The following is a transcript of an interview between Patrick Wanis, Human Behavior and Relationship Expert, PhD and Dr. Vicki Panaccione, child psychologist and Founder and Director of the Better Parenting Institute www.betterparentinginstitute.com discussing a study that reveals that teenage children would choose fame over greater intelligence, beauty or physical strength. Patrick Wanis and Dr. Vicki also explore parenting styles and Dr. Vicki answers the question “Can children be divine without being narcissistic?” by revealing 4 strategies to raising children with healthy self-esteem.You can also listen to the thirty-minute interview of
Patrick: This is Patrick Wanis, Human Behavior and Relationship Expert, PhD. In my newsletter, “Teen Low Self-Esteem, Loneliness, and the Desire for Fame”, https://patrickwanis.com/blog/teen-loneliness-self-esteem-desire-fame/ I referenced a study from 2007 where 650 teenage students were surveyed with a series of around 32 questions relating to pop culture. One of those questions was “If you could press a magic button and become stronger, smarter, more beautiful, more intelligent, famous, or no change at all, which would you pick?”
Interestingly, the boys chose fame as often as intelligence and the girls chose fame above intelligence and everything else. In other words, the study revealed that of these 650 teenagers who were surveyed, their number one goal was to become more famous. Interestingly, there was also a very powerful link between low self-esteem, loneliness, lack of appreciation, depression, and even isolation.
In other words, the more lonely the teenagers felt, the less appreciated they felt, the less connection with their parents or the lower their self-esteem and depression, the higher the rate or the ratio where they actually want to become famous or want to have closer connections and ties to celebrities.
Obviously, one of the key points is that we need to tend to these needs of children, but specifically teenagers. But ego is not the only driving force. There is also narcissism. In a study in the 1950s, only 12% of children surveyed said, “I’m an important person.” In 1989, the same study revealed that 80% of children said, “I’m an important person.”
Now, is this good or is this bad?
Well, what we see today, in the 21st Century, is rampant narcissism. In other words, children, and even adults, who believe they’re entitled. They’re not interested in contributing. They’re not interested in making a difference. They’re more interested in taking than they are in helping, giving or serving. They become extremely self-absorbed, self-indulgent, self-serving with very little purpose or meaning in life.
Accordingly, following this newsletter, a friend and colleague who’s also a spiritual teacher and a Yogini, a Yoga teacher, wrote to me and said, “Actually, teaching your child that they are intrinsically important and innately special just the way they are without having to do anything to accomplish anything, that they are perfect just the way they are, that they are whole, complete, Divine just the way they are, that they don’t need to become somebody because they are so magnificent already, wouldn’t that then make them feel so special that they wouldn’t have the desire to become famous?”
“They’d be confident and feel loved just the way they are. And so, wouldn’t that increase their self-worth instead of their self-disapproval which drives them to want to become significant? If they love themselves unconditionally, then they don’t need to become famous to fill that hole, that void. How to teach them to love themselves just the way they are so that they see themselves as perfect, as pure light, as Divine.”
“I don’t mean narcissism or pride, but real self love, which is our true nature. How to teach your child self love, self acknowledgement, self appreciation, but not narcissism, not self aggrandizement. It’s no small thing to find that balance, don’t you think, Patrick?”
So my friend and spiritual teacher and Yoga teacher wrote this to me also in response to a specific sentence that I’d said in my newsletter where I said that I don’t feel it’s healthy to teach children that they are innately important, but rather to teach them to focus on the significance of their talent, skills and gift, and to use that to help and make a difference in the world, and also to help children find purpose and meaning.
Well, my friend here says, “What if we just taught them to become Divine, to teach them that ‘You’re already beautiful. You’re already special. You’re already Divine just the way you are. You don’t need to necessarily change anything.'”
So for a more insightful response, I’m turning to child psychologist, Dr. Vicki Panaccione, who’s also the Founder and Director of the Better Parenting Institute. www.betterparentinginstitute.com
Dr. Vicki, now you also as a parent will have interesting insights and responses, as well as being a child psychologist and a wonderful person.
Dr. Vicki: Yes. Let’s bring all those to the table, Patrick.
