Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Overindulged American Child

My Gpa and some of the ladies in his life, from 2009, that is a baby Z! Also, I was so thin!
My grandfather, Gpa, is one of the wisest people you will ever meet. I am not exaggerating.

Everyone thinks so.

He was a very successful businessman, running a manufacturing company in Milwaukee, an active participant in raising five children, and a dedicated scholar. He got an MBA from the University of Chicago while working full-time and is an amazing example of a lifelong learner as he continues to read, consider new ideas and pholosophies and take on new behaviors.

Last weekend he emailed the family a review from The New Yorker of a book called Slouching Toward Adulthood: Observations from the Not so Empty Nest. With the review he said:
Rearing kids is so complex today compared to the simple days of our young parenthood when I believed the greatest gift a parent could give to a child wasindependence.   I still believe that concept has validity.  It is a hard gift to give although in our day it was a easier to practice ‘less is more’ because‘less’ was often not an option.
This passage in the review stood out exceptionally to me:
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. In many middle-class families, children have one, two, sometimes three adults at their beck and call. This is a social experiment on a grand scale, and a growing number of adults fear that it isn’t working out so well: according to one poll, commissioned by Time and CNN, two-thirds of American parents think that their children are spoiled.
Here is part of what I emailed back:
I am very proud of Z. Her chores are to feed the dog, help empty the dishwasher and help make salad for dinner! Children do nothing because nothing is expected of them. Positive reinforcement also works wonders; I love it when I do something and Z says, good job Mommy! I proud of you!

Jim and I are very conscious to not spoil the children because it is so easy to do so, we think. Especially for us. We grew up in very working class homes. There was much love and we were never in need of anything, but there was little excess. So as such, excess is easy for us to fall into the muchness. Especially with the kids. The piles of toys, the bags of clothes, the Starbucks "treats" that are more routine than treat sometimes. So we try to counter it with reasonable expectations, like feeding the dog, setting the table, putting her own shoes on, etc. etc.

But it is hard. It's hard to say no sometimes. And the muchness is easier to fall into in part because I work. We *have* the money to get what we need and then some. And the "some" is often not necessary but remembering that can be hard in the moment.

What about you? How do you avoid the muchness?

Also, this: "Two-thirds of parents think their OWN children are spoiled!" That is bananas. What are we going to do with those children as adults?! 

I'll share my Gpa's reply tomorrow.

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