“Don’t be selfish!” “Think of others before you think of yourself!” “Don’t think about your feelings and needs before those of others!” “You can’t think of anyone but yourself!” How many times have we heard those words as children only to discover that as we grow up as adults, trying to live by such words only disarms and destroys us? If you think about it, people who survive well in this world have done so precisely because they are selfish, because they do take care of their own needs first and foremost. Unlike the Judeo-Christian belief that living for yourself is bad and living for others is your only salvation, positive selfishness is what teaches you to survive on your own as an adult without being dependent upon another person. At some point in every child’s life, the instinct for survival kicks in yet parents and teachers frequently try to disarm the child, even making the child feel guilty about trying to become independent. Not surprisingly, teens who have left home to become independent and survive on their own are more likely to become successful at any given career field than those who were taught to be weak, dependent, and needy for survival. In other words, the sabotage of your mind for self survival as a child only teaches you to sabotage yourself as an adult. Such a regressive attitude breeds no shortage of individuals on the welfare dole. But can you imagine as a young adult, still being sabotaged by your parents at home, into believing you are not good enough to get a job that pays well, or even being told “You have no skills”, if only because nobody helped to nurture your own talents?
The problem is this: as humans (the one thing that separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom is our mind, our ability to think, our ability to succeed and make a significant contribution to society) we have the ability to develop our own talents and skills without any external help from others. Called “self motivation” by motivational speakers and the like, this development is best started from a very early age in childhood which can help further the child as he or she ages. Being the best at something will provide the child with the asset to succeed later on in life. Being able to do something on one’s own gives one a feeling of success and pride, a positive type of pride, not a negative one. Self duty is a moral right when it comes to survival, and not surprisingly, is also respected by others. If you are selfish and know enough to take care of your needs without being a drag upon others, you will be respected by others.
So if you are a parent, how do you teach your child positive selfishness?
Instead of teaching your child not to outdo others in anything, teach the child to be the very best he or she can be. This goes from schoolwork to winning a sports game. Children by nature need and want positive reinforcement. Punishing a child for succeeding at something can cause a lot of damage in the long run and may even requires years of therapy as an adult to correct such negative thinking about oneself.
Teach your child to have boundaries. This goes for emotional, mental, and physical boundaries. Teach your child not to tolerate abuse of any kind, and especially not physical violations, whether it is being hit by a bully, or sexual abuse.
Teach your children not to fall into the trap of thinking that doing for oneself is bad, or that one must feel guilty about looking out for one’s needs. As adults, nobody puts another person’s needs before one’s own. Those who are familiar with Ayn Rand’s objectivist philosophy will understand what this means.
Teach your children that as they get older, they will become independent (federal law places the age of 18 as the first year of recognized adulthood) and will have to take care of their own needs. I know there will be plenty of parents out there who have their adult children at home with them – adult children in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, even 50’s – and wonder why these kids never left home. Maybe it was due to the negative view of selfishness they were raised with (particularly true in Judeo-Christian households).
Teach your child to have integrity, be conscientious, and have self responsibility. Never coerce your child into believing that he or she is not good enough to achieve or be good at anything. Above all, never say “You can’t do that” or “No, you cannot become a (insert career of child’s choice here).” The latter is particularly damaging to the child if he or she has already started working towards that direction but has it confiscated from him or her. Not only will it cause the child to resent you, but also end up unforgivably hating you.
Speaking of confiscating and taking, if this is how you as a parent operates, you might want to think again about doing it. Children who have had personal aspirations and work taken from them will grow up thinking it is okay to take and confiscate from others. You do not want your child to become an adult with a felony record, do you? Respect your child’s work towards a particular ambition, and chances are he or she will become successful and be more contributive to human society than if raised under the guise of the sacrificial altruism which is based in Judeo-Christian theology.
How to Prevent Psychic Blackmail, Leo Louis Martello. New York: Samuel Weiser. 1975