Parents need to fine tune

Published 9:36 am Thursday, March 19, 2015

One of my college roommates had a propensity for dismissing a rule (or someone else’s interests) with “Pish posh! That’s for lesser mortals!”

That came to mind when I read in “U.S. News & World Report” about a study conducted by Utrecht University in the Netherlands. Researchers concluded that children whose parents overvalued them were more likely to develop narcissistic traits such as superiority and entitlement.

Wow! Imagine that! And the odds-makers were all betting that children whose parents overvalued them were more likely to crumble and float away in the Arctic Ocean!

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The study caused quite a stir, eliciting responses such as “Narcissism is un-American! People aren’t supposed to be full of themselves — they’re supposed to be full of empty calories! Super-size that?”

Others have remarked that it’s not the responsibility of parents to make their offspring feel entitled. It’s the job of community activists. (“You say those mean old cops slapped ice-cold handcuffs on you after you allegedly got caught red-handed butchering that family of five? I feel a protest coming on.”)

More controversy: saying that a narcissist thinks he’s God’s gift to mankind is no longer allowed. For the sake of strict separation of church and state, a narcissist must be derided as “he thinks he is the culmination of a long and mutation-fraught evolutionary process.”

What are some of the warning signs that you are creating a future adult who will feel he is above the law, lack empathy and react violently if he doesn’t receive the “proper” recognition? The kid feels eminently qualified to be the first female president — even though he is neither female nor transgendered! Instead of being stalked by furtive strangers wearing a trench-coat, he is stalked by Oompa Loompas!

What drives parents to overvalue/overpraise their children? Perhaps it’s competitiveness with their peers, or a misguided attempt to give the next generation a better chance in life. Or maybe they’ve always wanted a way to create monsters without all the angry-villagers-with-torches-and-pitchforks stuff.

Parents seem oblivious to the unintended consequences of building their kids’ confidence too high. It could lead to horrific exchanges such as “Mom, I got bored sorting paper clips at that v.p. job you got me. Here, let me perform a triple bypass on you.”

Some people think it’s worth having insufferable narcissists around just for the chance to see them get their comeuppance. You know, like the elitists who think they should be running our lives for us. (“My breeding and intelligence make me nearly superhuman — but can someone show me how to operate this plumber’s helper? Turns out my stuff really does stink!”)

I have this tongue-in-cheek routine with son Gideon in which I exclaim, “Remarkable boy!” when he performs some ridiculously simple task; but I also teach him things about himself and his fellow human beings that keep him well grounded.

Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Instead of being locked into one style of parenting, reevaluate on a regular basis. Keep refining your praise, encouragement and discipline until your child has a shot at being a well-rounded individual.

Yep, keep balancing self-esteem and humility until you get them juuuust right. Of course then the copyright cops representing the Brothers Grimm will show up with a lawsuit. (“Admit it! Robin Thicke helped you rip off Goldilocks! We’re entitled to half the settlement!”)


Danny Tyree welcomes email responses at and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades.” Danny’s’ weekly column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate.