Why Are American Kids So Spoiled?


I like that I can couch my laziness as “helping my children to succeed”. So I don’t need to feel guilty about making them fold clothes (7-yo), put them away (4-yo) and put dirty ones in the hamper (2-yo) or making them clear dinner table, empty dishwasher, help unload the car with groceries, put groceries away, sweep (as much as a 2-yo can) and vacuum (as well as a 4-yo can) and cut strawberries (7&4-yo).

Yay!! I’m not lazy; I’m just being a GREAT mother.

Trust me, kids, you’ll thank me when you’re older.
It is nearly always more trouble to teach someone howbto do a task than it is just to do the task oneself. The value in teaching it is the future payoff in that person being able to do the task AND in the independence that confers. Sounds like some parents need to learn to take the long view.
@1, Sounds like you're doing a wonderful job.
I met a teenager who did not know how to operate a can opener. Oh, but she was on the honour roll!
Fuck you guys. How am I supposed to waste my days on Slog if I'm teaching the goddamn kids how to tie their shoes? Let the TV do that.

Anything that brings us closer to the extinction of the human race is fine by me.
American children are the worst, as a result of dipshit American child rearing practices. Kids are treated like little princes and grow up to be entitled narcissists. Given the way we raise humans around here, it isn't any surprise that Americans continue to butt fuck the planet with their gluttonous consumption habits. We're all so *special* that different rules apply to us, didn't you know?
I hope this gets like that one "Monsoon brunch" thread that one time. So many juicy anecdotes from witnesses to high-intensity parenting on the Hill.
I remember going to college back in 1997 and being shocked at how few of my classmates knew how to do basic things like laundry.

Is it actually worse now, or are people just whining about stupid kids again?
Can anyone under 30 drive a stick shift?
People have been whining about "kids these days" ever since there have been kids to whine about. We all just want to feel like our generation is superior to the next one. But hey, at least they were able to work in a jab at Video Games, because we all know they destroyed our generation.
Ever been to an Occupy Seattle protest? Room full of crayon chewing, self-esteem hungry, entitled crybabies who expect someone else to do their lifting in life.
Liberal, well-meaning helicopter parents are just as bad as those overprotective, conservative nutjob parents who won't let their kids do anything: both camps deprive young people of a breadth of experience and emotion you need to be a functional adult in this world.
I love how people without kids think they know a damn thing about parenting.
I'm so tolerant, i send my kids to Homosexual Camp every summer.
How shitty does a parent have to be before someone without kids is allowed to think they're a shitty parent?
@1 My fave thing about internwebz comment threadz: No bad parents ever post in them. And perhaps related: Every parent who does post has the best lil snowflakes ever.

@14 since i've never been president, i'm not qualified to vote for one then, correct?
@14 Parents don't know all that much either.

Basically, none of us know wtf we're doing and we're stumbling along, hoping that all the moons align and luck wins out and we end up not fucking up these little humans too badly.
@17 My kids are amazing. They're funny and sweet and well behaved and obnoxious and noisy and respectful and rude and smart and oblivious and helpful and beautiful and quirky and annoying and unkempt and delightful and frustrating.

Basically, they’re humans. All children are at one moment the best kids in the world and the next moment the brats in the supermarket line.

I thought I had made clear in @1 that I don’t think I’m a great parent. I know I could be doing so much better. I was expressing my relief that maybe on this one thing I haven’t screwed up too badly.
"All children are at one moment the best kids in the world and the next moment the brats in the supermarket line."

No, sorry pal. The brats in the supermarket line are just *American* kids. Travel, live abroad, or talk to *any* person who wasn't raised in this country and they will all tell you that American kids are entitled little monsters. Again, look at the overarching result. USA = 7% of the world's population, consuming 30% of the world's resources. Nom, nom, nom... we're SPECIAL.

These articles and study synopsis show that the behavior of children is not a problem only in America. Children in other countries are still children and sometimes act like children. They are not little adults. The difference is how the adults around them react and teach.

BTW, it’s not the children deciding which refrigerator to buy or how often to run the dishwasher or whether to drive to the park or walk, or whether to use A/C in the office buildings or occ sensors in the house. You can’t blame children for using the world’s resources.
@20 So what are your children like?
I showed this article to my 9 year old daughter a couple days ago; her main take away was that machetes are awesome.

Have you traveled, lived abroad or talked to anyone who wasn't raised in this country yet? No. Instead, you took a minute and googled a couple of randomly selected articles on the subject that confirmed your biases. Wow, you're so educated, wise and worldly. You are a true American, if there ever was one! Textbook example of what makes the rest of their world roll their eyes at us. Go USA! Keep shitting out those no-necks!
@24 You're trying to pick a fight where there isn't one.
@ 10, do they even still make cars with stick shifts?

@ 17, if all the world's children were like mine, all suffering would cease to be.

@ 24, I knew I had to unhide you when I saw your name three times. The absolute WORST behaved child I ever saw was Chinese, not American. And I don't mean ethnicity, I mean the child of a Chinese tourist. Just running absolutely wild in a way that put every other restaurant brat to shame. Not one lick of concern from his parents.

Pop! Your viewpoint deflated with a single pinprick of one story.

Have fun, darling. I'm going to hide you again now.
Here's another very related article about how Swiss parents let their kids run around in the forest with saws and tools and fire... at 3 years old.


@14 Exactly.
@25: Come on, it's way more expensive to travel around the world than to find a scientific study conducted by experts, so @24's anecdotes clearly  trump your actual data.

It occurs to me that, for tens or hundreds of thousands of years now, we've been selecting for children who survive being raised by parents who have no real idea what they're doing. Probably your kids will end up fine.
@14 - I don't drive a car, but I can see when it's being done badly.
@27 that'll help me relax when I take my kids camping. Thx.

@29 that's my hope. if all esle fails, no worries, Confluence can use them as anecdotes in his tirades. win/win.
You know, doing (some) stuff for your kid is the norm in some parts of the world. It's a problem in international admissions for colleges because the parents have employed the services of a professional to complete the admissions process for them, especially to elite institutions. Of course, those students are also from the upper social strata in their country of origin so they'll turn up in the international student office after a week or two and ask when the maid will be in, but that's a different sort of cross-cultural miscommunication.

As to why they're doing it, it's because the consequences for failure are so high. Your school isn't raising their test results constantly (which is impossible without cheating the system BTW)? Cut their funding! You didn't grasp this difficult concept on the first attempt? There goes your 4.0 and any hope you had of getting in to a good school.

Children (and adults) need to fail a lot to learn stuff. There's no space for that any more. It's disheartening and disturbing.
Yeah, Plato said the same thing.
@10: I am under 30 and love driving a manual transmission, and it is all I will ever drive, as long as I have a choice. Driving an automatic is like driving a damn golf cart.

@24: So American kids are the only kids in the world who behave poorly. Duly noted. Moron. Also, I am not a "love it or leave it" type of person, but if you truly hate America and its citizens so much, why don't you just leave?

@26: Yes, they still make manual cars, because they get better gas mileage, are cheaper, and some people prefer them. You usually have to ask to see one specifically, or call the dealership to get them to order one for you if you have a particular model/color you want.
@13 Agreed. In both extremes, parents put their kids in a bubble to protect them from any kind of challenging situation or emotion. So the kids never learn, for lack of a concise term, how to be a person.

@14 I may not be a parent yet, but I know enough teachers, coaches, and activities instructors to understand the negative impact of helicopter parenting, however well-meaning. You deprive a young person of something important if they never learn how to fail or how to struggle through adversity. And beyond that, when a parent throws a tantrum because their little Precious isn't the greatest at everything (which is obviously the teacher's/coach's fault in their mind), they create a distraction that diverts attention and energy away from the other kids for the sake of satisfying that parent's ego, which is selfish and unfair to the other families.

