Many of today’s kids have been brought up hearing about how “special” and “smart” they are. The unintended consequence of this type of upbringing, (which, on the surface, seems like a wonderful way to build self-confidence and self-esteem), is that kids actually believe that they are special and superior to others – including their parents.

Being told that you're special but not recognizing that what is meant is that "you are special to me," can have many adverse consequences. Being told that you are smart but not recongizing that that does not make you better than me, can ruin relationships.

Kids who believe they're special "just because I’m me,” are at risk for growing up to be narcissists. Narcissists truly believe that:
“I should get what I want, simply beacuse I want it.”
“I’m entitled to the best just because I say so.”
“My wants are my needs”.
“My needs should take precedence over yours.”

Unfortunately, this kind of thinking creates people who believe that they're a legend in their own minds. Not a good attitude for a young person, not a good attitude for anyone living with them.

If you're living with a kid who believes that he (or she)is “special”, and therefore, unaccountable to the rules and regulations that others abide by, here’s what you must do:

Most importantly, when your child is upset or frustrated, you must not allow her to bully you, curse at you, call you nasty names or otherwise treat you disrespectfully.

If she does, you must change the course of the conversation, making the manner in which you are spoken to the new discussion. If she evokes freedom of speech issues (“I can say what I want; it’s a free country”), don’t take the bait. Tell her that you will not tolerate being treated with disrespect. Having stated your position, don't go into a tirade or a full-blown lecture. This is one of those times when less is more.

Respect, however, is a two way street. A child models what he hears. Thus, you will have no leg to stand on if you curse him out but expect him to abide by different rules. Indeed, if you think it’s okay for you to be disrespectful to your child but not okay the other way around, you are modeling the concept that you're special, therefore not accountable for your bad behavior. As you attempt to excuse your actions, you may minimize your own lack of control, focusing instead on your kid’s provocative behavior. Know, however, that we are all accountable for how we treat each other.

Secondly, you must begin to undo this “special syndrome” by complimenting your kid for her actions and effort, not just telling her how special or smart she is. Focused feedback such as, “I admire the way you handled that,” or “I could see you put a lot of effort into that project,” is best. If your child already thinks she’s special, don’t gush approval, reinforcing her belief about how wonderful she is. Yet, don’t refrain from complimenting her, even though the relationship may be strained.

Third, let your child experience the natural consequences of his actions. If he thinks he’s special, he may feel that he doesn’t need to pick up his dirty clothes from the floor; somebody else will surely do that. Make it a rule that if clothes don’t go in the hamper, there are no clean clothes. If your son expects you to bail him out of trouble by covering for him or doing his homework, change your pattern. Let him get into trouble at school. Yes, you may need to suffer through a tantrum or two in which you hear about how unfair you are, but stick to your guns.

Short-term appeasement is the precursor of long-term regret.

Copyright 2010

Author's Bio: 

Dr Sapadin is a psychologist, success coach, author, columnist, and motivational speaker. She specializes in helping people enrich their lives, enhance their relationships and overcome self-defeating patterns of behavior.

To find out more about her work or to purchase her books, visit an

“NOW I GET IT!” Totally Sensational Advice for Living and Loving provides sensible and savvy advice for building competence, enriching relationships, enhancing communication and improving the art of parenting.

Dr. Sapadin is also the author of:

Six Styles of Procrastination E-Program: An Effective, Life-Changing, Affordable Alternative to Coaching. Go to for more info.

Master Your Fears: How to Triumph Over Your Worries and Get On With Your Life (John Wiley, 2004, also published in Korean)

It’s About Time! The 6 Styles of Procrastination and How to Overcome Them (Penguin, 1996, also published in Japanese)

Beat Procrastination and Make the Grade: The 6 Styles of Procrastination and How Students Can Overcome Them (Penguin, 1999)

She has appeared on national and regional media, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, National Public Radio, and the Voice of America.

Her work has been featured in The New York Times, USA Today, Newsday, The Washington Post, Cosmopolitan,Ladies’ Home Journal, Prevention, Redbook, Good Housekeeping, Men’s Health and many other publications.

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