Tag Archives: overindulgence

The Making of a Narcissist

narcissism-in-leadership

 

Letting people experience the consequences of their actions is the loving thing to do. Rescuing people interferes with the lesson plan in the classroom we call life.

Sarah wishes she would have had that valuable piece of information when her son, Colby, was a toddler. But today he’s 22, and she’s paying a hefty price for habitually sheltering him throughout the years.

Colby is notorious for mismanaging money, and Sarah is equally notorious for bailing him out. He always promises to pay her back but fails to deliver. Invariably, Sarah seethes with resentment over having her trust betrayed. And as for Colby, he doesn’t grow up.

Instead of learning from his mistakes, Colby repeats them. For example, he has wrecked more than one vehicle, resulting in costly repairs. But he doesn’t pay for the damages—Sarah does. So by escaping the full brunt of his reckless driving, he misses out on the lesson.

When she’s not rescuing him financially, she begrudgingly assumes other responsibilities that should fall squarely in Colby’s lap. These include doing his laundry, cleaning up after him, balancing his checkbook, setting and reminding him of his appointments.

“I’m disappointed in him,” she said. “It took me a long time to admit that to myself.”

Who he is today doesn’t match the dreams she’s carried around in her head and heart. “I have trouble saying this,” she continued, “but I just don’t respect him, and I don’t like the person he’s turned out to be.”

She described his most disturbing personality traits:  “He’s rude, self-absorbed and insensitive. He doesn’t care who he hurts. He has a nasty mouth and a nasty temper. He can’t hold a steady job. If he gets annoyed with someone at work, even his boss,  he blows up and either gets fired or quits. He uses people, including his best friends.”

There are exceptions, Sarah noted. “He’s nice when he wants something,” she said.

Tired of having “sucker” stamped on her forehead, Sarah sought my advice. I asked her why she continues to overindulge him. “I would feel guilty turning my back on him,” she said. “And no matter what he does, I should love him unconditionally.”

So if Sarah stopped bailing him out, she would equate such action with being hurtful and neglectful.

I told her that letting someone struggle isn’t the same as neglect, and unconditional love isn’t about unconditional tolerance. I can love someone deeply, but this doesn’t mean I ought to tolerate their appalling behavior. Overlooking or accepting such behavior isn’t love. It’s neglect.

In its purest form, love is focused on what’s best for the other person at his or her core level. What’s best for the eight-year-old boy who approaches his parents with a long list of toys he wants? What will further his personal development most? Getting everything on his list or learning the hard lessons of discreet spending, coping with disappointment and facing denied requests? Character-building involves learning how to earn and manage money. It entails grappling with life’s difficulties, including those we create for ourselves.

Another vital aspect of the maturation process is social development. Colby’s an unabashed taker and is puffed up with his own self-importance. In contrast, others are completely insignificant. Consequently, respect and cooperation are foreign concepts to him.

The advice I gave Sarah was simple.

“Stop making things cushy for Colby.”

“So, I hear you saying I have to let him fall?” she asked, giving me a look of disbelief.

“Actually, yes,” I replied. “That would be the first step toward helping him.”

I shared with her a bit of wisdom from a former high school football coach, Don Armstrong:

“It’s so empowering when we love people enough to let them fail.”

I emphasized that to love her son in the truest sense, she must always ask herself what’s best for his character. It boils down to this question: “Sarah, how is doing his laundry hurting him at his core?”

She smiled . . . getting it.

In essence, I told her to stop doing his laundry for him, and quit doing everything else he should be doing for himself. Doing those things doesn’t teach him the lesson of personal responsibility. It just reinforces his self-centeredness, his sense of entitlement and his inflated expectations of how the world ought to treat him.

A few years back I learned of a father who parented his children with this guiding philosophy: “You won’t respect me for what I let you do. You’ll respect me for how I teach you to live.”

He nailed it.

Names are changed to honor client confidentiality.

(c) Salee Reese 2016

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Filed under Contemplations, General Interest, Parenting

Spoiled for Life

kid in jail straightened

Jail time is a common occurrence for John. Why is that? He has a nasty habit of picking fights and throwing fits when he doesn’t get his way. Even in jail, if people don’t cater to John’s demands, he resorts to threatening and hostile behavior.

