Updated: Feb 14
Oh my gosh, so many people were interested in last week's post about how to build a narcissist, I felt a little guilty. I want to make sure to be completely clear that along with things we can do to build a narcissist, there are just as many things we can do to build resilience to such a fate.
One of those things, although it may seem counterintuitive is to take good care of ourselves. This helps because when we give ourselves what we need first, we don't feel the same need to be tricky or greedy about giving to others.
However, it's the kind of self-destructive narcissism that leads to exclusion, hurtful words, and violence, that I don't encourage in my world. Instead, I've learned over the last 43 years of working with children and their families, to carefully construct an environment of empathy and nurture the kinds of experiences and words that contribute to attitudes of acceptance and peace.
HItting, hurting, and exclusion are all behaviors that children will naturally try out. That's OK. It's our responsibility to teach them to go after what they want but to do it in a more appropriate and safer way.
As parents and teachers who are human, we won't always be able to handle things perfectly and that's OK, too. It's the learning, process, and finding the best way to do it for you and your individual child that really matters.
Here are my top 7 ideas for building resilience to narcissism that you can use with your family starting today.
If everyone in the world did #3 and #4 we'd start to see improvements in society within weeks.
Make them wait for good things sometimes. These days it seems as if everyone needs to have everything right away and it's almost addictive. Let's give our kids a little bit of practice waiting for things they're excited about. It only adds to the fun in my book.
I often use the word espera with the young children I work with. This beautiful word means wait and hope in Spanish. "Espera por, favor is a very nice way to explain waiting to a child and it's really difficult to say a word like that lovely in a harsh way.
Of course children are impatient. We're all fairly impatient and we've had a lot more practice as adults waiting than they have. Here's an activity you can try with your kids that's not only fun but a great learning experience for all.
Bring your child to a clean table or area and explain "The Waiting Game" to them. Tell them you're going to give them an M&M (or a cherry or whatever they like). They can eat it right away if they want, but if they can wait 3 minutes, they'll get another. If they eat the first one before the timer goes off, that's OK but they don't get a second one. If they wait the full 3 minutes, they get both.
This can be adjusted according to age and different rewards can be used. I like to engage the kids in the process by asking them how long they think they can wait. The idea is to figure out how long that is and encourage them to beat their best waiting time. The funny thing is that the kids start to develop strategies like covering their eyes or crawling under the table.
Make time in your busy schedule to invite your kids to sit on your lap while you read to them or tell them a story. And while you're there, point out the way the characters may be feeling and why. Talk about their facial expressions. Be careful not to impose on your child with too many words or questions but rather answer their questions honestly and concisely That's what kids really want from us.
All feelings are OK, hitting and hurting are never OK. Period. There's always a better way and parents and providers need to band together to teach young children how to succeed in a way that doesn't harm others. I like to focus on creating peace as opposed to stopping violence since I work with such young children.
Still, I know that hurtful behavior is bound to happen. Even though there are many things we can do to prevent young children from using violence, we also need a plan for what to do when it does happen. You can read about what exactly to do and say in that situation here.
It can be difficult to say no to your child but we can do it gracefully, without destroying their dreams. Try saying this:
No, Stuart, I'm not going to buy you an action figure today, but when we get home I'll help you add it to your birthday wish list. (by the way, your child should know that a birthday list is a wish list, not an obligation for somebody to buy a toy.)
No, you can't have a pony, this year Bernadette. Horses are wonderful but also expensive to buy and keep plus they're a lot of hard work. If you really want one there's no reason why you can't start saving now and make it a goal to someday own one. Let me help you set up a system that'll help you.
Learn to speak the language of appreciation. Notice when our child shows love and caring. Talk about others, especially strangers with compassion. Eliminate judgemental words from your vocabulary.
Speak in terms of other children being energetic, curious, friendly, and likable instead of selfish, messy, out of control, or unattractive. My point is that we need to really listen to ourselves when we describe others because it has a profound effect on how our children learn to perceive the world. Children learn by example.
Say "That was helpful" more often. When you appreciate your children, they learn to appreciate others.
Use these words freely with your children and describe just exactly what it was that was helpful to you and why. Those 3 little words will change your parenting life around in the best way possible.
Try it if you want to find out for yourself!
I hope you got at least one useful tip from this blog post!
Want a fun idea that can get your kids involved in being creative and helping younger kids learn about emotions? Check out our non-profit org here and get started with our rock project. It can keep your kids age 6 and up busy for hours
Nanci J Bradley, 60ish, is an early childhood and family educator, author, teacher, SELF-care facilitator, family aerobics instructor, and an all-around fun-loving person. She believes in the power of sleep, healthy eating, lifelong learning and most of all, PLAY! She studied early childhood ed at Triton College and received her BS in education in 1986 from NIU. She received her MA in human development from Pacific Oaks College in 2011. She lives and teaches in Madison WI.