Thursday, November 01, 2007

Narcissism and the 'terrible twos'?

(November 1, 2007) — Unvarnished human nature typically emerges from behind the beguiling mask of infancy sometime during the second year of life, and the picture is anything but pretty.

Anyone who has experienced this tumultuous metamorphosis and its aftermath knows that the philosophy of the "terrible" 2-year-old is comprised of three fundamental beliefs: what I want, I deserve to have; the ends justify the means; no one has a right to deny me or stand in my way.

Entitlement, pragmatism and narcissism: these are the makings of criminality.Toddlers are by nature violent, deceitful, destructive, rebellious and prone to sociopathic rages if they do not get their way.

Example: A 2-year-old who has never experienced, witnessed or even heard described an act of violence will slap his mother across the face or bite her most accessible body part if she dares deny him a cookie, then ventures too close to his tantrum.

Toddlers are convinced that the rules do not apply to them, that they are under no obligation to obey legitimate authority, that in fact it is they who are to be obeyed. Socializing the toddler is the single biggest challenge of parenthood.

Scaling this Mt. Everest requires a balanced combination of powerful discipline and powerful love. Neither alone will suffice. Loving authority liberates the human spirit, which is creative and loving, from human nature, which is destructive and selfish.
But make no mistake: Whereas the toddler may acquiesce, he never goes away.Every so often, even well into adulthood, he demands to be heard, to be the center of attention, to be catered to, to be obeyed.

You've seen other adult's toddlers suddenly burst forth, and if you are reasonably self-aware, you can even identify regrettable occasions when you let your own toddler take over and begin terrorizing the world.

John Rosemond is a family psychologist.