Be patient: Kids are self-centered but it’s not their fault
If you ever find yourself on the kitchen floor moaning after having tripped on a dog toy and knocked your arm against the refrigerator door, a child you would throw yourself in front of a speeding train to save will likely respond as follows: “I’m hungry; when’s dinner?”
To be fair, being a bit accident prone, it is not altogether surprising to find me in a compromised position, which can be advantageous if it gets me out of doing a chore like cleaning the fireplace.
But the point is, if you are on the phone talking to a very important person like the president of the United States or your therapist, a child will likely demand you hang up immediately because his favorite sock is missing.
Another may lie on her back in the middle of the drugstore, little arms and legs thrashing about like an angry upside-down bug and howl when you’re late for a meeting that will probably change the course of your life forever. This is yet another mostly true story responsible for causing P-PTSD (Parenting Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), a diagnosis that I may have made up, but which afflicts millions of parents around the globe.
It may be helpful and comforting to know that it is developmentally normal and healthy for kids to think the world revolves around them. In fact, scientists have discovered that microscopic green sprites who live in the prefrontal cortex of young brains whisper, “me, me, me” until they get really tired and decide to take a nap.
Meanwhile, some kids may surprise us with random bouts of selflessness. This is no victory, however, because they will be back to their old tricks again, even the really nice ones.
But there is hope for these cold-hearted young villains. Eventually all of your parenting patience and training in how to be a decent human being will rub off, even among the most seriously self-centered. This may not happen for a couple of long decades, more or less, when the sheer shock of such ongoing considerate behavior could give a parent a stroke.
In the meantime, experts say to role model caring about others and give children regular opportunities to do the same. For example, before heaving an evil demon laptop out the window the other day, I asked my child to take a stab at fixing the computer glitch. I did this so that he could experience the gratification that comes with focusing on another person. Also, I wanted to check out Facebook.
To sum up, have faith that your young folk will stop taking selfies long enough to complete their education, move out of the house and contribute to society. Also, that kid who needed the spotlight 24-7 and later glued himself to the bathroom mirror in admiration and also to hunt for impending zits will one day ask you about your day and actually listen. This is when a parent can get some sweet revenge and ramble on about herself.
Pam J. Hecht is a writer, instructor and mother of two (but not necessarily in that order). Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or pamjhecht.com