse teens’ poor behavior or absolve them from accountability for their actions, but they may help explain why teens behave so impulsively or frustrate parents and teachers with their poor decisions, social anxiety, and rebelliousness. Understanding adolescent development can help you find ways to stay connected to your teen and overcome problems together.
Teens see anger everywhere
Teens differ from adults in their ability to read and understand emotions in the faces of others. Adults use the prefrontal cortex to read emotional cues, but teenagers rely on the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for emotional reactions. In research, teens often misread facial expressions; when shown pictures of adult faces expressing different emotions, teens most often interpreted them as being angry.
Source: ACT for Youth
Anger and Violence in Teenagers
If you feel threatened by your teen
Everyone has a right to feel physically safe. If your teen is violent towards you, seek help immediately. Call a friend, relative, or the police if necessary. It doesn’t mean that you don’t love your child, but the safety of you and your family should always come first.
If you’re a parent of a teenage boy who is angry, aggressive, or violent, you may live in constant fear. Every phone call or knock on the door could bring news that your son has either been harmed, or has seriously harmed others.
Teenage girls get angry as well, of course, but that anger is usually expressed verbally rather than physically. Teen boys are more likely to throw objects, kick doors, or punch the walls when they’re angry. Some will even direct their rage towards you. For any parent, especially single mothers, this can be a profoundly upsetting and unsettling experience. But you don’t have to live under the threat of violence.
Dealing with angry teens
Anger can be a challenging emotion for many teens as it often masks other underlying emotions such as frustration, embarrassment, sadness, hurt, fear, shame, or vulnerability. When teens can’t cope with these feelings, they may lash out, putting themselves and others at risk. In their teens, many boys have difficulty recognizing their feelings, let alone being able to express them or ask for help.
The challenge for parents is to help your teen cope with emotions and deal with anger in a more constructive way:
- Establish rules and consequences. At a time when both you and your teen are calm, explain that there’s nothing wrong with feeling anger, but there are unacceptable ways of expressing it. If your teen lashes out, for example, he or she will have to face the consequences—loss of privileges or even police involvement. Teens need rules, now more than ever.
- Uncover what’s behind the anger. Is your child sad or depressed? For example, does your teen have feelings of inadequacy because his or her peers have things that your child doesn’t? Does your teen just need someone to listen to him or her without judgment?
- Be aware of anger warning signs and triggers. Does your teen get headaches or start to pace before exploding with rage? Or does a certain class at school always trigger anger? When teens can identify the warning signs that their temper is starting to boil, it allows them to take steps to defuse the anger before it gets out of control.
- Help your teen find healthy ways to relieve anger. Exercise, team sports, even simply hitting a punch bag or a pillow can help relieve tension and anger. Many teens also use art or writing to creatively express their anger. Dancing or playing along to loud, angry music can also provide relief.
- Give your teen space to retreat. When your teen is angry, allow him or her to retreat to a place where it’s safe to cool off. Don’t follow your teen and demand apologies or explanations while he or she is still raging; this will only prolong or escalate the anger, or even provoke a physical response.
- Manage your own anger. You can’t help your teen if you lose your temper as well. As difficult as it sounds, you have to remain calm and balanced no matter how much your child provokes you. If you or other members of your family scream, hit each other, or throw things, your teen will naturally assume that these are appropriate ways to express his or her anger as well.
Red flags for violent behavior in teens
It only takes a glance at the news headlines to know that teen violence is a growing problem. Movies and TV shows glamorize all manner of violence, many web sites promote extremist views that call for violent action, and hour after hour of playing violent video games can desensitize teens to the real world consequences of aggression and violence. Of course, not every teen exposed to violent content will become violent, but for a troubled teen who is emotionally damaged or suffering from mental health problems, the consequences can be tragic.
Warning signs that a teen may become violent include:
- Playing with weapons of any kind
- Obsessively playing violent video games, watching violent movies, or visiting websites that promote or glorify violence
- Threatening or bullying others
- Fantasizing about acts of violence he’d like to commit
- Being violent or cruel to pets or other animals
Helping Troubled Teens Tip #1: Connect With Your Teen
Whatever problems your teen is experiencing, it is not a sign that you’ve somehow failed as a parent. Instead of trying to assign blame for the situation, focus on your teen’s current needs. The first step to doing this is to find a way to connect with him or her.
