Question: Dear Luise: We are trying do to a good parenting job with our first child, who is five years old, but I feel like we’re floundering. He is very impressed with himself and demanding. He’s extremely good-looking and very smart. My husband and I have tried to compliment him and build up his self-esteem, since we both have issues in that department. How we gone too far? He wants to be first at everything, thinks he knows it all and always wants to be in charge. The other children don’t like that or him. Will he outgrow this or is there something we should do differently? Jane
Answer: Dear Jane: I think that the hardest things to deal with in parenting are separating influence from inherent proclivities and responsibility from natural development. You have a great deal to offer your son in the way of direction, however, he came into the world already programmed in many ways and some things just take time.
When a baby arrives, it looks like the whole enchilada is up to us. We are totally in charge and his survival and perceptions are in our hands. His self-image will start to grow as a reflection of how we hold him, feed him and respond to him. It’s very easy, especially with a first child, to think that it’s always going to be like that. However, early on, other stimuli come into his awareness. On top of that, he has genes, a personality, and soon develops individuality.
Sometimes the behavior you describe covers anxiety. Some children feel an implied parental pressure to be the “best”. Arrogance can be an act, although that isn’t necessarily true. There’s a fine line, somewhere, between confidence and self-doubt. Either extreme can be problematic.
The next move I would make, since your son is having trouble and can’t possibly be content with how things are going, is to get him in to see a highly recommended child psychologist. You can do very little with the “package” he arrived with, but you can get guidance on how to interact with him. Let him have the experience of working with a less-involved, more objective person while you expand your skills and understanding. It’s OK to ask for help. Sometimes it’s imperative.
Unfortunately most of us, especially with our first child, want to do the job perfectly. Big mistake. There are no perfect parents and there are no perfect children. In young adulthood, we tend to think we are the exception to that rule and so are our kids. We often get over-involved with a first child and don’t give them enough breathing room. Good for you for addressing this. That may turn out to be the hardest part of the process. Blessings, Luise