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Are Your Kids Spoiled?

On my Smockity Facebook page, I recently posted about the article, “Why Are American Kids So Spoiled?” and it garnered a lot of interesting comments.

First of all, readers noticed that the author of the article referenced how humans and apes evolved 1.8 million years ago and she has also authored some articles which express other viewpoints with which I do not agree.

For all I know she may very well be an atheist who is having an extra marital affair with her plumber, too. I don’t know anything about her politics or what she thinks about global warming.

What I do know is that in this one article, with the exception of the bit about evolution, I believe she hit the elephant in the room squarely on the head.

She writes of an anthropological study done with families of different countries and cultures. In American families, it was noticed that children commonly whined to get their parents to do simple tasks they could do themselves, like untying shoes. In other countries the children were generally more self sufficient and better behaved.

“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 was noted that non-American cultures expect their children to contribute to the family by doing work while American children expect to be served by the adults.

One of the Facebook commenters divulged the following:

“My mom did everything for me, gave me whatever I wanted, gave in to my demands, and demanded absolutely no respect from me. I struggle daily to overcome feelings of entitlement, selfishness and laziness.”

Could this be the root of the problem?

Now, we in the Smockity Family make plenty of mistakes, and I’m sure we have plenty in store, but one thing we make sure our children know how to do is work.

From about age 2 on, they each have daily chores that we do not ask pretty please or pay them for. They do not get stickers or snow cones for doing their chores. They get a good feeling inside from being a productive member of a family.

Occasionally we hear objections like, “I didn’t make this mess,” or “I cleaned this last time,” to which the most common response from me is “I don’t care.”

I am even cold-hearted enough to delineate to my children that I don’t care if:

  • they don’t like it
  • they didn’t do it
  • it’s not fair
  • it’s too hot
  • it’s too cold
  • I am a mean mom
  • none of their friends has to do this
  • I don’t. Even. Care if it hairlips the very President of these United States of America (Insert narrowed eyes here.)

We also make our children wait until the elderly have gone through the line during potlucks at church. And we don’t even care if they whine that they are hungry, either.

As a result of these heartless and cruel practices, our children know we mean business if we tell them to get busy on a task. They are even excellent (usually) about doing things that need to be done without waiting to be told. And they realize that they are not more important than other people.

They will often change a diaper, load the dishwasher, vacuum, and do laundry without the promise of a reward or an assignment on a chore chart.

I don’t believe our kids have succumbed to the condition that is taking this country by storm, being spoiled. But this was hard won and is an ongoing battle, as children, like all humans, have a sinful nature and tend toward being self-centered.

Our duty as parents is to make sure this self-centered tendency is not allowed to flourish, but instead replaced with a work ethic that will serve them well throughout life.

Do you think your children are spoiled? What actions do you take to make sure your children are not spoiled?

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Comments

  1. This reminds me of a conversation between my 11 year old and his friend earlier this week. They were tossing a football around and the friend mentioned how tired he was after his long day. He had “art class and everything” that day. My son commiserated…he had been to an indoor trampoline park and then played video games for two hours.

    I never thought of my kids as spoiled until then. But the truth is, while they are expected to help when I ask for it, I don’t ask for help nearly enough.

  2. Well, I guess it all depends on whom I’m comparing them to… my son is the only boy and has his own room (spoiled), they all get three abundant meals a day (spoiled), and they can even count on birthday and Christmas gifts that are total non-essentials (spoiled). Those things all make them far, far more fortunate than millions of children in this world. They could certainly survive, and likely even thrive, on less, but they’re not expected to.

    However, if you were to compare my children to their peers and classmates, you’d find that they’re expected to do far more chores within our home, be thankful for what they’re served, and that I’m considered a very “mean” mom. So… I guess it’s all relative. :)

  3. The comment from your Facebook page could have been my own as much as it resembles my situation. It is difficult to overcome a lifetime of ‘training’ toward a mentality of entitlement, laziness and selfishness in adulthood. By the grace of God my children will not have that burden on their shoulders when they are adults.

  4. My kids are still young, 6, 4 and 19 months but we are well on the way to teaching them to contribute to the family. They have chores and they do them without being paid or rewarded because they get to live in our house, and eat our food and that seems like a good enough reward to me for participating in daily chores. Besides, they make the messes they can help clean them up!

  5. I agree with the elephant in the room…I noticed it in my office, my truck, my kitchen…finally I realized it was following me..and looked suspiciously like my five year old daughter. The fault lies with me and several others….trying to undo a few years of over-indulgence that is perpetuated by others and the culture is a J O B. But I want to like my kids when they are grown so I will continue to teach work ethic…personal responsibility…and encourage the path of humility as I continue to grow…

  6. I actually wrote about this yesterday.

    I agree with you (my littles have chores as well and have a LOT expected of them. More than your average preschoolers), but I also didn’t think her comparisons were fair.

