Parent Research: Overvaluing Kids Fosters Narcissism

A recent study published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that parents who believe their child is more special than other kids may be fostering narcissism in their children.

The study*, conducted by researchers from Ohio State University, found that parents often innocently and with best intentions, provide exaggerated support to their children to boost self-esteem and confidence.

But the results of parental overvaluation were linked with children scoring higher on narcissism tests then parents who did not overvalue their children, and no link was discovered to better self-esteem.

“Children believe it when their parents tell them that they are more special than others. That may not be good for them or for society,” said lead study author, Dr. Eddie Brummelman of OSU.

By contrast, the research showed that children whose parents who did not overvalue them, but demonstrated more emotional warmth toward them, were associated with higher self-esteem, but not with increased levels of narcissism.

What Parents Can Do:

• Understand that parents who overvalue their kids can actually cause long-term damage to them by planting the seed in the child’s mind that the world revolves around “me.” Unchecked narcissism is not an endearing trait in anyone!

• Kids who grow into emotionally healthy adults have parents who are appropriately involved in their lives. Believe in them but don’t foster an unrealistic view of who your kids are, and are becoming. Teenagers have built-in sincerity “radar,” and they instinctively know when parents are offering praise that is out of step with reality.

• Parents should give kids unlimited amounts of A.W.E.: Affection, Warmth, and Encouragement. When you offer these priceless gifts, your children will thrive and gain healthy self-esteem!

• Encourage your kids to develop their gifts, skills, and strengths. Help them to recognize and minimize their weaknesses. But remember that not every kid is going to be the next American Idol, an academic genius, or a professional athlete. Provide lots of emotional support, and help them grow into the person that God has uniquely created.

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Jim Liebelt

Jim Liebelt

Jim is Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for HomeWord. Jim has over 35 years of experience as a youth and family ministry specialist, having served over the years as a pastor, author, consultant, mentor, trainer, college instructor, and speaker. Jim’s HomeWord culture blog also appears on Crosswalk.com and Religiontoday.com. Jim and his wife Jenny live in Quincy, MA.

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