3 questions to ask yourself if you raised kids in a dysfunctional home.

I’m giving this post another day in the sun. This is for anyone with children at home who thinks their own issues might be negatively affecting the way they raise their kids. I hope this helps.

Lucky Otters Haven

Nobody’s perfect, and that goes for parents too.  There’s no such thing as a perfect parent. There’s something called a “good enough” parent though, which means that you are going to make mistakes raising your kids, no matter how much talent you have for the task or how well adjusted you are.  Children don’t come with instruction manuals, and some of the mistakes you make might even be pretty bad ones.    But overall, you’re “good enough” if your kids know you love them no matter what mistakes you made, and they turn out to be functioning, reasonably happy adults.

But for survivors of narcissistic abuse, things are a little more dire.   Because many of us suffer from mental disorders caused by abuse–C-PTSD, BPD, OCD, anxiety, depression, and a host of other mental maladies–we probably entered parenthood with less of a sense of ourselves and our place in the…

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May he rest in peace.

One of the things I do when I have nothing to do is type names of people I used to know — old classmates, friends, co-workers, etc. — into Google and see what comes up.  Most of the time it’s just those “people finders” that ask for an additional fee and promise to give you the person’s address, age, criminal background, work history, etc.    I think most people have probably spent time browsing the names of people they know only slightly or that they lost touch with long ago.  But sometimes you get lucky and find some actual information about the person, sometimes even photos of the person.

Today I was thinking about the roommate I had in the hospital where my son was born and where we spent the next 5 days, recovering from C-sections.   The woman was about a year older than me, and had an older daughter (my son was my first).   I remember I was in the room first, and at some unspecified time during my morphine-haze first evening,  my new roommate was rolled in, followed by a glass basinette on wheels containing her newborn son, Sam.  There we were to spend the next few days recovering, getting to know our newborn sons,  and waiting for “bowel sounds” — after major surgery, this is a major milestone.  It means you’re ready to start eating real food again, so this is the only time in your life you will actually be praying to fart — because nothing in the world tastes better than your first bland dinner of stewed apple slices, white rice, and chicken nuggets after three days of liquids only.

We visited only once after we both went home.  When the boys were about a year old,  we got together at my friend’s house.   At that age, they played very little with each other but got into everything else.  I remember being in a near-panic because her son was already using full words, while mine still just babbled nonsense or even worse, was silent.   I decided after that visit to take my son to speech therapy.  It wasn’t necessary.  He started talking just shy of three years old — quite late according to the child development experts, but when he finally spoke, he did in complete sentences, completely skipping over the one-and two-word stage.   The pediatrician told me some kids are perfectionists and play “practice tapes” in their heads, but won’t speak until they are sure what they want to say is perfect.   That’s probably true, since my son is a perfectionist and even has an OCD diagnosis.   I also remember a time or two when I heard him alone in his room as a young toddler, apparently practicing his words.  If he knew you were listening, he’d go silent, so I had to be very quiet and not let him know I knew.   Needless to say, when he finally started talking, there was no shutting him up.

I typed the woman’s name and her son’s name in Google.  Nothing came up on my friend at all except a few people-search websites which demand a fee before they give you anything,  but there was definitely something about her son, Sam.  There was a very flattering picture of Sam at about age 19 taken at university, where he was an honors student.   He had a great smile. He looked like a nice person, the sort of guy I’d want my daughter to marry.

And there was an obituary.   I hoped it was for another person with the same name, but  I read over the entire entry, and it was definitely him.   All the names, his age, and the location of the funeral home fit.

Funeral home.  Funeral.  A funeral for a boy born the same day and year as my son, who recovered in the same room as my son.  I wanted to cry.  I think I did shed a few tears.  For a child I had known for just a few days in October of 1991.

The obituary said Sam had died of cancer, which he’d been battling for 15 months.  Oh, God, no.  No, no.   I looked at the smiling college photo of him and tried to imagine him lying in a hospital bed with advanced cancer.   I couldn’t.

