Tuesday, January 26, 2021
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Emotional Abuse: Why Idealising Children Online Is Killing Them

Child beauty pageants are the epiphany of over-parenting, which most of us would gasp upon. And yet, children are being projected online, by their parents-but under the pretence of love, acceptance and adoration. What happens when they no longer meet the mark?

Over-parenting, an easy mistake many of us could make whilst bringing up our children. Living in the 21st century puts pressure on us all, and that includes our children. Take school for instance, we attend school and by the time we are 10 years of age-the comparison between you and a school friend is hard to ignore.

Who Are You In Relation to Them?

When we are growing up and learning, it is a rational and some might say-a vital part of growing up. We experience ourselves in relation to others and recognise ourselves in others. Where this is an enjoyable experience, it can also be daunting and threatening. It is called social comparison  theory, which can either motivate or de-motivate. It can either make you up your game, or chastise yourself for not doing better.

‘Struth’, the complexities of being’

The problem with making comparisons in adolescence is that the rational brain has not yet developed, and therefore it is difficult to make balanced judgements. This is not necessarily in relation to only yourself, but also in relation to others.  Living in today’s society only confounds this further when the brain is continually bombarded with ‘other people’ and their supposed perfections, via social media.

And It Doesn’t Stop at Adolescence 

We may benefit from the experience and wisdom of age-but it certainly does not vanquish doubt or insecurity. Social comparison is a natural process when we are getting to know someone, and a safeguard, as well as an education. We have to be able to trust the person before us, and so we must understand first who they are. Normally, we do this from our own experience, and therefore we look for our own selves in another.

Although all we may see is:

‘what we would like to be’ instead.

With all this self-comparison surrounding us, is it any wonder we turn to our children and prepare them for this upcoming onslaught. The pre-millenial generation did not grow up with computers or social media, they have discovered this in their adulthood. Where this has always been a fact of life, it is now more physical than ever in the daily feeds that are hard to get away from. 

Neuroticism In The Pre-Millennial Generation

This, perhaps for the pre-millennial generation is more alarming. Certainly, it is the pre-millennials who have taken up Facebook as a daily habit. Where millennials seem to have deserted it and moved over to Instagram, the pre-millennials are using it as a child parade-I have never seen so many pictures of people’s children. It is the new accepted form of kid pageants

you know those hideous American spectacles; where parents dress their children up as beauty queens”.

We are literally surrounded by affirmations left, right and centre from friend and foe. And most of these affirmations are now in relation to their children, since pre-millennials are now the ones taking up the news feed…with their children.

Research has in fact found-those sensitive to the social media of others, and active participants in the demoralising aspect of social comparison, exhibit neurotic behaviour. They found neurotic behaviour, was a precursor in motivating a tendency towards over-emphasising one’s profile and status on Facebook. A type of narcissism, because it is motivated by the need to be above others, rather than to be accepted by them.

Facebook practically breeds the neurotic mother.

So, my thinking is: have pre-millennials birthed their own narcissism in the idealisation of their children on Facebook? And what an outlet Facebook is. 

What Does This Do To Children?

As someone who has spent a lot of time with children, I can tell you: the over-parenting, or the over-expectations of children, will-in the end, either turn them into fellow narcissists, or make them run the other direction. It is emotional abuse in its true from, but often goes overlooked and undiscovered. A lot of children are suffering from this these days, because in one instance-the world is tough and competitive, and in another-they are not receiving the kind of attention they need.

Instead of love being the foundation of a child’s upbringing-money, status and power become the preferred threshold. 

And yet, mothers parading their children at child beauty pageants may only be admired by onlookers.

 ‘How they must love their girls!’

One of the mother’s of a child pageant contestant remarked:

“I’m a perfectionist-I have to get it right”

(in conversation with Sky News)

This behaviour, although extreme-shows a mother living her life through her child. All the regrets and dashed dreams, can be re-born again.

The over-personification of children is introducing the world of adulthood at far too quick an age. Where many proud parents will be happily sharing a big part of their lives online, these are often images and descriptions, which only seek to idealise their child over another. 

‘Kayla came first in gymnastics…we are so proud’ And so follows perfect ballerina esque photo after photo. Where ‘Kayla’ may adore gymnastics, and respectfully her parents ought to be proud-why does there seem to be a price tag attached to it? Aren’t parents always ‘proud’ of their children? And why are we being bombarded with so many adolescent children-still in single digits?

Young girls love to dress up, I did too-still do, but my mother didn’t put me on display or idealise my status within a group. I wasn’t pampered as a child and I wasn’t the princess. I largely grew up unassuming and approached those topics in adulthood, rather than childhood, because that is where it is meant to be explored. 

It means, even though I have an idea of who I am, it has been birthed from my own self-discovery and not via someone else. Think mothers and daughters in tow at the supermarket-in matching outfits, and Kayla is only aged 4. When you decide a child’s destiny-you are suppressing a child’s development. 

What happens when little Tilly doesn’t grow up to be the apple of her mother’s eye?

She becomes ostracised. Emotional abuse at the ‘heart’ of the perfect family.

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