It may seem hard to believe—given your child’s anger or indifference towards you—but teens still crave love, approval, and acceptance from their parents. That means you probably have a lot more influence over your teen than you think. To open the lines of communication:
- Be aware of your own stress levels. If you’re angry or upset, now is not the time to try to communicate with your teen. Wait until you’re calm and energized before starting a conversation. You’re likely to need all the patience and positive energy you can muster.
- Be there for your teen. An offer to chat with your teen over coffee will probably be greeted with a sarcastic put-down or dismissive gesture, but it’s important to show you’re available. Insist on sitting down for mealtimes together with no TV or other distractions, and attempt to talk to your teen then. Don’t get frustrated if your efforts are greeted by nothing more than monosyllabic grunts or shrugs; you may have to eat a lot of dinners in silence, but when your teen does want to open up, he or she will have the opportunity to do so.
- Find common ground. Trying to discuss your teen’s appearance or clothes may be a sure-fire way to trigger a heated argument, but you can still find some areas of common ground. Fathers and sons often connect over sports, mothers and daughters over gossip or movies. The objective is not to be your teen’s best friend, but to find common interests that you can discuss peacefully. Once you’re talking, your teen may feel more comfortable opening up to you about other things.
- Listen without judging or giving advice. When your teen does talk to you, it’s important that you listen without judging, mocking, interrupting, criticizing, or offering advice. Your teen wants to feel understood and valued by you, so maintain eye contact and keep your focus on your child, even when he or she is not looking at you. If you’re checking your email or reading the newspaper, your teen will feel that he or she is not important to you.
- Expect rejection. Your attempts to connect with your teen may often be met with anger, irritation, or other negative reactions. Stay relaxed and allow your teen space to cool off. Try again later when you’re both calm. Successfully connecting to your teen will take time and effort. Don’t be put off; persevere and the breakthrough will come.
Helping Troubled Teens Tip #2: Make Healthy Lifestyle Changes
The tips below can help put balance back in your troubled teen’s life, no matter the exact diagnosis of his or her problems:
- Create structure. Teens may scream and argue with you about rules and discipline, or rebel against daily structure, but that doesn’t mean they need them any less. Structure, such as regular mealtimes and bedtimes, make a teen feel safe and secure. Sitting down to breakfast and dinner together every day can also provide a great opportunity to check in with your teen at the beginning and end of each day.
- Reduce screen time. There is a direct relationship between violent TV shows, movies, Internet content, and video games, and the violent behavior in teenagers. Even if your teen isn’t drawn to violent material, too much screen time can still impact brain development. Limit the time your teen has access to electronic devices—and restrict phone usage after a certain time at night to ensure your child gets enough sleep.
- Encourage exercise. Even a little regular exercise can help ease depression, boost energy and mood, relieve stress, regulate sleep patterns, and improve your teen’s self-esteem. If you struggle getting your teen to do anything but play video games, encourage him or her to play activity-based video games or “exergames” that are played standing up and moving around—simulating dancing, skateboarding, soccer, or tennis, for example. Once exercise becomes a habit, encourage your teen to try the real sport or to join a club or team.
- Eat right. Healthy eating can help to stabilize a teenager’s energy, sharpen his or her mind, and even out his or her mood. Act as a role model for your teen. Cook more meals at home, eat more fruit and vegetables and cut back on junk food and soda.
- Ensure your teen gets enough sleep. Sleep deprivation can make a teen stressed, moody, irritable, and lethargic, and cause problems with weight, memory, concentration, decision-making, and immunity from illness. You might be able to get by on six hours a night and still function at work, but your teen needs 8.5 to 10 hours of sleep a night to be mentally sharp and emotionally balanced.Encourage better sleep by setting consistent bedtimes, and removing TVs, computers, and other electronic gadgets from your teen’s room—the light from these suppresses melatonin production and stimulates the mind, rather than relaxing it. Suggest your teen tries listening to music or audio books at bedtime instead.