    We’re prepping our kids for different futures.

    I wrote about it here: http://www.asouthernmom.com/2012/06/are-my-american-kids-spoiled-are-your-american-kids-spoiled/

  7. I have to confess that I do not read all your posts. I seldom make a comment about any posts that I do read. I may be the only male to post a comment about this article. You hit a nerve with me. I just returned a few weeks ago from Cambodia where I used the Bible to teach English to primarily Khmer college students. I spent 5 weeks there. Next door to where I taught there were about 9 kids who worked at a oil change business from 4:00 am to 6:00 pm 7 days a week. They work there because their parents are poor and they can not afford to feed them in the villages where they lived. They had to send them to Phnom Penh, a major city with approximately 2 million people, to work so they can send money home to support the family. Did I mention that these kids are between the ages 13 and 16? They receive shelter and clothes but they have to buy their own food. I see them eating from street vendors. Even most adults in Cambodia work long hours 7 days a week just to survive. There are no social welfare programs in Cambodia. Each person is on their own. There is no time for sports or other recreational activites. I am afraid it is not only the kids in America who are spoiled. I believe most American adults are spoiled too. I have a good missionary friend who is now teaching these kids English using Bible stories. They need to know that God created them and that He loves and cares about them. I am sorry but the hair on the back of my neck stands up when I hear an American talk about how hard they have it.

    Gee Man

  8. I am the oldest of seven and had a mean mom, for which I am very grateful. Now I sound just like her. Lately I have found myself saying, “I didn’t ask if you *wanted* to. I told you to. Do you *want* to obey or disobey?”

  9. I definitely spoil my kids, just not in the normal way. I also am overcoming my upbringing. My parents were good parents and tried to do the right thing, but they honestly didn’t realize they legacy they would leave me. I’m trying to be different, but talk about swimming upstream.

    http://momtomanygirls.com/2012/06/my-children-are-spoiled-and-im-proud-of-it/

  10. Great post.

  11. Good post.
    It’s so frustrating as a mom to raise children in a tip-toe society. As a Christian mother it’s more bothersome.

    Thank you for addressing this epidemic, which I’ll so boldly call it that.

    My mom did everything for our household. We weren’t a Christian family but still had some values (if I may call them that). This “spoiled child” issue is not a new thing. I was appalled at 12 when asked to dry dishes. Starting young with contributing to the family is KEY!

    We dont have it all figured out but at least we are making an effort to raise our kids in a way which rebels against societies expectations…. which i may plainly state as having NONE!

    I’m in Canada, in a city and province where there is MUCH privilege. I think it’s harder raising our children here and now then on the farm 50 years ago. Just my opinion there.
    But again, thank you for not worrying about stepping on toes with this post.

  12. Great post! I start my children with simple tasks as soon as they can walk, the first being giving their siblings a cookie first before taking theirs so they begin to understand our family value of everyone doing their share. Occasionally we will get a protest to doing a task, to which I respond exactly as you do (my children’s favourite now is when I say “stiff bickies”. Most of the time they willingly do what is expected. We recently had an INITIATIVE challenge where for one week we all had to find many things for which we could take the initiative in doing… it was GREAT!! :)

  13. Stephanie says:

    I agree that kids are fairly spoiled, and that most adults are too. I think it is hard for me because I want to be able to make my kids happy, but I know that is not the reason we were put on this earth. We are here to share Christ with others. I do make my kids do chores and it always goes better if I am doing chores too. It is so beneficial for kids to learn to serve others both in their families and not.

  14. The article resonated with me, as it clearly identified the problems I see in other children and even developing (unconsciously) in our own home. So far we have 2 very little boys, and I do not want them to grow up feeling entitled. I also do not have the energy to do everything for them, particularly if we are blessed with more children. But I don’t know how to change – I always find myself either begging, bribing or over-congratulating. Any tips? Any books on the subject? By the grace of God, change is possible!

  15. I agree whole-heartedly with your post.

    As a parent of a 3yo and a 1yo, though, I struggle in practice. My husband and I have spent the last 2 years working with our older boy on bedtime. This means a 3 hour tantrum (sometimes longer) every. single. night. I spent a year trying consistency with routine to no avail. We’ve tried a year of wearing him out during the day and putting him to bed when he is tired to no avail. Occasionally, I try letting him go without a nap, but that is still a BAD IDEA. Naps also involve LONG tantrums. Losing toys and privileges has no effect. Spankings have no effect. (both in response to disobedience). Loving on him more also does not help. Diet doesn’t seem to have an impact. Mostly, we take turns holding him down to keep him a) in bed and b) from harming himself or others. It’s not like his tantruming ever results in play-time for him or anything that he enjoys. (Obviously, I’m angling for advice here).