I wish I could reach out to his parents now, but it would be way too awkward.  I’m not even sure they would remember me.  Not even sure it would be appropriate.   Besides, what do you say to someone whose adult child has died?   Losing one of my adult children is my biggest fear.   I seriously don’t know how anyone can ever get over something like that or ever live a normal life again or think about normal things again.   But somehow when it happens to other people, they do get through it.

I know I would have no idea what to say, or I’d blurt out something really awkward and cringeworthy like, “I would kill myself if my son died so young,” or, “Wow, that could have been MY son.”  No, no.  I won’t say a word to them or try to contact them.   It happened almost a year ago now anyway.  But it’s so spooky and sad.   May he rest in peace.

 

Learning to become the mother I wish I’d had

Amazing and insightful post written by a diagnosed NPD (non-malignant) who has been working hard to stop the generational transfer of NPD and raise an emotionally healthy and empathic son, while she works on herself. They are learning together, and she may have prevented her child from developing a personality disorder by using the techniques discussed in this post.

I sure wish my mother had become self aware enough to do this with me.

My kids escaped cluster B hell.

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I’ve lived a harder life than most people.   All my life, I’ve been surrounded by Cluster B people and many of them had substance abuse issues too (alcoholism and drug addiction are closely correlated with Cluster B personality disorders).

I was raised by a somatic narcissist mother and a covert narcissist/borderline father.   Both were alcoholics.  I never knew my half-brother and sisters, who were not raised by my parents after I was born.   My grandparents all died when I was still young, but from all the accounts I’ve heard, they were also all Cluster B or codependent in a cluster B marriage   In 1986, I married a malignant narcissist/sociopath (also an alcoholic and drug addict) and was the codependent victim in that relationship until just three years ago.    Surrounded by so many cluster B people, it was almost inevitable I would develop a cluster B disorder myself (as well as severe C-PTSD) and so I did.   I almost became an alcoholic myself.   Our extended family is fragmented and shattered, with various factions scattered across almost every part of the United States.  I’m not close to any of them.   Some of them I have never met and probably never will.

Somehow, the family mental illness appears to have skipped over both my children.  My daughter, who is 23, was a difficult teenager, frequently in trouble.  For a few years she hated me and sided with her dad (she was his golden child and he frequently tried to use her as a pawn against me).  Due to her problems in school and at home, she was diagnosed with several things, including Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) which often becomes a cluster B disorder in adulthood.   But she never did and during the last two years, has shown she has a lot of empathy for others and is also finally making some good life choices.    My son, 25 now, never seemed much at risk; he was his father’s scapegoat and a target of bullying as a child (much like I was),  yet he seems to have escaped having even Complex PTSD. His worst problem is he’s very obsessive-compulsive and has anxiety issues (don’t we all?) Of course, they are both young,and sometimes symptoms of BPD or NPD don’t really manifest until later, but as far as I can tell, they both seem free of those disorders.   If either of them does become Cluster B,  it would break my heart because I don’t think I could bring myself to go No Contact with them.   But I don’t think that’s going to happen.

I think a lot of things led to my kids never developing cluster B disorders (or at least not seeming to), not least of which was pure luck.     I think they knew that as disordered as I was and as hobbled as I was as their mother due to my codependent nature, my love for both of them was the real thing.     Although I wasn’t protective enough when they were children; now I find I’m almost overprotective, even though they are adults.   It’s as if I’ve been trying to make things up to them.  I think educating them about NPD (they both know their father has it), narcissism in general, and other cluster B disorders,  and how they affected our family and its dynamics, have helped them to understand why their father and I acted the way we did.

