Are We Raising the Next “Me Generation”?

I grew up in the 1970’s, which some refer to as the “Me Generation.” In 2013, Time Magazine referred to the millennials as the “Me Me Me Generation” (read more here), noting “they are narcissistic, overconfident, entitled and lazy, but they just might be new Little Super Hero Rescue ChildGreatest Generation” (read here). It seems a sense of entitlement and narcissism may have increased over the last forty years.  Perhaps we need to change our parenting style to avoid producing a “Me-to-the-4th Generation.” Parents help create narcissistic, self-involved children by overvaluing their children—claiming they have special knowledge, protecting them from consequences, and treating them as though the world revolves around them. You can read The Making of a Narcissist to learn an alternative that will help create grateful children instead.

A recent study of 591 adolescents (published in May, 2015) explored the connection between violence and narcissism. This 3-year longitudinal study confirmed that parenting style influences how children think about themselves and the world around them. Specifically, a parenting style characterized by lack of warmth in the first year of the study was associated with narcissistic patterns of thought by the second year of the study. In other words, a distant relationship between adolescents and their parents led adolescents to think of themselves as entitled. This lack of warmth also led to patterns of thought in which the adolescent expected disconnection and rejection. These adolescents then lived out the self-entitled thoughts and fears of rejection. Such patterns of thought even led to an increase in violence toward parents by the third year.

So how can we avoid raising narcissistic children and adolescents? Based on these studies, here are four ways.

  • Develop a warm, intimate relationship with your children. This will require time. Make the time to play games with your children. Share activities with your children. Eat meals with your children. Talk with them about their day and their lives. Learn about their interests and engage them in related activities.
  • Develop a consistent and predictable home life. Make the expectations clear and the consequences of misbehavior known. Let your children experience the consequences of their own decisions and actions. Don’t bail them out when they make simple mistakes. Let them learn from the negative consequences of those mistakes. And, let them enjoy the positive feelings associated with accomplishments resulting from hard work.
  • Accept that your children are not perfect. All children make mistakes. All children misbehave. No matter how talented, how intelligent, and how friendly, all children have limitations. Teach your children that they do not know everything. Teach them to celebrate the accomplishments of others and their talents. Teach them to accept advice from coaches, mentors, and other adults. You can begin to teach these skills by modeling them in your own life.
  • Encourage your children to be polite to others. Rather than “looking out for myself” a polite person “looks out for the other guy.” When we teach our children to “look out for the other guy” they will learn to hold the door open for others, let another person go ahead of them in line, say thank you, and learn that it is “my pleasure” to help the “other guy.” Politeness is a far cry from entitled narcissist.

Let’s begin raising a generation of grateful people instead of the next “Me Generation.” Let’s begin today!

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