spoiled-bratIt’s sometimes easy for people that don’t have kids to forget that the important part of raising children is the end game. That, over the course of a couple decades, parents are trying to create a functional human being that can survive and thrive on their own.

Someone with an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others, or a narcissist, is not what most parents are hoping to end up with at the end of those decades.

A new research study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science wanted to look at what parents do differently that causes narcissism. 565 children in the Netherlands between seven and 11-years-old and their parents were surveyed four times over a year and a half.

The culprit? Telling their kids they were special. Or rather, more special than other kids.

“Children believe it when their parents tell them that they are more special than others. That may not be good for them or for society,” said co-author of the study Brad Bushman from the Ohio State University in the US in the press release. He and Eddie Brummelman from the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands lead the research.

They found that if parents thought their kids “deserve something extra in life” and are “more special than other children”, and told them that, their kids score higher on tests of narcissism.

Does this mean you shouldn’t try to build up your children’s self confidence? Not at all. You should shower your kids with as much love as possible. Parents who showed more emotional warmth to their children developed healthier levels of self-esteem. And self-esteem is a very different beast from narcissism.

“Self-esteem basically means you’re a person of worth equal with other people. Narcissism means you think you’re better than other people,” Brad Bushman says. “Children with healthy self-esteem agreed with statements like “Some kids like the kind of person they are,” while narcissists agreed with statements like “Kids like me deserve something extra.”

Curious to know if you’re teaching your kids self confidence or giving them an inflated sense of self worth? Take a QUIZ here from Ohio State University.