My son may have escaped having these disorders because during his last year of high school (2009 and 2010), he lived for several months with the family of a friend of his, whose mother was a police officer and an excellent mother to her own sons.  This wasn’t a “foster child” situation; it was my son’s choice.   He told me he could no longer tolerate the toxic dynamics at our home and this officer’s family cared about him as if he were one of their own.   Since he was almost ready to graduate I didn’t see a problem with him staying there for awhile, though I did feel hurt and missed him a lot.   I could see that it would benefit him, even as sick as I was at that time.  I knew that this was a good family who would set a good example for my son.

My life has been difficult in almost every way one can imagine, but I feel so grateful that I have a great relationship with both my children now that they are adults.   Both of them recognize their dad as an abuser, and think I was the better parent.  My daughter liked her status as her dad’s favorite, and felt like she was required to “hate” me and now feels bad about that.  I told her not to feel guilty, because what he did to her was also a form of abuse.   As for my son, we’ve always been close.  I feel like these two young people would both be good friends of mine even if they weren’t my own children.   I love them, but I also LIKE them.   I’m so proud of them both.

3 questions to ask yourself if you raised kids in a dysfunctional home.

Nobody’s perfect, and that goes for parents too.  There’s no such thing as a perfect parent. There’s something called a “good enough” parent though, which means that you are going to make mistakes raising your kids, no matter how much talent you have for the task or how well adjusted you are.  Children don’t come with instruction manuals, and some of the mistakes you make might even be pretty bad ones.    But overall, you’re “good enough” if your kids know you love them no matter what mistakes you made, and they turn out to be functioning, reasonably happy adults.

But for survivors of narcissistic abuse, things are a little more dire.   Because many of us suffer from mental disorders caused by abuse–C-PTSD, BPD, OCD, anxiety, depression, and a host of other mental maladies–we probably entered parenthood with less of a sense of ourselves and our place in the world than the “normals” who had “good enough” parents.  Our narcissistic parents were not “good enough” and we were emotionally handicapped because of that.  Even if we aren’t narcissists ourselves, our children still suffered the fallout of our own abuse.    This could have manifested in many ways:

— we may have “parentified” our children (looked up to them as parental figures and shared things with them that should not be shared with children)

— we may have neglected them more than we should have, or put our own needs first

— we may have been unfaithful to our spouses or had affairs

— we may have overindulged in alcohol or drugs to ease our pain

— we may have had health problems due to trauma that interfered with our ability to be there for our children

— we may even have assigned the “scapegoat” or “golden child” role to our kids, albeit with less intensity than narcissist parents would have

— we may have been hospitalized for mental illness, which took time away from us being able to be there for our kids

— we may have been emotionally unstable, clinically depressed, always angry or quick to lose patience

— we may have been too permissive with our kids, in a misguided attempt to make up for our own miserable childhood, if our parents were very strict and controlling.

— we may have slept our days away out of depression, ignoring the needs of our kids

—  there may have been constant arguing and fighting in the home

— we may have stayed with an abuser, knowing the danger to the children

— we may have failed to protect our kids from an abusive spouse

I wasn’t guilty of everything on this list, but I was guilty of some of them.   I have a lot of guilt and regret over that, of course.   I beat myself up a lot over what I should have done differently.   And of course, I should have, but I was also at the time in a highly codependent marriage to an emotionally abusive malignant narcissist who gaslighted me and projected every bad thing he could onto me every chance he got. He was slowly but effectively driving me insane, and he tried to turn our kids against me too (in the end, he did not succeed).

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Somehow, my kids turned out alright.  Sure, they have problems.  But so does everyone.     Neither has NPD that I can tell.   I worry about them constantly though, frequently “seeing” pathology in them that in reality doesn’t exist.  I think it’s my guilt over my less than ideal parenting that makes me do this.  Because I was unintentionally under-protective of my kids when they were very young, sometimes I think I’m trying to “make up” for that now, when they are young adults and over-protectiveness is no longer appropriate or even healthy.

If you know you were a less than ideal parent due to our own trauma, ask yourself the following three questions:

  1. Do you have a good relationship with your children today?
  2. Are they functioning adequately in the world for their age group and mental ability?
  3. Do they have the capacity for empathy, friendship and love?

