By: Kristyn Blackwood
The TLC series which recently ran its grand finale for the fourth season, Toddlers in Tiaras, exhibits a great example of how narcissistic parents act. Being a narcissistic parent means being vain or having undue satisfaction in your child and pushing them to excel in every way possible in life. Jim Atlas said in his most recent opinion piece in the NY Times, “We live in a hysterically competitive, education-obsessed society that has finally outdone itself in its tireless efforts to produce winners whose abilities are literally off the charts.”
In the grand finale, a mom was overheard harshly telling her five-year-old to focus more on her practice routine for the talent portion of her pageant. She turned her back to the camera and scolded her daughter saying, “Don’t you dare tell me ‘no’ one more time. Do you hear me!? WE are on national TV. Everybody’s going to see this. Do you hear me?” Then she turned to the camera, slapped a smile on her and her daughter’s face and said, “Okay. We’re doing the Cruella de Vil run-through.” While parents of Toddlers in Tiaras seem to be hyper-focused on enhancing their children’s beauty [narrow as that ‘talent’ may be], is it really the different from the dynamics involved in other children’s competitions?
The difference between the interactions on Toddler in Tiaras and normal, everyday families is that the parents on television are exposed for everyone to see. Opposite of the other parents who are quietly coaching and pushing their children to excel in all sorts of ways, academically, in the performing arts and at every sport imaginable. It seems that the earlier this pressure is put in effect on the child, the better and more apt the child will be to fulfill the talent. To go along with this, parents of today have begun to genetically test their toddlers for any kind of athletic potential. Tests like this appeal to the parents who are eager to determine which sport their child should focus on and if their “prodigies” will grow into sports’ stars, because they can determine a child’s ultimate capacity for speed, agility and power.
Shows that expose parents like this are also releasing to the world the intense dynamics between parents and children on these fields of dreams. Is it the parents that want this or the children that want this more? Usually narcissistic parents view their children as extensions of themselves and what they could not be when they were children. Parents push kids to achieve in ways that meet their own needs, not necessarily that of the child. These end up with positive results sometimes, but usually leave most young children with a distorted experience of childhood. The real question is: Should we be training today’s children to win at any cost? Or should we support them to be the best they can be, letting them develop into their genuine true selves and hope they turn out just fine?