For by the grace given to me I warn everyone among you not to estimate and think of himself more highly than he ought [not to have an exaggerated opinion of his own importance], but to rate his ability with sober judgment, each according to the degree of faith apportioned by God to him~ Romans 12:3 Amplified Version
The American Freshman survey is an annual study of incoming college freshmen. For forty-seven years the survey has looked at the attitudes and perceptions of incoming college freshmen.
The findings of the most recent survey were, well…interesting.
The survey found that while the average measurable skill level of students has decreased dramatically in recent years, students’ feelings about their skill levels have risen exponentially. Essentially, what was learned from this study is that young adults today are seriously lacking in key areas but they feel really good about themselves.
This is a very, very bad thing.
Experts have expressed concern that many students surveyed display indicators of narcissistic personality disorder. A narcissist is someone who does not care about other people’s feelings and needs, takes advantage of others, feels superior, and has a strong sense of entitlement (2nd Timothy 3:1-4). Narcissists typically take advantage of others, have serious difficulties in relationships, fragile self-esteem, do not experience remorse for bad behavior and express disdain for those they feel are inferior. People with narcissistic personality disorders believe they are unusually special and have little empathy for others.
Narcissism is a fancy-pants modern-day term for what the Bible calls pride. Scripture has nothing good to say about the sin of pride (Proverbs 8:13). Pride is at the root of discord and quarrels (Proverbs 13:10). It is also a common character trait in criminals (Psalms 73:5-7) and pride is the ultimate cause of all self-destruction (Proverbs 16:18).
Parenting is at the root of our cultural problem with narcissism. Parenting is a spiritual issue (Deuteronomy 4:10, 6, Proverbs 20:7, Colossians 3:20) that has long-term societal consequences. If parents of young children make changes in their parenting styles today, our society may be saved from a horrific fate tomorrow. Following are five strategies for raising caring, emotionally healthy kids. First:
Encourage gratitude and giving~ Colossians 2:6-7
When my two oldest were young they went through an ugly phase of discontent and entitlement. We only had one TV and no gaming system, our computer was lame, and they only got new toys at Christmas and birthdays. I was certain my kids were hopeless ingrates. A friend suggested that I get them involved at the local food bank. In no time my kids had brand-spanking-new attitudes. Being around kids who were excited to get a day-old cake or a box of macaroni and cheese did wonders for their perspectives. We have to teach kids to give rather than take and to look outside of their problems and really see other people.
Teach kids to fear God~ Proverbs 9:10
Kids need to understand that there is a God who demands justice, mercy and right living (Micah 6:8). They also need to understand that each of us will be accountable to God for our choices (Hebrews 4:13). Understanding these two truths is often the only thing that keeps our self-interest and bad behavior in check.
Teach your child to deal graciously with disappointment~ Philippians 4:11-12
I am not a fan of the “everybody gets a trophy” philosophy of parenting. In my view, it has produced a generation of infantile adults who can’t lose with dignity or deal with hardship. Kids should not always be shielded from the fact that life is sometimes hard and that we aren’t all good at everything. If we want our kids to grow into productive adults they must learn to recover from loss and difficulties with grace.
Instill empathy~ Romans 12:15-16, Matthew 9:36
People are jerks because compassion and empathy are not natural behaviors for human beings. Parents must model AND teach these behaviors. Most kids have to be taught to think about situations from the viewpoint of others. One of my children went through a phase where he became irritated with anyone who was old. I sat down with him and explained in child-like terms the physiology of old people. I also explained that they he would be old someday and asked him how he would feel if he overheard someone talking about him the way he talked about older people. This got him thinking about the feelings of others and changed the way he viewed the world.
Teach and model respect~ 1st Peter 2:17
My husband and I did not to allow disrespect or back talk, nor did we permit name-calling or mean-spirited teasing among the kids. Sadly, this was a counter-cultural parenting decision. Many well-meaning people assured us that our kids would be emotionally crippled by the cruel limitations we placed on their speech. For the record, they are all just fine. The Bible is clear that respect for others is an essential aspect of a functioning family, society or organization, (Leviticus 19:3, 32, Proverbs 13:13, Romans 13:7, Ephesians 5:33, Hebrews 12:9, 1st Peter 3:7).
Truth is both caught and taught. If we teach a truth but don’t live it, kids will see the contradiction and deem us hypocrites. If we model truth without giving instruction, we are running the risk that our kids will never be perceptive enough to “catch it”.
The culture we are living in today is in part the fruit of millions of individual parenting decisions and choices. If we want a different culture tomorrow, we must start making different parenting choices today.