Helping Troubled Teens Tip #3: Take Care of Yourself
The stress of dealing with any teenager, especially one who’s experiencing behavioral problems, can take a toll on your own health, so it’s important to take care of yourself. That means looking after your emotional and physical needs and learning to manage stress.
- Take time to relax daily and learn how to regulate yourself and de-stress when you start to feel overwhelmed.
- Don’t go it alone, especially if you’re a single parent. Seek help from friends, relatives, a school counselor, sports coach, religious leader, or someone else who has a relationship with your teen. Organizations such as Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCA, and other youth groups can also help provide structure and guidance.
- Watch out for signs of depression and anxiety, and get professional help if needed.
This won’t last forever
It’s worth reminding your teen that no matter how much pain or turmoil he or she is experiencing right now, with your love and support, things can and will get better—for both of you. Your teen can overcome the problems of adolescence and mature into a happy, successful young adult.
The Impact of Media on Teens
Here is an article that is created by the American Academy of pediatrics:
Teaching Civility in an F-Word Society
In upstate New York in 2012 , a 68-year old bus monitor Karen Klein was called fat and ugly. Laced with profanity and cruel insults, four middle-school boys brought the woman to tears in one of the worst child-adult bullying incidents ever caught on videotape. Watched more than 4 million times on YouTube, many of the online comments were as uncivil as the video itself.
The Psychology of Civility
The foundational virtue of citizenship, civility is behavior that recognizes the humanity of others, allowing us to live peacefully together in neighborhoods and communities. The psychological elements of civility include awareness, self-control, empathy, and respect. If we believe that all human beings “are created equal” and have worth, then civility is an obligation to act in ways that honor that belief. It requires us to treat others with decency, regardless of our differences. It demands restraint and an ability to put the interests of the common good above self-interests.
It’s impossible to know if civility has really declined because we can’t measure it scientifically. But by all subjective measures, most Americans believe it has severely decreased over the past two decades. Stories like the ridiculed bus monitor may seem unusually distasteful, but this kind of behavior occurs daily in U.S. classrooms and homes, and on the web.
There are several hypotheses for this decline. First, as society has become more informal, some ethics scholars suggest there are no longer agreed upon rules for respectful behavior. Norms have become unclear and fuzzy. The web has produced an etiquette-free zone where people can post anonymous and uncivil criticisms with ease. With anonymity, there is no responsibility.
Today, name-calling and vulgarity fill the halls of Congress, negative political ads attack character over substance, and reality show television encourages self-regard over the common good. Shows like “The Apprentice” and “Survivor” highlight back-stabbing behavior as admirable and winning qualities. With the advent of cable news, we can choose the network that suits our political beliefs, only hearing one side of the debate. In short, children are exposed to rudeness, vulgarity, and violence that would be unthinkable in previous generations.
Do we really need to ask ourselves where children learn civility? Children model adult behavior on television and in real life. And they replicate language they learn online. It is not uncommon to hear “F_ _ _ You” spoken by children just learning to talk. That’s because children are systemically connected to everything around them. The world is their learning environment. We are their teachers.
How Adults Teach Children Respectful Social Behavior
Admittedly, there are many roadblocks to reversing the downward trend of civility in today’s society. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t. In fact, asparents, teachers, politicians, television producers, and others who impact children’s lives, we have a responsibly to do so. Why? Studies show that incivility leads to violence, unhealthy communities, and societies paralyzed by conflict and political division.
Here are 15 ways children learn civility from adults:
- Lead by example.
- Think about the impact of our words and actions on others first.
- Treat children and adults with the respect that we expect them to treat others.
- Apologize when we are wrong.
- Disagree with intelligence, humor, and civil discourse.
- Don’t let anger and emotion get in the way of listening to others.
- Teach character strengths, like respect and empathy, at homeand in classrooms.
- Demand civility of our politicians and public servants.
- Set ground rules for civil behavior at home and in classrooms.
- Challenge people’s views but don’t attack the person.
- Be tolerant of people who are different from us.
- Praise others for their civil behavior, regardless of their viewpoints.
