Childrearing

Let’s All Make A Pact Not To Be Narcissistic Millennial Parents, M’Kay?

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iStock_000010920295_SmallWe love our kids, but most of us are aware that we are not our children, and our children are not extra limbs we grow. They’re separate people, and their achievements belong to them, not to us. Some people seem to be having trouble wrapping their brains around that fact, because some parents get really competitive with each other over their children’s success. It’s like life is one big checkers game, but their kids are the pieces.

“The winner-loser dynamic is at the heart of extreme narcissism, and the narcissistic parent is somebody who plays that game through their children,” said Joseph Burgo, author of The Narcissist You Know: Defending Yourself Against Extreme Narcissists in an All-About-Me Age, in an interview with CNN’s Kelly Wallace.

While it’s cool lately to talk about how our age is super narcissistic and Millennials are all entitled and self-absorbed, I think we all know that narcissistic parenting is not specifically a Millennial thing. There’s an entire forum on Reddit called “Raised by Narcissists” that is full of Millennials talking about their own narcissistic parents. And parents keeping high expectations, hovering over their kids, and playing backseat coach at sporting events because they are living vicariously through their kids’ achievements is certainly nothing new.

“They are the ones who are driven to create children who are winners, and not only are they winners, but they’re better than other people’s kids, and they will, in conversation, bring things up,” Burgo says. “They will bring up accomplishments, which schools their kids got accepted to, how much money they’re earning, in order to make you feel bad — your kid is less than them.”

Burgo can call them “narcissists,” but from what he describes but I prefer the term “assholes.”  If you wind up in a conversation with someone like that, just smile and nod and leave when you can. Life is too short to deal with people trying to jockey for status in the Starbucks line. By all means, let us not become the kind of narcissistic Millennial parents people write articles about, because there’s nothing worse than looking in the mirror and realizing that you’re the asshole, especially when it means screwing up our children out of our own insecurity.

Besides, we all want the best for our kids, but maybe “the best” isn’t the best thing for every kid. If we raise our kids to be happy and well-adjusted, we should consider that a huge win regardless of where they went to college or what they do for a living. Not every kid wants to be captain of the football team or valedictorian of Harvard or Head Boy at Gryffindor. And even if our kids do achieve those things, that doesn’t say anything about us as parents. Plenty of high-achieving kids have shitty parents, just ask some novelists.

(Photo: iStockPhoto ChristineDraheim)