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How To Give Your Kid High Self Esteem Without Raising A Little Narcissist

As a parent, you want your kid to have self esteem because (presumably) that limits the chance of them living in the basement as adults. As a parent, you’re also probably a little concerned about an overall increase in narcissism because … well, because social scientists study this stuff and apparently narcissism increased by 30 percent between 1981 and 2006. So, how do you navigate the fine line between narcissism and self esteem in your own special snowflake? Lucky for you, psychologists study that one, and according to some fascinating new research, the line isn’t that fine at all.

The good news is that the qualities of a narcissistic kid and one with high self esteem are entirely distinct. Writing in Scientific American, Eddie Brummelman, the study’s lead author, explains, “Narcissists feel superior to others, believe they are entitled to privileges, and crave admiration … High self esteemers, by contrast, feel satisfied with themselves as a person but don’t see themselves as any better than others.” In fact, Brummelman points out, narcissistic kids often have low self-esteem, because the world stubbornly refuses to conform to their view on how it should be.

Child looking at reflectionPixabay

Now for the bad news: Narcissism is often encouraged by parents who think they’re building their kids’ self esteem through “overvaluation” — basically, overestimating and over-praising their qualities and accomplishments. By comparison, Brummelman and his team identified the hallmarks of parenting that raises self esteem: warmth, a sincere interest in the kid’s interests, and valuing them for who they are (as opposed to an idealized version you want them to be).

So, when your kid’s next marathon selfie session has you convinced the world’s headed to hell in a handbasket marked “S.S. Narcissist,” check yourself — literally. If you haven’t been blowing smoke up the kid’s ass their whole life, they’re probably going to be just fine.

[H/T] Scientific American