- Empower children to take a stand against bullying.
- Remind kids often why we should be civil.
- Teach kids how to become engaged citizens.
This list is not extensive or complete. Please share your thoughts, suggestions, and additions. What can adults do to teach respectful social behavior? And, yes, civility is appreciated!
Marks, J. (1996, April 22). The American uncivil wars: How crude, rude, and obnoxious behavior has replaced good manners and why that hurts politics and culture. US News and World Report, 66-72.
Peck D. L. (2002). Civility: A contemporary context for a meaningful historical concept. Sociological Inquiry, 72, 358-375.
Scales, S. (2010, Spring). Teaching Civility in the Age of Jerry Springer.Teaching Ethics, 1-20.
Should School Be a No Whining Zone?
Do your children whine when they don’t get good grades? Do your students argue with you about grades or try to get extra credit for doing very little? Even worse, do young people become uncivil after receiving a poor grade, placing blame on anyone or anything besides themselves?
These behaviors may be symptoms of academic entitlement, a new term used to refer to a student’s expectation that they receive high grades, regardless of performance.
There are likely lots of causes of academic entitlement, from parents and teachers who enable this type of behavior to our current educational culture of high stakes testing and the increased pressure to succeed.
Regardless of the cause, whining and behaviors associated with entitlement are detrimental to learning and life success. It can be particularly damaging when students begin college with expectations of receiving good grades for minimal effort.
Student scores on K-12 achievement tests have remained relatively constant over the years. Yet, K-12 grades have increased dramatically. This suggests that today’s students are receiving higher grades for the same performance as students in previous decades. Some studies show that even the most talented students earn success by cleverly circumventing hard work.
What happens when students develop unrealistic expectations toward college or the work world? They respond with anger and disappointment when their goals are not achieved. Feelings of entitlement have been correlated with a host of negative outcomes, including hostility, depression, difficulty in relationships, and greed.
Parents and K-12 teachers can minimize the risk of academic entitlement in college and the world beyond by instilling positive values toward learning and success during the formative years.
Seven Ways to Help Children Avoid Academic Entitlement
- Teach children that knowledge is a privilege that is earned through hard work, challenge, and discomfort. See the article, What Teens Learn by Overcoming Challenges
- Help students understand that learning isn’t about satisfying requirements; it’s about living a satisfying life. Share the article, Happiness or Harvard, with a teenager — an inspiring story of how one teen redefined her attitudes about success.
- Let young people know that when they are struggling, it is their responsibility to ask for help. Role models and adult mentors are essential for teens.
- Teach children that failure is the bedrock of learning. Read the compelling article in The Atlantic by middle-school teacher, Jessica Lahey, Why Parents Need to Let Their Children Fail.
- Help students understand that no one has the same learning or test-taking style. Adults can foster a positive mindset for kids with learning differences.
- Support your child’s teachers. They develop policies that apply to everyone. There are penalties for breaking the rules just as there are in the world outside of school.
- Instill the principle that teachers are facilitators of learning. Education is something we accomplish for ourselves throughout a lifetime.
When children embrace behaviors that emerge from the above principles, they learn to take responsibility for their successes and failures, accept the consequences of their actions, and learn to engage with meaningful life and career goals.
What do you think? What other ways do adults help children learn to take responsibility for their learning and actions?
©2013 Marilyn Price-Mitchell. All rights reserved. Please contact for permission to reprint.
Hersh, R. H., & Merrow, J. (Eds.). (2005). Declining by degrees: Higher education at risk. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.
Kopp, J. P., Zinn, T. E., Finney, S. J., & Jurich, D. P. (2011). The development and evaluation of the academic entitlement questionnaire. Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development, 44, 105-129.
Twenge, J. M., & Campbell, W. K. (2009). The narcissism epidemic: Living in the age of entitlement. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
Why Parents Need to Let Their Children Fail
Jessica LaheyJAN 29 2013, 8:41 AM ET
A new study explores what happens to students who aren’t allowed to suffer through setbacks.