Patrick: All right. Let’s bring all three to the table, child psychologist, insightful parent, experienced parent, successful parent, and a wonderful person. Is it okay to teach young children that they are human beings, not human doings, that they’re just naturally “Divine creatures of light”?
Dr. Vicki: I think it’s not only okay, I think it’s important. I think that children are Divine and I think they are wonderful just by virtue of the fact that they’re in this world. Think about how much we love and adore our little children and they don’t have to do anything. They’re just there. The moment they’re born, they hung the moon. They’re just our world. And I do think that there’s divinity in that.
Now, I say that not from necessarily a religious place or from a spiritual place that there’s miracle in bringing these children into the world. I know that many of religious teachings are that we’re created in God’s image, or in the spiritual world it’s just more that you are a spark, you are a part of the Divine, and I think that that’s true.
Now, here’s the difference between doing that and raising children who don’t feel like they need to do anything. I think there’s a balance between teaching them that they’re just wonderful because they exist. And I really think that every parent on the planet would agree. I mean, my child — I have a son, Alex, and he’s just amazing just because he is, because he’s in this world. He doesn’t have to do anything. We celebrate his birthday because he’s here, not because he does anything.
But also, because children are Divine and I do think that they come in with their unique talents, traits, perspectives, and I think purpose, I think we’re all here for some reason. I don’t know what it is, but I think that we all are here to fulfill some purpose that as parents, it’s our job to help our kids become who they’re meant to be and to bring those Divine talents, traits, God-given abilities, whatever you want to call them, to bring them to the world so they can be wonderful just the way they are.
And because they’re so wonderful and they’ve got these innate, wonderful, beautiful talents and traits, they are responsible to bring it to the world.
Patrick: All right. So there are a couple of points, too. The first is that every parent would say, “The birth of my child, the existence of my child has brought me a lot of joy. Therefore, my child is a gift to me and in turn, a gift to the world,” but that’s very different than saying to the child, “You’re Divine. You’re a creature of light. Therefore, you’re just amazing the way you are.”
When we stop and consider the developmental stages of the child, don’t we also need to teach children certain things in life? Don’t children need discipline, boundaries, guidance, direction, and even consequences for their actions?
Dr. Vicki: Absolutely, and that’s where — I always use the term “balance” in talking about parenting because it is a balance. I mean, we want to tell our kids — our kids are fabulous. My child is amazing, but I don’t want to fill his head with that and think he doesn’t have to do anything and contribute to the world or to the household or whatever. And yes, if you tell a two-year-old who’s pitching a fit that they’re just amazing and beautiful and Divine the way they are, we would never be helping that two-year-old learn not to pitch fits.
So we have to help them develop behaviorally, emotionally, mentally, spirituality, socially and so on. We have to help them and that’s part of the unfolding, but at each stage along the way, they’re still Divine. They’re still special. They’re still unique. There’s still this beautiful inner brilliance about them that only they hold.
Patrick: Okay. Now we recognize that as adults. We say the children are Divine, they’re special. They bring a beautiful gift to the world, but how do we balance that? How do we relay that to the child so the child therefore respects him or herself, but also respects other people and recognizes “I’m not just a princess and I’m not naturally entitled to everything in the world; I have to do something; I have to contribute something; I have to realize my full potential.”
Dr. Vicki: Ah! So you equated telling my child that she’s amazing and beautiful and wonderful and that she’ll be thinking she’s a princess, and I’m saying that doesn’t have to happen.
For Part 2 of this transcript – the continuation, click here: https://patrickwanis.com/blog/praising-children-without-creating-entitled-princes-princesses/
Anointed “The Woman Expert” by WGN Chicago, Patrick Wanis PhD is a renowned Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert who developed SRTT therapy (Subconscious Rapid Transformation Technique) and is teaching it to other practitioners. Wanis’ clientele ranges from celebrities and CEOs to housewives and teenagers. CNN, BBC, FOX News, MSNBC & major news outlets worldwide consult Wanis for his expert insights and analysis on sexuality, human behavior and women’s issues. Wanis is the first person ever to do hypnotherapy on national TV – on the Montel Williams show.