FearfulChildren can develop and maintain a predominantly selfish attitude because of a variety of fears. Fears of closeness to others, rejection, abandonment, and change may be interrelated and part of a generally fearful approach to life. The result of fearfulness can be a pulling back into oneself. Therefore, individuals who become frightened of involvement with others often become solely concerned with their own safety. Quite typical is the pattern of children being abandoned (physically and/or psychologically) or rejected and feeling scared and angry. They then can become self-centered and concerned with personal safety and happiness regardless of the feelings or concerned of others. Similarly, children who have frequently felt hurt by others develop a fear of becoming close or attached to others. By not psychologically exposing themselves through personal involvement and caring about or for others, they cannot be hurt again. The net result is a child who appears selfish and self-centered.
Generally fearful children often view any type of change in their lives as anxiety provoking. They see things only through their eyes and an understanding of others' viewpoints can be viewed as a scary changed. Therefore, fear and change can both cause and/or exaggerate self-centeredness. Further complicating the picture is that selfish children often worry about possible negative consequences of this behavior. Therefore, they do not share their feelings or ideas which keeps them stuck in a pattern of self-preoccupation. A final cause of selfishness is the fearfulness engendered by parents who are teasing, capricious, or inconsistent in their child-rearing approach. The uncertainty and unpredictability can also cause the pattern of fear, turning inward, and selfishness.
SpoiledParents "spoil" children by being overprotective and all-giving. These parents try to prevent any discomfort and act immediately to eliminate any discomfort to the child. It is often guilt that drives parents all of their child's needs. Parents might react to their own deprived childhood and want their children to have everything that they missed. Parents who did not really want children or who dislike having children may overreact by being too concerned and too nice to their offspring. Therefore, children do not develop tolerance or coping capacity and remain struck in an infantile, egocentric way of interacting. They clearly appear to others only concerned with themselves and having little patience or tolerance for others. Being spoiled often leads to a combination of being selfish, shy, and having secret recurring fantasies of being great and the center of attention.
Parents sometimes teach their children to be selfish by their overly solicitous behavior. They try to protect their children from any type of frustration. The parents are incensed when anyone appears to be unfair to their children. They are quick to agree with their children's perceptions that others are taking advantage of them. Children are frequently lectured to stand up for their rights and not let themselves be stopped on by others. They become (in a sense as their parents taught them to be) selfish individuals who are not concerned with having no sibling to share things or ideas with. Therefore, the result can be a very self-centered child who expects to be the center of attention and only sees things from his or her point of view.
ImmatureIn order to give up selfishness, a certain level of maturity must be reached. For example, children must learn to control their impulses before they are able to keep agreements. Children who cannot tolerate frustration and must have what they want when they want it cannot keep their word. They feel justified in not keeping an agreement because they just had to have or do something else. Therefore, they appear selfish and do whatever they please in spite of discussions held and agreements reached. They cannot handle responsibility, and adults frequently describe them as "never having grown up." Similarly, immature children have not developed the type of judgment necessary to be sensitive to others and act accordingly. If intellectual judgment is not adequate, concern for others will not develop. This can be seen by behavior which always seems either inappropriate or insensitive. The child appears to be doing the wrong thing at the wrong time. This generally poor judgment makes it appear that the child is selfish and doesn't care about others, when these attitudes have no developed because of immaturity in the development of accurate social perception and the accompanying appropriate behavior.
At the simple level, some children have not learned more mature behavior. This can occur for numerous reasons. Obvious causes are retardation, language disturbances, and other forms of developmental learning disorders. The point is that some children remain selfish because they have not learned caring or other directed behavior. They may literally not have been taught or more likely or feel to others. The children respond best to a planned of educational lessons designed to teach the value of concern for others, accompanied by a "how to do it" approach. At the present time there are still disagreements about whether schools should or should not teach these kinds of moral values.