Thirteen years ago, when I was a relatively new teacher, stumbling around my classroom on wobbly legs, I had to call a student’s mother to inform her that I would be initiating disciplinary proceedings against her daughter for plagiarism, and that furthermore, her daughter would receive a zero for the plagiarized paper.
“You can’t do that. She didn’t do anything wrong,” the mother informed me, enraged.
“But she did. I was able to find entire paragraphs lifted off of web sites,” I stammered.
“No, I mean she didn’t do it. I did. I wrote her paper.”
I don’t remember what I said in response, but I’m fairly confident I had to take a moment to digest what I had just heard. And what would I do, anyway? Suspend the mother? Keep her in for lunch detention and make her write “I will not write my daughter’s papers using articles plagiarized from the Internet” one hundred times on the board? In all fairness, the mother submitted a defense: her daughter had been stressed out, and she did not want her to get sick or overwhelmed.
In the end, my student received a zero and I made sure she re-wrote the paper. Herself. Sure, I didn’t have the authority to discipline the student’s mother, but I have done so many times in my dreams. While I am not sure what the mother gained from the experience, the daughter gained an understanding of consequences, and I gained a war story. I don’t even bother with the old reliables anymore: the mother who “helps” a bit too much with the child’s math homework, the father who builds the student’s science project. Please. Don’t waste my time.
The stories teachers exchange these days reveal a whole new level of overprotectiveness: parents who raise their children in a state of helplessness and powerlessness, children destined to an anxious adulthood, lacking the emotional resources they will need to cope with inevitable setback and failure.
I believed my accumulated compendium of teacher war stories were pretty good — until I read a study out of Queensland University of Technology, by Judith Locke, et. al., a self-described “examination by parenting professionals of the concept of over parenting.”
Over parenting is characterized in the study as parents’ “misguided attempt to improve their child’s current and future personal and academic success.” In an attempt to understand such behaviors, the authors surveyed psychologists, guidance counselors, and teachers. The authors asked these professionals if they had witnessed examples of over parenting, and left space for descriptions of said examples. While the relatively small sample size and questionable method of subjective self-reporting cast a shadow on the study’s statistical significance, the examples cited in the report provide enough ammunition for a year of dinner parties.
Some of the examples are the usual fare: a child isn’t allowed to go to camp or learn to drive, a parent cuts up a 10 year-Old’s food or brings separate plates to parties for a 16 year-old because he’s a picky eater. Yawn. These barely rank a “Tsk, tsk” among my colleagues. And while I pity those kids, I’m not that worried. They will go out on their own someday and recover from their overprotective childhoods.
What worry me most are the examples of over parenting that have the potential to ruin a child’s confidence and undermine an education in independence. According to the authors, parents guilty of this kind of over parenting “take their child’s perception as truth, regardless of the facts,” and are “quick to believe their child over the adult and deny the possibility that their child was at fault or would even do something of that nature.”
This is what we teachers see most often: what the authors term “high responsiveness and low demandingness” parents.” These parents are highly responsive to the perceived needs and issues of their children, and don’t give their children the chance to solve their own problems. These parents “rush to school at the whim of a phone call from their child to deliver items such as forgotten lunches, forgotten assignments, forgotten uniforms” and “demand better grades on the final semester reports or threaten withdrawal from school.” One study participant described the problem this way:
I have worked with quite a number of parents who are so overprotective of their children that the children do not learn to take responsibility (and the natural consequences) of their actions. The children may develop a sense of entitlement and the parents then find it difficult to work with the school in a trusting, cooperative and solution focused manner, which would benefit both child and school.
These are the parents who worry me the most — parents who won’t let their child learn. You see, teachers don’t just teach reading, writing, and arithmetic. We teach responsibility, organization, manners, restraint, and foresight. These skills may not get assessed on standardized testing, but as children plot their journey into adulthood, they are, by far, the most important life skills I teach.
I’m not suggesting that parents place blind trust in their children’s teachers; I would never do such a thing myself. But children make mistakes, and when they do, it’s vital that parents remember that the educational benefits of consequences are a gift, not a dereliction of duty. Year after year, my “best” students — the ones who are happiest and successful in their lives — are the students who were allowed to fail, held responsible for missteps, and challenged to be the best people they could be in the face of their mistakes.
