There was a fascinating article in the July issue of The New Yorker magazine that asked the question, “Why do kids rule the roost?” It was an interesting comparison between the typical American kid, and a typical six year old girl who lived in the Peruvian Amazon.
The author described a six year old girl, named Yanira, who asked to join another family as they took a five day leaf gathering trip down the Urubamba River. She had no role to fill in the group–she was just along for the trip. But she quickly found ways to make herself useful. She swept the sand off of the sleeping mats and stacked the leaves the adults were gathering. In the evening, she fished for dinner and cleaned, boiled the fish, and served it to the others. No one told her what to do–she just did it. At her young age, she had learned to be responsible.
Compare that experience, which is common in those more primitive cultures, with what goes on in a typical American home with kids about the same age. Often, kids have to be begged by the parents to do even the most simple tasks, such as washing their hands. An eight year old girl sits down to dinner and has no silverware. She asks, “How am I supposed to eat?” and her father gets her the silverware, even though the little girl knew where it was.
In a survey by Time Magazine and CNN, two-thirds of American parents think that their children are spoiled. I’ve always said you can’t spoil a one-year old, but you can certainly spoil a two-year old. Parents need to learn how not to get concerned when their teen-ager is bored, or when their eight year old can’t eat because she won’t get up to get some silverware.
Spoiled kids become perennial adolescents. Nothing is more hurtful than to see your 40 year old adult child acting like a 15 year old. Yet that is the consequence our kids may face when we spoil them when they’re our children. They may not be involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement, or the recent Los Angeles Occupy Skid Row, but they may share the entitlement values taught by well-meaning parents to their eight year-old son or daughter.
I’ve also found it is never too late to help your grown kid finish growing up. Letting them deal with the consequences of their behavior is a good place to begin. It’s hard on today’s parents, but find a group of other parents who share the same concerns and become a support for each other. I’ve been there, and couldn’t have done it without support.
Make sense? What other ways can we teach our children responsibility?