It’s no secret that we’re a self-obsessed society. (is it?)
I mean, I’m no PH.D., but “selfie” is now a legitimate word in the dictionary. And we have props like selfie sticks. Y’know, so we can take more selfies.
I don’t think any of us are immune to the desire to self-promote, and it doesn’t have to be a horrible trait. It’s good to teach our kids to:
- put their best effort into things,
- be pleased when hard work pays off, and
- use their natural abilities and talents for good.
In our home, we’re striving to teach our kids that these are good things, but we don’t do them simply for the purpose of self-glorification. We don’t strive for achievements just so we can puff our chest out and feel superior, but because God has created us to be exactly who we are, with all of our strengths and weaknesses. We are to do all things for His glory, not our own.
We want to raise children to have the ability to think beyond themselves. To look up and out at the world around them. To see it. To acknowledge it. And to know that all of those people out there — they’re equally as important.
I’m finding it’s not the norm for kids these days, if it ever was, to want to help someone else shine, or to encourage them in whatever they’re doing. Quite frankly, it’s not just kids. Often, we want to see the fail videos on YouTube of other people’s lives, while we show the Pinterest version of ourselves. And our kids are picking up on it!
Jean Twenge is one of my favourite authors on the subject of self. I devoured two of her books in just a few weeks:
- Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled — and More Miserable Than Ever Before
- The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement
In the latter, she discusses these points:
- On a reality TV show, a girl planning her 16th birthday party wants a major road blocked off so a marching band can precede her grand entrance on a red carpet.
- A book called My Beautiful Mommy explains plastic surgery to young children whose mothers are going under the knife for the trendy “Mommy Makeover.”
- It is now possible to hire fake paparazzi to follow you around, snapping your photograph when you go out at night. You can even take home a faux celebrity magazine cover featuring the pictures.
- A popular song declares, with no apparent sarcasm, “I believe that the world should revolve around me!”
- People buy expensive homes with loans far beyond their ability to pay — or at least they did until the mortgage market collapsed as a result.
- Babies wear bibs embroidered with “Supermodel” or “Chick Magnet” and suck on “Bling” pacifiers while their parents read modernized nursery rhymes from This Little Piggy went to Prada.
- People strive to create a “personal brand,” packaging themselves like a product to be sold.
- High school students pummel classmates and then seek attention for their violence by posting YouTube videos of the beatings.
Although these seem like a random collection of current trends, all are rooted in a single underlying shift in the North American psychology: the relentless rise of narcissism in our culture.
I’m not sure it’s anything particularly new. We’ve always wanted people to like us, think well of us, and feel popular and validated. These desires are as old as human beings themselves.
As parents today, we face this question: in this age of ever-increasing narcissism, how are we teaching our kids to care about others?
It may come natural to your kiddos, this loving their neighbour modus operandi, but I assure you it doesn’t to our little brood. And so, as with everything else, we talk. We practice. We even role play hypothetical situations that may arise in their schools, amongst their friends, on social media, so they’re prepared ahead of time for what they should do.
When I come home from work these days, my boys ask, “How was your day, Mom?” I love this and appreciate it, even though I was the one who taught them to say it. Previously, they would get in the car after school and I would ask them, every single day, how their day was, and every single day they would answer, and leave it at that. Until I taught them:
“Respectfully, boys, you should ask me how my day was, too. Because when you care about another person, you care to know what happened to them that day, what their highs or lows were, to let them tell their stories.”
And so, they do.
Just this past weekend, we pushed it a touch further. I respond better to “heart” words, while my husband responds better to “head” words. So I encouraged them to ask me, “How do you feel, Mom?” And when asking their dad for his opinion, they ask, “What do you think about that?”
I have to say, I have never felt more loved. And I tell them just that!
I only hope that they’re using these lessons outside the walls of this home, by asking the same of their teachers, their friends, one day their girlfriends and wives — eventually teaching their children, too!
There is so much to teach in parenting, isn’t there? I’m finding the “little stuff” is often just as important as the big. I want my boys to be caring and compassionate to people, and it starts with the question: “How are YOU?”