Rose, was an 8 year old, an only child and her parents were proud of her. Her parents described her as a talented, confident and driven child. Her father described her as the gem of the family and everyone's favorite. "She does well when we encourage her and she knows how special she is to us. She is our only priority and we want to give her the best life possible, her happiness is everything" he said. While Rose did well academically, she often complained of feeling left out by her classmates. When she didn't get her way, she would throw a fit or completely avoid her peers. She prefers spending time with adults than other children.
Why does Rose find it hard to engage with other children? Do her parents praise her too much? Does she expect similar praise and admiration in school too?
We all respond positively to praise, it encourages us to do better and build our confidence. Research shows that too much praise from an early age impacts children negatively in fact they develop narcissistic traits. So when is it appropriate? And how much praise is necessary? When a child is praised and starts to develop a sense of entitlement it takes away from a sense of responsibility. If praise results in a child thinking they are very special they may not develop empathy and think about how others feel.
A ‘Narcissistic Personality' can be described as a person having excessive self importance, being preoccupied with unlimited brilliance, beauty or ideal love. Someone that requires excessive admiration, believes he or she is "more special than others" and unique and can only be understood by other special people; someone who lacks empathy and is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others. As well as a person who is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her and show arrogant or haughty behaviour or attitude. These personalities become evident when adults run into interpersonal issues at work, complicated relationship patterns, violent behaviour and poor anger management skills.
A child's self esteem and personality starts to develop at a very early age and parents play a huge role in this. More than praise, parental warmth in building a child's confidence is important. Protecting a child from disappointment or failure is not the solution. In a competitive world encouraging a child to reach their full potential is necessary along with developing a sense of responsibility towards relationships and their society. Developing empathy by being able to understand other's needs and emotions is an essential skill in sustaining relationships.
What are some skills you and your spouse feel would be essential to teach your child from an early age?