If the answers to these questions is “Yes,” then in spite of how bad a parent you think you were, you were “good enough” under the circumstances of simply not having the emotional tools that would have made your job as a parent easier.

If you know your parenting left a lot to be desired, encourage your adult child to talk to you honestly about what it felt like to be raised by you.  Listen to what they tell you, without interrupting, judging, or criticizing, even if what they tell you isn’t what you want to hear.  Chances are, even if your relationship with them has been damaged, allowing them to open up to you this way without fear of judgment is a step toward healing your relationship and building a healthier, more loving one.

22 things loving families don’t do.

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  1. They don’t favor one child over another.
  2. They don’t give their children “mixed” or conflicting messages.
  3. They don’t teach their children that only material things or financial success have value and denigrate qualities like compassion, empathy, and love as “weaknesses.”
  4. They don’t disinherit their own children.  If an adult child is irresponsible with finances, they set up a trust or distribute it as income or through someone else who is trustworthy.  But they don’t disown.  That’s nothing but a slap in the face.
  5. They don’t reward a child and then punish them for the same thing later.
  6. They don’t threaten a child with “reform school,” being given up for adoption, etc.
  7. They don’t squelch, punish or discourage the honest expression of emotion, even if it’s negative.
  8. They don’t belittle a child’s talents or accomplishments
  9. They don’t tell their child they are “perfect,” especially for things they didn’t have to work toward (looks, intelligence, etc.)
  10. They never tell their child they are a “loser,” “will never accomplish anything,” are “hopeless,” “crazy,” “made bad life choices,” etc.
  11. They don’t listen to a child or adult child’s difficulty in some life situation and then tell them or imply that it’s all their own fault they got into that situation.
  12. They don’t tell an adult child they don’t have time to listen to their problems.
  13. They don’t judge you and tell you you brought those problems on yourself.
  14. They will always be there for you when you need them.  Even adults sometimes need the support of their families (emotional or financial) when life goes badly.  Families are forever, or they should be.
  15. They don’t blame you for not being successful in life if they never provided the emotional and financial resources for you to ever become successful.
  16. They forgive.  They don’t hold grudges.
  17. There are always second chances.
  18. They don’t badmouth you to other relatives, especially where there is no chance of you being able to defend yourself.
  19. They don’t tell you to check into a shelter or a convent when you are threatened with homelessness (that actually happened to me), ESPECIALLY when there are children involved.
  20. They don’t demean and belittle the poor in front of you, saying things like “the poor make their own choices and they deserve their poverty” when they know YOU are poor and there is no intention to give you a hand up.
  21. They don’t send commercialized, phony platitudes about positive thinking such as “inspirational” cards and memes (of the sort that appear in office cubicles) if there is no intention of trying to offer help to a child in any other way.
  22. They don’t throw or give away family mementos and pictures that may mean something to a child or can make an adult child still feel a sense of rootedness.  I have reason to believe my mother threw away all the old family photos of me and other things that meant something to me when I was young.

Always waiting for the other shoe to drop…

afraid-to-be-happy

I think I made a kind of breakthrough in my therapy session tonight. For years one of my problems has been this overwhelming fear that something bad will happen to one of my kids. (I don’t like to even say the D word because I irrationally believe if I say it, I’ll somehow make it happen, by putting it out into the universe or something).

Of course all parents worry about their adult kids, especially when they know they’re out there somewhere in cars, which we all know are dangerous hunks of metal capable of the most ghastly and gory deaths you can imagine and operated by countless idiots and drunks on the road who can’t drive. I think my apprehension about something bad happening to my adult children edges into OCD-type territory though, because of how overpowering and pervasive these thoughts are, intruding where and when they are not welcome, even though I know that in all likelihood, something bad will NOT happen and even if it does, worrying about it excessively is like living through it twice. I think about my hypothetical reaction to such an event and wonder how I would retain my sanity, if not my will to live. I always marvel at people who have lost a child in a sudden manner like a car accident (a long illness is more bearable because you have time to prepare for it and process it) and wonder how they can still go on with their day to day activities–going shopping, paying bills, working at a job, watching a movie, hell, even having FUN sometimes. I know that wouldn’t be me and I obsess over how I might react.