I’m done fantasizing about ways to make that mom from 13 years ago see the light. That ship has sailed, and I did the best I could for her daughter. Every year, I reassure some parent, “This setback will be the best thing that ever happened to your child,” and I’ve long since accepted that most parents won’t believe me. That’s fine. I’m patient. The lessons I teach in middle school don’t typically pay off for years, and I don’t expect thank-you cards.
I have learned to enjoy and find satisfaction in these day-to-day lessons, and in the time I get to spend with children in need of an education. But I fantasize about the day I will be trusted to teach my students how to roll with the punches, find their way through the gauntlet of adolescence, and stand firm in the face of the challenges — challenges that have the power to transform today’s children into resourceful, competent, and confident adults.
By TIM ELMORE, Reviewed by STEFAN WALTERS, MFT
Dr. Tim Elmore is the founder of Growing Leaders, an organization that teaches middle school, high school, and college students how to become “authentic leaders.” He has presented internationally, written more than 25 books, and worked with students since 1979. As a result, he has plenty of experience with young people and in figuring out what motivates and challenges them.
In this, his latest book, Elmore offers the culmination of his experience to advise parents, teachers, and leaders on how they too can empower the current generation of young people to become authentic adults and develop more than just an “artificial” maturity. Yet despite his decades in the field, Elmore may not be as reliable a guru as he’d have us believe.
To define the current generation, Elmore has coined the term “Generation iY,” which he explains as follows:
Because of the ubiquitous technology available on our phones and at our fingertips, we are raising, not Generation Y, but Generation iY. They have grown up online and have been influenced by the ‘iWorld.’ … In short, the artificial maturity dilemma can be described this way:
- Children are overexposed to information, far earlier than they’re ready.
- Children are underexposed to real-life experiences for later than they’re ready.
This overexposure-underexposure produces artificial maturity. It’s a new kind of fool’s gold. It looks so real because kids know so much, but it’s virtual because they have experienced so little.
This is the starting point of Elmore’s book, as he argues that today’s young adults have been denied the opportunities to truly develop their own personalities due to the perfect storm of spending too much time in the “virtual world” of technology, an increased dependency on prescription drugs, and being overprotected by their parents.
Elmore then summarizes four key areas to respond to this issue:
- Provide autonomy and responsibility simultaneously.
- Provide information and accountability simultaneously.
- Provide experiences to accompany their technology-savvy lifestyles.
- Provide community service opportunities to balance their self-service time.
These certainly make sense, and over the rest of the book Elmore offers a number of tips and techniques that can be used as interventions when working with these young adults. Every chapter is summarized in concise “Chapter In A Nutshell” segments. Elmore also provides “Talk It Over” suggestions, to encourage discussion over some of his suggestions, as well as real-life examples of “Exercises for Maturing Kids,” where various contributors offer their own stories and share what worked for them.
There is undoubtedly a lot of useful information in this book, and parents who are keen to see their children develop into “authentic” leaders may glean a great deal from Elmore’s wisdom. Many of the techniques and suggestions here could be applied to a variety of situations, rendering the book a potentially useful reference tool for those who regularly work with young people and are looking for a little help in how to control or guide them. Still, Elmore’s perspective is a narrow one.
One such example comes when he reminds us of the importance of using technology to involve young adults in activities and encourage them to work together. Unlike some social commentators, the author does not believe that Facebook, iPhones, and video games are the root of all evil; rather, that they are wonderful tools that need to be used appropriately and in the right measure. Elmore shares a story to illustrate this point:
“When faculty and staff at Conlee Elementary School in Las Cruces, New Mexico, started having students do five minutes of Just Dance (an active video game for Nintendo’s Wii) at the start of each new day, they noticed a trend: tardiness went down. Kids began getting to school on time. What’s more, they got some exercise every day playing the game. Students love it. Teachers love that they’re now engaged. Not a bad trade-off.”
