By Debby Shulman
This new wave of Needy Narcissism has infiltrated tweens, teens and young adults everywhere, undermining their ability to handle criticism, constructive and objective advice and rejection.
I have never been a fan of “needy”. Too much hand holding and interference by parents never helps a teenager’s development, rather it creates a fragile state of mind.
Any time feelings are “hurt” by behavior, statements or even college rejection letters, today’s teen plays the victim.
Students too immature to handle anything emotionally discomforting casually throw about words like hater, bigot, and victim, hoping to capitalize on the trepidation that accompanies such accusations. It’s disgusting behavior and feeds right into my intolerance of the NEED.
Welcome to Teenage Armageddon.
Poor Tommy doesn’t like it when he doesn’t perform well on an assignment and will proceed to beat himself up about it, begging for intervention until Mom and Dad step in and make the boo-boo go away. But what we NEED to do is stop throwing life preservers; let them figure out if they work harder, seek out help on their own, and resolve their own problems, enlightenment will follow. But my philosophy doesn’t fare well with everyone.
You see, more and more teens seem to be under the impression their failure is OUR fault. When a grade comes back that surprises Tommy, he runs to Mommy, who engages his delirium with soft words, back stroking and phone calls to the teacher. Asking for a ‘do over’ or extra credit doesn’t really resonate with life’s harsh realties, yet that seems to be the new go-to in the playbook of aggressive high schools. Blame the teacher, blame the ‘competitive’ student body, blame the ‘standardized test’, and blame the coach. The end result casts aspersions on everyone but Tommy … who is left feeling quite justified in his belief that everyone else seems at fault but him.
Many teens today have expectations that border on the impossible. They require IMMEDIATE attention and response – the most irrelevant and ridiculous questions go to Defcon 5 if not responded to RIGHT AWAY (Truth: How many of you have received a series of exploding question marks via text from a teen waiting to receive a text back?????) and that’s precisely the NEED I am talking about. How many of you RUSH to school, the hockey rink or theater to pick up little Tommy, even though he is perfectly safe waiting outside?
Our parents used to let us wait and wait and wait until “Dallas” had a commercial break … no such thing as pausing a show back then. And by waiting, we learned we were indeed NOT el numero uno, but rather just another cog in the wheel of our dysfunctional family. But there it is, that painful series of unending?????? and we jump to furious heights to quickly text right back. “I’M ON MY WAY!!!” Jeesh. Guilty. Happy face emoticon.
Too many students crying over average grades, too many teens claiming an acute onset of ADD and ADHD with a bit of anxiety mixed with slight depression. (Can I get an untimed test for that?) Who wouldn’t be depressed and anxious if they discovered they had no emotional tools in their psychological war chest to handle failure or rejection?
By continuing to blame the teacher, the coach or those assholes who write the ACT, parents breed the need.
Please Make It Stop.
Oklahoma Wesleyan President, Dr. Everett Piper, recently chastised members of his own student body for a ridiculously public and oversensitive reaction to a campus sermon. Stating, “This is not day care. It’s a University” — he astutely defined the anguish and frustration felt by many in higher education (and high school) who observe this self-absorbed, narcissistic behavior on a daily basis.
Tom Hanks once said, “There’s no crying in baseball.” Iconic and relevant indeed.
So how do we push a reset button on indulgent and submissive parenting?
First, stop calling school.
Just stop. Your child’s high school teachers are simply NOT OUT TO GET THEM. But they do have reasonable academic expectations that should be fulfilled. If not, prepare little Tommy for the lesson of failure by allowing him to FEEL IT.
Failure may smell bad and feel awful, but without it our teens will never know the competence attained through genuine and authentic success.
Rushing to “save” little Tommy, serving up doses of syrupy, “You did nothing wrong” invites a host of personal attributes that will only serve to make Tommy a whiny, hypersensitive and egomaniacal nuisance to those who get in his way.
Second, BUCK UP.
Quit running to the rescue and let your kids save themselves. A poor grade means they must try harder next time … not demand a chance to do it over. Let the ball drop – and it will – and then help your teen brainstorm how he will get out of the mess he made rather than hashing out how many people you know on the school board.
Third, find a BALANCE.
Our kids need our support but they also need to be challenged. When we step in to demean or insult a coach or allow a fully catered pity party, we helicopter ourselves into a place of protecting them from failure, not embracing it.
And that’s just not real. That’s just not what life truly is … saving them over and over again prohibits them from handling rejection – whether it’s a snarky college roommate or getting rejected during sorority or fraternity rush. Give them the tools they’ll need to handle what comes their way and watch them grow into confident, capable young adults.
Of course, we are all guilty of stepping in and trying to correct the mistakes of our kids – after all, they are a reflection of US and we personalize those mistakes to the point of blurring the lines of blame. It’s okay to screw up and it’s okay for our teens to fail. If we don’t begin helping them find the beauty in resiliency, we lose on all fronts the real lessons we hope to instill before they head off into the real world.
Lisa Barr, editor of GIRLilla Warfare: Debby Shulman is a college essay consultant and academic tutor with a private practice in Northbrook, Illinois. She also professionally collaborates with Amy Simon College Consulting in Bannockburn, Illinois. Debby also blogs about Motherhood/Teen issues for Your Teen magazine (www.yourteenmag.com). Check out her valuable advice.< back