I’ve been so haunted by the remote possibility of getting THAT life-changing phone call late some night (you know the one), that it’s even been a recurrent theme in my writings. I had a dream over a year ago about losing my son, and wrote a post about it, called Losing Ethan.

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Anyway, I decided to bring up this problem because it doesn’t exactly make my life happier and it annoys the hell out of my kids. The first thing my therapist did was tell me to stop BEING those feelings, but just OWN them. In other words, he’d noticed that when I talk about bad feelings that make me ashamed or anxious, I always use the term “I am….” Instead he told me to practice saying, “I feel…” or “I have…” In this way, you create a bit of a distance between yourself and the bad feeling. That doesn’t mean you don’t feel it, but with a little distance, the emotion can be explored, almost from the viewpoint of a third person. Ironically, what happens is you feel the emotion MORE (I can’t really explain why that works but it does).

His advice was brilliant, because a few minutes later, I made a connection. In 1998, with my then-husband in jail, I was forced to learn to drive his stickshift truck. I had to teach myself and never learned to park the truck properly. So after picking up my kids from their after school program and pulling into our driveway, I set it to Neutral and the truck began to roll downhill–containing both my kids, then ages 5 and 7, straight toward a TREE. The events that played out next are described in this post, called The Tree.

The important thing is, I’d connected this traumatic event in August of 1998 to my current obsessive thoughts about tragedy striking and generally always feeling like I’m about to receive some devastating news–and I knew immediately that these unpleasant thoughts are based on guilt and shame. I started to tell my therapist that I always felt guilty that the truck had rolled and that I *could* have killed them. For about 10 years I couldn’t even talk about it, because any time I did, I’d start feeling very dissociated and anxious. My ex knew how to press all my buttons, and knew this was my biggest one. If he wanted to upset me all he had to do was remind me what a rotten mother I was to almost kill my kids that night because he knows I’m still struggling with guilt over my failure to protect them, my failure to be smart enough to know how to park a stickshift.

I’m always very mindful of my body language, voice and gestures when I’m in session, probably as much as my therapist is. These things can tell you a LOT about yourself, not just about others. And I realized as I was making these connections that my body relaxed and I leaned back but my voice became softer and sadder. I was opening up to him in a way I hadn’t before. He just listened, with what appeared to be a great deal of empathy.

somedays

And at some point I felt tears come to my eyes. My eyes just barely glistening, tears not overflowing, but there, making the backs of my eyelids feel warm. I looked off to my left like I always do when I get deep into stuff, and kept on talking. I felt myself opening up and feeling some kind of generic emotion that wasn’t sadness and wasn’t guilt and wasn’t gratitude or joy but was none of these things and yet all of these things. I wanted to share all this with him. I heard myself speak and my voice became thick and my eyes burned again.

There was more, much more, but I’ll end this here because I’m getting emotional writing this. The important thing is, I almost shed tears in front of my therapist tonight. That might not seem like such a big a deal, but for me it was a huge deal because I haven’t been able to cry in front of another human being in about 15 years–which I realized is when THAT happened. (It might have been longer than that though–my memories of the time I was in my horrible marriage are gray, shadowy and even have yawning gaps in places).

What happened tonight is only the proverbial tip of the iceberg–I was seriously fucked up for a very, very, VERY long time, at least since age 4 or 5–but it’s significant because it means the wall in my head that prevents me from really being able to connect to my emotions is developing a few weak spots.

“Why I Am Teaching My Son That Tears Take Courage”

Here’s a wonderful article from The Good Men Project about a mother who is encouraging her young son to express his emotions instead of stuffing them. If only more parents encouraged this sort of thing, we’d live in a world with more empathy and less narcissism.

Why I Am Teaching My Son That Tears Take Courage
By Colette Sartor, for The Good Men Project

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My son didn’t cry on his first day of preschool; he cried on his thirtieth. The school was a tiny, progressive place that took a surprisingly stern approach to drop offs: Say goodbye and leave. No looking back or lingering. This was fine by me. I hate to cry in public, and I knew I might, which would scare my three year old and make him cry.

So, that first day, I watched him cautiously pile blocks for a few minutes, then I told him I’d pick him up later, kissed him, and left for work. He barely glanced up. He was absorbed in the newness of everything: new kids, new toys, new sights and sounds and smells.

Every day that month, I repeated the routine. I’d briefly watch him play, kiss his cheek, and leave. Every day, I breathed easier. “He loves his new school,” I told people. How well adjusted he is! How happy! Yay him! Yay me! I thought. Then, on the thirtieth day, he raced to me with outstretched arms. “Mommy, stay!” he sobbed. I gathered him up, buried my face in the talc of his hair. “I’ll be back, honey, don’t worry,” I whispered before his teacher gestured to hand him over. He cried and reached for me, struggling to extricate himself from the teacher’s grasp. “Just go,” she mouthed over his head. I nodded and walked out, my own tears streaming as he sobbed behind me.

♦◊♦
When I was growing up, our family motto was, “If you want to play with the big dogs, don’t piss like a puppy.” Which meant no crying.
♦◊♦

My son cries easily. He gets it from me. I cry over life insurance commercials, sappy movies, real and imagined slights. I usually hide my tears, even from him. When I was growing up, our family motto was, “If you want to play with the big dogs, don’t piss like a puppy.” Girls were puppies by default. They showed the world when they hurt. They cried. To play with the big dogs, girls had to be tough. Which meant no crying. So I learned not to cry. At least, not in public. Still, I try not to discourage my son from crying. I love his sensitivity. I love that he cries when a friend is hurting, that he cries when he feels he’s being treated unjustly, that he cries at all.

See more at: http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/why-i-am-teaching-my-son-that-tears-take-courage-jnky/#sthash.FTqEhBGI.dpuf

Does excess praise and spoiling create narcissists?

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Many experts, including Sam Vaknin, think spoiling a child or pouring on excess praise (placing them on a pedestal) is actually a form of child abuse, because it does not mirror the child as who they really are, but as who the parents wish them to be or believe them to be. Children not mirrored appropriately, whether excessively criticized or excessively praised, grow up unable to form a viable true self and are vulnerable to developing disorders of the self, especially NPD.

The following article explains in further detail why excessively praising a child can actually hurt their self esteem, rather than help it develop normally. It also describes the two types of praise–one that builds self esteem because it takes a child’s effort into account (“you worked hard to win that contest” or “you showed a lot of dedication in getting those A’s”) and one that fosters narcissism because it implies inherent superiority over others (“you’re the prettiest girl in school” or “you’re the smartest kid ever”).

Do Parents Nurture Narcissists By Pouring On The Praise?
By Poncie Rush, for NPR.org

When a kid does something amazing, you want to tell her so. You might tell her that she’s very smart. You might tell her that she’s a very special kid. Or you might say that she must have worked really hard.

On the surface, they all sound like the same compliments. But according to Brad Bushman, a communications and psychology professor at Ohio State University, the first two increase the child’s chances of becoming a narcissist. Only the last one raises the child’s self-esteem and keeps her ego in check.

Bushman and a group of collaborators surveyed parents to see how they show warmth and value their child’s accomplishments. They then compared those findings to the children’s levels of self-esteem and narcissism. The results were published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Of course, self-esteem and narcissism are two very different things. The difference has to do with how you value yourself compared to other people. “Self-esteem basically means you’re a person of worth equal with other people,” Bushman tells Shots. “Narcissism means you think you’re better than other people.”

