I Am the Center of My Universe

I just read about an English teacher at a prestigious public high school in Philadelphia who was suspended from her job for posting this on her blog:  “My students are out of control. They are rude, disengaged, lazy whiners. They curse, discuss drugs, talk back, argue for grades, complain about everything, fancy themselves entitled to whatever they desire, and are just generally annoying. Kids, they are disobedient, disrespectful oafs. ”  Since I love teens, I found it disturbing that anyone would be teaching who felt this way.  But, truth be told, when parents talk to one another, they sometimes guiltily express the same kind of frustration.

This isn’t new.  I can still remember my shock when my normally patient  mother whipped a couple of quarters in my direction for lunch money after I complained that she had made my sandwich with rye instead of white bread.  I am certain that this event followed a long string of self-centered, narcissistic behaviors on my part.  I’ve tried to remember this when faced with sometimes obstreperous* teens

But have teens risen to a new level of self-centeredness?  Some experts think so.  In the January 2010 issue of the journal Social Psychology and Personality Science, researchers concluded that there has been a pronounced rise in narcissism among young people.  One group of college students, over a 15 year period, went from 18% to 34% evidencing narcissistic personality traits.  So, why is this happening?  According to an article discussing this research, “Theories implicate parents, teachers and the media, which either allow or celebrate overly permissive attitudes toward individualism, and lead to an inflated and unwarranted sense of self-importance.”

Parents, we can be part of correcting this tendency, or at least we can purpose not to feed into it.  When our kids do wrong, love them, but let them experience the consequences.  No special pleading with teachers when Nathan gets a D due to laziness or poor planning.  When Lupe misses the bus for the third time, let her pay to take a cab,  My wise mother let my sister learn her lesson by doing this very thing.  It won’t be long before our teens enter the real world…the one where they do not occupy the center of the universe.  Our job is to prepare them.

*I love using new words.  This one means “resisting control or restraint in a difficult manner; unruly.”