Shaking off kids’ narcissistic nature

I WAS having breakfast with my mother the other day when three people at the table beside me caught my attention. There was a grandmother who looks like she was in her 70s with her two teenage grandsons.

I was speechless at how the grandsons ignored their grandmother. They just sat at the table, staring at their smartphones. The grandmother ordered food for them, got up and took extra chilli sauce, and walked up to the counter to ensure their order was correct.

She then asked one of the boys if they needed anything else. Silence.

“Is the fishball nice?’ Silence.

Grandmother took out a packet of tissue paper, put it on the table and told the boys, “Here, use this to wipe your mouth when you are done eating.” Silence again.

It was only then that the lady started to eat.

It was so sad to see the two teenage boys ignoring their grandmother who doted on them.

What has happened to our teenagers? Millennials (1980–2000), also known as Generation Y, are often branded as the strawberry generation. Easily bruised, like strawberries, they are stereotyped as unable to withstand social pressure or work hard like earlier generations. They are negatively perceived to be selfish, spoiled and lazy at work. They were born in an era of economic prosperity and grew up being overprotected by their parents for a huge chunk of their lives. They believe that they are better and superior to others around them.

All of us can be a little self-centred at times but what are the signs that this self-absorption has grown into a serious problem?

According to a recent study, young people today are significantly more narcissistic than those during the 1980s and 1990s. The term narcissism comes from the Greek myth of Narcissus, the handsome young man who falls in love with his own reflection in a pool of water. Professor Jean Twenge from San Diego State University points out that narcissism is distinct from the concept of self-esteem.

“Somebody high in self-esteem values individual achievement, but they also value their relationships and care for others,” she says.

“Narcissists are missing that piece about valuing and caring, so they tend to lack empathy; they have poor relationship skills. That’s one of the biggest differences – those communal and caring traits tend to be high in most people with self-esteem but not among those who are high in narcissism.”

We are all born narcissists. But as children move into the teenage years, it is important to break them from their self-centred ways and make them realise that the world does not revolve around them.