And not in a good way.

“Narcissism is a somewhat toxic personality trait,” Jean Twenge, author of The Narcissism Epidemic and psychology professor at San Diego State University, tells Shots. Narcissists tend to overestimate their abilities, take too many risks and mess up their relationships, she says. Some people see narcissists hurting the people and society around them, but they hurt themselves, too. “In the long term it tends to lead to failure,” Twenge says.

While narcissists tend to have high self-esteem [my note–this is not true], not all people with high self-esteem are narcissists. Bushman needed to separate the two. So he asked children ages 7 to 12 years old how they felt about statements like “Some kids like the kind of person they are,” or “Kids like me deserve something extra.” The first statement measures self-esteem; the second, narcissism.

Bushman made sure to focus on children between 7 and 12 years old, so that by the time the study finished all of them would be older than 8. “You can’t measure narcissism in children before age 8, because every child is a narcissist,” he says. If you ask younger kids in a classroom if they are good at math or good at baseball, Bushman says all the kids will raise their hands.

Then he surveyed the children’s parents, asking them to respond to statements to determine whether they overvalued their children. For example, “I would not be surprised to learn that my child has extraordinary talents and abilities,” or “Without my child, his/her class would be much less fun.” And he asked how they expressed warmth toward their child by measuring how strongly they agreed with statements like “I let my child know I love him/her.”

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When he analyzed the results from the surveys, Bushman found that the more narcissistic children had parents who consistently overvalued their accomplishments. He ran additional tests to make sure that the parents weren’t narcissists, too — after all, it’s possible that the children could be mirroring narcissistic behavior. But statistically, the children of narcissists aren’t more likely to be narcissists themselves.

The research team continued to survey the same group of 565 children and their parents for a year and a half. They watched the children develop, and they could link each child’s tendency toward self-esteem or narcissism back to what the parents had told them six months earlier.

“We’re not just measuring their narcissism at time one; we’re using these measures to predict the behavior a year and a half later,” says Bushman. “Parental warmth doesn’t predict it. Parental narcissism alone doesn’t predict it. But parental overvaluation alone does predict it.”

Bushman is particularly worried about narcissism because both he and other researchers have linked it to aggressive and violent behavior. He thinks it’s partly because narcissists are less likely to feel empathy toward others.

“Empathy involves putting yourselves in other people’s shoes, but narcissists have a very difficult time putting themselves in other people’s shoes,” Bushman says. Plus, he says that narcissists respond poorly when they don’t get special treatment. “Whenever people have this sense of superiority, then they lash out at others in an aggressive way.”

Of course, someone who appears more narcissistic at age 10 isn’t necessarily going to grow up to be a narcissistic adult, let alone aggressive. And the results of this study hinge on a handful of short surveys — no extensive personality testing here.

“There are definitely going to be things that influence the personality after that stage,” says Twenge. “Those [narcissistic] tendencies may start to show up around then, but will continue to be influenced by parenting and environment throughout adolescence.”

But this study has Bushman thinking about the way he praises his own children. “It’s a lot better to say ‘You worked really hard’ than ‘You must be really smart,’ ” he says, “because if you tell the kid that they’re smart and then if they fail they think ‘Oh I’m stupid.’ ” If the praise relates to effort, a child who fails will work harder next time.

Bushman is also trying to cultivate self-esteem in his children, because people with high self-esteem tend to have lower levels of anxiety and depression over time. Based on Bushman’s research, parents can raise their children’s self-esteem just by expressing more warmth.

Both researchers agree that voicing the connection you feel to your children really helps. “If you want to look for a substitute for ‘You’re special,’ just say ‘I love you,’ ” says Twenge. “It’s what you mean, and it’s a much better message.”

Have a child age 8 to 12? Find your own “Parental Overvaluation” score here.

Original article is here.

Narcissists as co-parents

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