Attention parents: Stop making so many narcissists

March 13, 2015 Originally published on SFGate

Someone had to say it. Someone in the field was bound to perform a needful study that finally, formally counters the prevailing wisdom and instead suggests that narcissists – those arrogant, better-than-thou, entitled twits so prevalent across Instagram, politics and Silicon Valley – are made, not born.

How? By whom? By their overweening parents, of course.

Didn’t you already suspect? Turns out if you really want to make your child into an arrogant jerknose no one really likes, you don’t give them too little warmth growing up (that’s what experts used to think) – on the contrary: the best way is to tell him, over and over, that he’s the most special, the bestest ever, the most unique and brilliant kid in the whole universe, and to hell with those lesser, mewling fleshballs on the playground.

Voila! You have successfully implanted the toxic idea that he (or she) really is superior – separate, better, deserving of everything and humble about nothing. What’s more, if anyone dares challenge your kid’s fragile, overpraised ego, that person will promptly be stabbed in the face with a fork.

Right! The research. According to this fine Washington Post article, two academics, Brad Bushman of Ohio State University and Eddie Brummelman of the University of Amsterdam, surveyed hundreds of kids over a specific span of years (ages 7-11 – the most susceptible to this kind of message, apparently), and came to a tentative, please-don’t-kill-us conclusion that it’s really when parents “overvalue” their kids that narcissism emerges. It’s not the only factor, of course, but it’s likely the most dominant. And, as you surely know, it creates some really awful adults.

Sayeth researcher Brad Bushman, after 30 years in the field; “I’ve seen that the most harmful belief that a person can have is that they’re superior to others. ‘Men are better than women, my race is better than your race, my religion is superior to your religion.’ When people believe they’re better than other people, they act accordingly.”

Translation: Violence, oppression, racism, sexual abuse, homophobia, Justin Bieber, the Koch brothers. And so on. How do you know if someone’s a narcissist? That’s easy. Just ask them.

Is there another way? A better, more balanced message? Of course there is.

Appreciation and love, instead of superiority and godhood. Connection with, and deep appreciation for, humanity and the planet, as opposed to dominion over. Kindness over arrogance. Grace over greed. That sort of thing. Seems obvious. Sadly isn’t.

Read more here:: Attention parents: Stop making so many narcissists

Mark Morford

About Mark Morford