You're Special: Why That's The Wrong Thing To Say To Your Kids

11 March 2015


Do you regularly tell your child that he or she is special?

If so, your child is apparently more likely to become a narcissist, according to a study of 565 children in the Netherlands. Which is another way of saying they're more likely to grow up believing they're better than others.

The research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the US, found that children whose parents regularly told them that they were special were more likely to exhibit narcissistic tendencies.

The Guardian reports:

Children whose parents described them as “more special than other children” and as kids who “deserve something extra in life” were more likely to score higher on tests of narcissism than peers who were not lauded in this way.

Researchers also measured how much parents overvalued their children by asking how much they agreed with statements like: “My child is a great example for other children to follow.”

The findings show that children tend to believe they are more special than others if their parents repeatedly tell them so, which "may not be good for them or for society", the researchers concluded.

Apparently it's more beneficial to be warm and encouraging towards our children rather than leading them to believe that they are inherently more special than other kids. The former builds a child's self esteem, whereas the latter could create a little narcissist.

We'd love to hear your views on this. I don't think I'm guilty of it - I praise my kids for their effort as well as their achievements but I don't think I incline them to believe that they more special than others.

(I'm pretty sure we all went to school with kids who had superiority complexes, so we know that narcissism isn't a nice trait in anyone, never mind in a child.)

But I think manners plays an important part in this dynamic, too - surely it's difficult for a child to develop a superiority complex if they're taught to value other people's needs, even if they're also told that they are special.

It's also worth adding that my kids ARE special. No more than yours, perhaps, but I don't think there's anything wrong in raising a child to understand that - to their parents at least - they're just about the best thing since sliced bread.

But what do you think?

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