John’s behavior hasn’t changed much since he was a small child. That’s because his blustery, bullying temper tantrums weren’t nipped in the bud before he became an adult. Instead, such displays were rewarded—he got his way. Unsurprisingly, he still expects the world to bend to his every whim.

 Read more…

There are many stories like John’s—please share yours. Or if you have questions or comments, feel free.

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Filed under General Interest, Parenting

Life’s Hidden Agenda

zen proverb cropped

The soul wants growth and that doesn’t translate into a smooth ride.

I think life is akin to climbing into a canoe and paddling down a stream that’s rife with challenges and uncertainties. Yes, it’s risky and stress-provoking—to say the least. But if we hang in there, we get really good at navigating obstacles. Call it “personal evolution.”

Frederick Douglass, the slave who became a highly admired writer, said: “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”

One of the first obstacles we encounter in life entails our physical body—it’s limitations. As babies, we stretch to reach a brightly colored toy but our body won’t budge. We haven’t mastered crawling yet.  And when we do, we move on to tackle walking.

But what if someone rescued us from that particular struggle and just carried us everywhere? Would that person be doing us a favor? Not at all. Our muscles would remain soft and our potentials would come to an abrupt halt. Not only that, life would become rather beige.

It’s unlikely that someone would actually rescue us in such an extreme way, but rescuing in the form of overindulgence happens everyday. Click here to read a column I wrote on the subject and how it impacts us no matter what age we are.

Here’s an excerpt:

Overindulgence stifles personal courage. Consequently, adults who were overindulged as children tend to avoid taking personal risks. Even if their current life circumstances are miserable, they’re too mortified and paralyzed by fearfulness, and they feel too incapable of trying out different possibilities or options.

So despite our irritations with life’s bothersome problems, they benefit us. I like comparing it to garbage and manure. Both are nasty but they do fertilize our gardens and make things grow.

We need to be asking ourselves: Who are the people who possess wisdom, courage, stamina, flexibility and an understanding heart? We all know the answer. It’s those who have encountered and tackled countless obstacles. They’ve suffered losses and disappointments, endured mistreatment, experienced frustration, abandonment and betrayal.

Eckhart Tolle, author of A New Earth, expressed it well: “The challenges of our life situations draw out that which is deeper in us.”

So let’s grab our paddles and go out a bit deeper, shall we? 🙂

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Filed under Contemplations, General Interest, Get Free, Parenting

Who’s Running Things, Anyway?

bossy child 3

“The inmates are running the asylum.”

Mary, a teacher, was referring to our culture’s epidemic of overindulged kids. She and many other teachers are seeing the evidence of overindulgence in the classroom every day.

According to Jean Illsley Clarke, Connie Dawson and David Bredehoff in their book, How Much Is Enough? Overindulgence isn’t merely “about too much stuff or too many privileges. It’s also about too much attention and wobbly rules.”

They also write about the impact of overindulgence on adult life. Far from possessing low self-esteem, these people possess inflated self-esteem. They carry around the notion that the world owes them—that they’re entitled. When their expectations aren’t met, they lash out, or they just simply ignore the rules. Read more about this in an earlier post, Spoiled for Life.

Additionally, these grown-up children are ill-prepared to face the demands of independence and the responsibilities of adulthood.

Mary was able to avoid this all-too-common parenting misstep. Click here to read about how she accomplished that.

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts.

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Filed under General Interest, Parenting

Spoiled for Life

kid in jail straightened

Jail time is a common occurrence for John. Why is that? He has a nasty habit of picking fights and throwing fits when he doesn’t get his way. Even in jail, if people don’t cater to John’s demands, he resorts to threatening and hostile behavior.

John’s behavior hasn’t changed much since he was a small child. That’s because his blustery, bullying temper tantrums weren’t nipped in the bud before he became an adult. Instead, such displays were rewarded—he got his way. Unsurprisingly, he still expects the world to bend to his every whim.

 Read more…

There are many stories like John’s—please share yours. Or if you have questions or comments, feel free.

2 Comments

Filed under General Interest, Parenting