Are our children spoiled rotten? This past summer, a thought provoking article written by Elizabeth Kolbert came out in The New Yorker (here’s a link to the article) stating that American children are spoiled rotten and asking why our kids rule the roost. That is a great question in light of the fact that it has become commonly accepted that kids today are the most indulged young people in the history of the world, as the article points out.
Here are some highlights from the article:
- Never before have parents been so (mistakenly) convinced that their every move has a ripple effect into their child’s future success.
- Most parents today were brought up in a culture that put a strong emphasis on being special. Being special takes hard work and can’t be trusted to children. Hence the exhausting cycle of constantly monitoring their work and performance, which in turn makes children feel less competent and confident, so that they need even more oversight.
- French parents don’t worry that they’re going to damage their kids by frustrating them (see our article regarding Why French Parents are Superior).
- Many parents remark that it takes more effort to get children to collaborate than to do the tasks themselves.
As Elizabeth Kolbert closes out her article, she says this:
“Letting things slide is always the easiest thing to do, in parenting no less than in banking, public education, and environmental protection. A lack of discipline is apparent these days in just about every aspect of American society. Why this should be is a much larger question, one to ponder as we take out the garbage and tie our kids’ shoes.”
And that really is the question. Why should it be this way? Despite overwhelming evidence in every area of our society that things are not good; from our academic standing to overwhelming access to drugs, to invasion of sex at earlier ages, increased depression, and suicide being the third leading cause of death in youth today, we seem to be numb to the statistics. We still lead the world in terms of self-regard. So, we seem to be falling behind the rest of the world, but at least we feel good about it!
On our good days, we as parents say “things will be alright,” “we all go through phases,” “Johnny will get better grades soon,” and “isn’t Suzy just precious.” On our bad days, well, we as parents think “the world is imploding,” “Johnny is never going to make it to college,” and “Suzy…well, bless her heart, she just has bad genes” (those come from the other side of the family…of course)! Ultimately, regardless of how much data we see, how overwhelming the statistics might be, we cannot simply blame our problems on parenting, the school system, or the culture. They are all interwoven but it is time we as parents stop waiting and saying everything is going to be okay. While that might make us feel better about ourselves (hence we lead the world in self-regard), but it ignores the reality that we are not getting any better.
There is a line from a movie, which loosely paraphrased goes something like this: “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re a part of the problem so quit being part of the problem.” There are more manuals, books, guides, etc. than ever before, but until it starts at home, until it starts with each of us as parents, we will continue to just believe that things will change without us doing anything differently.
We would love to hear your thoughts and comments on this article and others.
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