    Between those ongoing struggles of nap and bedtime, I simply have not been able to drum up the willpower to force him into serious chores (he does help me with sweeping, and occasionally laundry or dishes–starting the washer is a “chore” of his). Prayer and Bible time help, but not that much.

    My point in this is really that neither my husband nor I had a lot experience and children watching people parent to know how to deal with these things. Neither did our parents (who are also at a loss to help us). I think that a lot of modern parents find themselves in a similar situation, where they don’t take the “road less traveled” simply because they don’t know where it is.

    • Rachel – if your son is having a 3 hour tantrum every night you need to seek some professional help. That is just not normal behavior and there could be many reasons for it. If you have not talked to your pediatrician call first thing in the morning, if you have already done that and not gotten any help then call the hospital closest to your home for a referral to someone who can help. You need to stay on this until you get the answers you need.

    • I have a lot I’ve thought about here that I could say, but mostly, I’m sorry for what you’re going through. It won’t last forever, though it feels that it will. If you are disciplining your son in a Biblical manner, then I agree with the other commenter that what you’re experiencing is not normal. Most kids don’t want to take their nap. But most that I’ve observed, (again amongst parents that child-train in a Biblical manner), will eventually just resign themselves to nap and bedtime, and fall asleep. The one thing I wanted to say is this – you said that not giving him a nap is a bad idea. How many times have you tried that? Most of my children took a 2-3 hour nap every afternoon till they were 4 years old. One of them, however, used to struggle to fall asleep for both nap AND bedtime. I eventually just quit the nap. It was AWFUL at first, because he was exhausted. But soon, he started getting used to missing the nap, and just went to bed earlier than the others. It went against my grain at first (ALL of MY children nap!), but I just realized that he was a bit different, and it worked out. Maybe you could try going without a nap for a while and see if that works. Otherwise, you may either need to learn some discipline tactics, or just maybe, there really is a problem.

      • Thank you to both of you for your comments and thoughts.

        Amy: We tried going without naps for a little over a month. A miserable. miserable month.

        My current theory is that he has incorporated the tantrumming into his bed/naptime routine, so I’m working to upset the routine–and end the bad habit. With my doctor’s help, I’ve found him an herbal sleep aid that we are using as needed for the short term. It puts him to sleep in about half an hour–meaning that he’s ready to sleep after storytime. He fusses a little, but stays in bed. The sleep aid comes in tablet form, and I dissolve half a tablet in apple juice for him. He has a little apple juice before bed every. night. (even if he doesn’t need the aid, and I haven’t included it in the juice). In theory, after a while, he should come to associate apple juice with going to sleep, so I can discontinue the sleep aid. I am not using the aid for naps, but those have been happening more easily when he has the aid at night.

        It’s only been a week, but it seems to be going well. It’s certainly working better than anything else we’ve tried.

  16. I couldn’t agree more and even still know I could do better as a parent to make certain that my kids respect myself and others. I want my children to have respect for others, especially their elders. But as a whole believe that many American parents today are missing the mark. Sad but true.

  17. I like the earlier post about how it is all relative.
    I am the daughter of an only girl, my mom had 5 older brothers, I am an only girl with 3 brothers, and I have 3 daughters and nary a boy outside of dad in the house.
    In the eyes of many I was very spoiled never having to share a room or even most toys, never dealing with hand me down clothes, etc. Basically if I wanted something I got it. BUT, I worked my behind off. I had chores from a early age, and earned enough money outside of home starting about 10 that my income had to be reported to the IRS, I starting getting a state paycheck for working and filing my own taxes in my own name at 14. Basically if I really wanted it, I bought it.
    In comparison, my mom often did not even have a room, let alone worried about sharing it, She was the daughter of farm laborers and moved 9 times between OK and CA in one school year. At twelve she was waitress in the evenings and weekends. But she has always been considered spoiled in her family. And we often joke that our husbands continued to spoil us.
    My own girls are spoiled in many ways, but I am working on the attitude of entitlement, I don’t want them to have! One way I am working on that is my own oldest daughter got her first paying job at 9. It teaches responsibility in a way that doing chores and volunteering don’t. It teaches life. If you miss a volunteer schedule, you options might be fewer, but no consequences that a child will feel and be lasting. You don’t show up to work not only do you miss the pay, but your opportunity for future pay shrinks as well.
    Don’t worry she is lawfully employed.
    It is all about being relative to your circumstances. I think I’ll share this with my oldest.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] finally, Smockity wants to know if your kids are spoiled. Mine aren’t, but there are some ways in which they might be. I blame the grandparents. [...]

  2. [...] my post, “Are Your Kids Spoiled?” I got several comments and emails wondering what exactly makes a kid spoiled and what [...]

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