Saturday, June 30, 2012

Spoiled Children

Attempts to analyze the effects of parents who have overindulged their offspring is one of the most trending topics. The New Yorker recently printed excerpts from a book by Elizabeth Kolbert titled:
Spoiled Rotten, Why do kids rule the roost? In her book, Kolbert offers this observation:

'With the exception of the imperial offspring of the Ming dynasty and the dauphins of pre-Revolutionary France, contemporary American kids may represent the most indulged young people in the history of the world. It’s not just that they’ve been given unprecedented amounts of stuff-clothes,
toys, cameras, skis, computers, televisions, cell phones, PlayStations, iPods. They’ve also been granted unprecedented authority. .....“Parents want their kids’ approval, a reversal of the past ideal of children striving for their parents’ approval,” Jean Twenge and W. Keith Campbell, both professors of psychology,have written.”'

When my sister was raising her two children, she would argue that children can't be spoiled. Food spoils. Children can be indulged. However, the Oxford English Dictionary includes within the definition of “spoil” the following: “harm the character of (a child) by being too lenient or indulgent”; or “to diminish or destroy the value of.” I my humble opinion, the rampant spoiling of American children and lead to this most regrettable result – the loss of common courtesy.

Toddlers have always been self centered because they haven't yet been taught social skills and sharing. Teens are in general rebellious because pushing limits is part of the growth process. However, the recent crop of young people has been raised to believe they are brilliant, beautiful, always winners, entitled, can eat whatever they want whenever they want, individuals with the inalienable right to express themselves and to be handed success because they exist. Nobody has ever set boundaries for them. Or, I have seen parents who have much too late in the game tried to set a boundary by punishing errant behavior with consequences (by...horrors! taking away cell phone privileges) who withdrew the punishment as too Draconian after a nominal amount of time and whining from the offender. Unfortunately, it is much harder to learn the lessons of consequences as an adult.
Really, your boss can fire you for no reason no matter how brilliant your mother told you you are!

As I was discussing with some friends recently, there are fewer young people who offer to help when visiting. Adults bring their children to a social gathering without checking to ensure it is a family friendly event – or if the appendages are even invited. And when they do bring their children, they allow the kids to take over – lay all over the furniture without thinking it would be courteous to leave space for others, hijack the TV remote, forage through the refrigerator, and demand their parents to wait on them. This is a far cry from the times when as children we were warned not to sit in grandpa's chair or try to turn the TV channel on grandpa's TV because it was not our house!

Hopefully the tide will turn and if this generation ever moves out of their parents' houses,
they will, through exposure to the real world, learn that for their children setting boundaries and learning to be courteous to others will serve them well.

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