Monday, July 9, 2012

Spoiled or Special?

Check out this recent article by Elizabeth Kolbert in The New Yorker: "Spoiled Rotten: Why Do Kids Rule the Roost?"

Some highlights from this article:

  • "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. (The market for Burberry Baby and other forms of kiddie “couture” has reportedly been growing by ten per cent a year.) 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."

  • "After four years in college and two on the West Coast, her son Jed moved back to Manhattan and settled into his old room in the family’s apartment, together with thirty-four boxes of vinyl LPs. Unemployed, Jed liked to stay out late, sleep until noon, and wander around in his boxers. Koslow set out to try to understand why he and so many of his peers seemed stuck in what she regarded as permanent “adultescence.” She concluded that one of the reasons is the lousy economy."

  • “'The best way for a lot of us to show our love would be to learn to un-mother and un-father.' One practical tip ... is to do nothing when your adult child finally decides to move out." 

  • "Also key, Druckerman discovered, is just saying non. In contrast to American parents, French parents, when they say it, actually mean it. They 'view learning to cope with ‘no’ as a crucial step in a child’s evolution,' Druckerman writes. 'It forces them to understand that there are other people in the world, with needs as powerful as their own.'”

  • "The cycle in American households seems mostly to run in the opposite direction. So little is expected of kids that even adolescents may not know how to operate the many labor-saving devices their homes are filled with."

  • "In A Nation of Wimps: The High Cost of Invasive Parenting (Broadway), Hara Estroff Marano argues that college rankings are ultimately to blame for what ails the American family. Her argument runs more or less as follows: High-powered parents worry that the economic opportunities for their children are shrinking. They see a degree from a top-tier school as one of the few ways to give their kids a jump on the competition. In order to secure this advantage, they will do pretty much anything, which means not just taking care of all the cooking and cleaning but also helping their children with math homework, hiring them S.A.T. tutors, and, if necessary, suing their high school." 

  • "In contemporary American culture, the patterns are more elusive. What values do we convey by turning our homes into warehouses for dolls? By assigning our kids chores and then rewarding them when they screw up? By untying and then retying their shoes for them? It almost seems as if we’re actively trying to raise a nation of 'adultescents.' And, perhaps without realizing it, we are."


So, how do you feel after reading this article? My thoughts are that I realize my boys have been given a lot of stuff and experiences in their lives that are unnecessary, and yet I've tried to teach them to not be materialistic despite all that they have, and all they have experienced. I've also tried to be an authoritative parent (not permissive and not authoritarian) - hoping to guide them while giving and receiving both respect and love. It's a continual work in progress, parenting in between indulgence and strict obedience.

Check out my side bar under Books on Parenting.  One recently published book to note is: Teach Your Children Well: Parenting for Authentic Success by Madeline Levine.  And, a favorite of mine that I read several times when my boys were younger: Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason by Alfie Kohn.

Your thoughts on spoiled children or parenting?


  1. Wow, so many true comments that it's scary! Many points highlighted are exactly how I feel in the area we live. It's very hard to raise grounded kids when a high percentage of their peers are "given" everything they need or want. We can only hope that we've managed to convey our concerns to our children about this, and that they can carry on in to adulthood to lead happy, productive lives, taking care of themselves and others.

  2. Thank you for sharing this article. It all sounds so familiar. I am afraid the first step may be for us parents to deny ourselves some material things, comforts and treats and set that good example. Perhaps it is unrealistic to expect kids to understand just how fortunate they are when they see virtually nothing but "unprecedented amounts of stuff" and parents who deny themselves almost nothing. I am ordering the two books you reference.

  3. So very relevant in our bubble! Our kids seem fearful of the future, unlike the excitement I felt about launching into independent living. Teaching them through our own attitudes and disciplines is most powerful, but also self sacrificing and challenging. Thanks for sharing!

  4. In our generation NO ONE would have considered moving back in with their parents after college.

  5. All the people I went to college with would not have gone back to live with their parents. Now kids go back to live with the parents because both the kids and the parents say they can't afford to live on their own. They can't afford to live on their own in the lifestyle in which they have become accustomed!!!
    What is wrong with a little struggling?
    There is something wrong when an adult child lives at home after college because they can't afford to live on their own but can jet off to Hawaii for their friend's wedding. I hear it all the time.

  6. Excellent article!..I am going to have both of my kids read it. We can all talk about this on our own via this blog but this is a great opportunity to point out to our children what's going on in the Peruvian Amazon since most of us won't ever make it there with our kids in tow to witness what is described.

    On that note, if you can and if you want your kids as much of the world as you can outside of the obvious vacation spots (i.e. Maui,etc.). It will teach them immeasurable life lessons that can't easily be taught by staying here.

  7. Yes, it's a shocker how easy our kids have it - and hard, too - with so much expected of them with school, extracurricular activities and community service. (I always tease my son that the only thing he doesn't have is porsche - it's my way of reminding him that he has been blessed with a great school, community and caring parents - but it's not really 'real' life.) It's a fine line to prepare them for the competitive world, and teach them the basics. And make sure they appreciate all the special things have.