This story may be true, but it’s also quite simplistic. Elmore doesn’t acknowledge the fact that enticing kids into school with a video game could in fact be seen as bribery, or indeed pandering to what the children want. And there are several occasions in the book where he suggests something that might seem to be simple common sense, but could equally be interpreted as patronizing, or condescending. He writes:
We all know that people need to find a career in an area of their personal strengths. When this happens, we come alive. We deepen our passion and tend to become the best versions of ourselves. I am suggesting, however, that before students take that plunge they may be served well to do something outside of that ‘fun’ area in order to build discipline:
- Waiting tables at a restaurant
- Inputting data in a computer program
- Washing and detailing cars
- Filing folders or shipping products
- Cleaning offices and restrooms
What Elmore is clearly saying here is that humility is important, and that we shouldn’t allow our young adults to become too self-serving or narcissistic, or to allow their egos to get out of control. This is obvious. But I’m not convinced that cleaning restrooms, washing cars, or waiting tables is a fundamentally worthwhile activity for anyone, no matter how much of a character-building exercise it might seem.
Furthermore, the author doesn’t look into some of the systemic problems that often prevent our young people from moving into the careers they desire, or the hurdles along their journeys toward trying to achieve their own goals and dreams. It’s easy to point the finger at “Generation iY” and blame them for all of their flaws and foibles, but what about the society that puts them in that situation in the first place?
“This is actually a book of hope. I love kids,” Elmore says in his introduction. But much of the book comes across as being genuinely skeptical about the ability of young adults to make informed decisions of their own, and can as a result seem rather pessimistic and cynical. Headings such as “What the Next Generation Needs Most” left me feeling uncomfortable, almost as though Elmore were trying to dictate a cure-all panacea for everyone to follow, without pausing to think about what young people’s wishes might be, or whether he might have his own agenda.
The book does have plenty of commonsense tips and techniques, plus a large helping of real-life experience and information that could be put to use when working with young adults.
But I was ultimately left feeling that the world would be a much duller, less vibrant place if every child were raised to become the kind of carbon copy “authentic adult” Elmore has in mind. I have faith that the children of today can become the successful and independent young adults of tomorrow. But I believe they can get there of their own accord, using their own unique skills and abilities — and that they’ll be able to do it without cleaning toilets.
By RICK NAUERT PHD Senior News Editor, Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on February 13, 2013
Most parents would do anything to help their children be happy and successful.
But too much involvement can be detrimental as a new study shows that college students with over controlling parents are more likely to be depressed and less satisfied with their lives.
Experts say this “helicopter parenting” style — hovering over and micro-managing their child’s school and social lives — can negatively affects students’ well-being by violating their need to feel both autonomous and competent. Researchers believe such parenting can violate students’ basic needs.
In the new research, Holly Schiffrin, Ph.D., and colleagues from the University of Mary Washington examined the effect of parenting behavior on college students’ psychological well-being. The study is published online in the Journal of Child and Family Studies.
Studies also suggest that children of overinvolved or over controlling parents may feel less competent and less able to manage life and its stressors.
However, parental involvement is necessary in a child’s life to facilitate healthy development, both emotionally and socially.
Children’s need for autonomy increases over time as they strive to become independent young adults. College administrators are concerned that some parents do not adjust their level of involvement and control as their child grows up.
Schiffrin and her team administered an online survey to 297 American undergraduate students, aged 18-23 years. Students were asked to describe their mothers’ parenting behaviors, rate their own perceptions of their autonomy, competence, and relatedness (i.e., how well they get along with other people).
The researchers also assessed the students’ overall satisfaction with life, their level of anxiety, and whether or not they suffered depressive symptoms.
Overall, an inappropriate level of parental behavioral control was linked to negative well-being outcomes for students.
Helicopter parenting behaviors were related to higher levels of depression and decreased satisfaction with life. In addition, these behaviors were associated with lower levels of perceived autonomy, competence, and relatedness.
And those who perceived they had less autonomy and competence were also more likely to be depressed.
Researchers concluded that although parents believe they are being supportive, the highly involved, intensive method of parenting may actually be perceived as controlling and undermining by their children.
So when is it time for parents to back away?
“Parents should keep in mind how developmentally appropriate their involvement is and learn to adjust their parenting style when their children feel that they are hovering too closely,” researchers said.