Really, it must suck to be the child of a helicopter parent. Your teachers probably love you, your coaches probably love you, your instructors probably love you, but it's always tempered by their sense of dread at having to deal with your overbearing parents who can't just let them do their jobs. Sad.
The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers. -Socrates

Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each. –Plato

Education is teaching our children to desire the right things. –Plato

The young people of today think of nothing but themselves. They have no reverence for parents or old age. They are impatient of all restraint. They talk as if they alone knew everything and what passes for wisdom with us is foolishness with them. As for girls, they are forward, immodest and unwomanly in speech, behaviour and dress. -not sure, but it's from a long time ago

And just because I like this one:
If women are expected to do the same work as men, we must teach them the same things. –Plato

Yes. You're so worldly. Remind us how there aren't any fat people in Africa.

My niece couldn't use one 15 years ago, because she was accustomed to using an electric can opener.

And do you think that being an honor student might have something to do with it? Like that kid is too busy trying not to be a failure as an adult? For more information, read #32.
As an adult who married one of those kids whose parents did everything for them instead of putting the effort out to teach them how to function in a home like an adult, I fucking hate those parents. Yeah, getting your kid to learn how to clean a bathroom sucks, but at least their future spouse won't want to gutpunch you every time the toilet needs to get cleaned.
Taking time to teach children essential life skills is simple parenting. It takes about 2 hours to teach someone how to wash and dry clothes. It takes about 10 seconds to say "Well, if you had done your laundry, you wouldn't smell like a homeless person, Dakota. Perhaps next time you'll plan ahead." I think people want their kids to like them rather than respect them. They're your kids, not your buddies, folks. there's a difference.
"Have you traveled, lived abroad or talked to anyone who wasn't raised in this country yet"

Hello there. Lived overseas 30 yrs, 6 different countries, speak 3 languages. American kids are fine. It's the thug kids who are the problem here. middle class American kids are generally perfectly polite.
Btw American kids consume more because they come from
a wealthier and more productive country than a low carbon footprint country like, say, bangladesh.
Upper-Class People Problems.
I knew people who would put diapers on their toilet-trained four-year-old son before trips to the mall so they wouldn't have to bother taking him to the bathroom. They may not have brought America down singlehandedly but they had to be part of the problem.
@4 I once had a 20 year old roommate who had NO idea how to use a can opener, and even worse, he couldn't figure it out! He also threw screaming-and-breaking things tantrums when he didn't get his way. He was not my roommate for long.

@38 at least in my example the can opener-challenged was a really mediocre student barely squeaking through college because he would rather play video games
@38 I don't really think you can make the case that someone is too busy to learn to use a can opener. It's not a scheduled activity.

"Mom, can I skip my can opener lessons tonight? I need to study"
I concur entirely. Parents must teach their kids how to use the washing machine et al. Learning how to get one's work/schoolwork done AND take care of oneself is a life skill.

@45 I was lucky. When my roommate couldn't figure out how to shut off the stove, he just asked me. (But we were Ivy.)
@14 If someone's kid is having a screaming tantrum in a public place, I do get to wonder "What is a two-year-old doing in a mall at 10:45 p.m. on a weeknight?"

(Answer: I've heard that many daycares make children sleep in the afternoon so that the parents can interact with them in the evenings. Is it true?)
@DRF @48 How old are children in daycare in the US ? Because a child needs at least a mid-afternoon nap up until 4 or 5-years-old, or in some cases, older.

French kindergarten schools have sleeping rooms to accomodate for the afternoon nap in the first year (3 to 4) ; second year (4 to 5) they get a "quiet time" in the afternoon, when the curtains are drawn and kids are engaged to rest or sleep on cushions in the classroom ; third year (5 to 6) there is work in the afternoon too. It has nothing to do with accomodating the parents - not letting a small child have its afternoon nap is frowned upon, and considered by most, including myself, as ill-treatment. Such young children should be in bed by 8 or 9 anyway.

@47 I totally agree. My 13-years-old son can already make his own meal by himself if needed - he can cook pasta, eggs and steak, he knows how lettuce and tomatoes are prepared. He sometimes surprises me with "playing restaurant" - he does the cooking and his sister does the serving for the rest of us. He still doesn't know which one is the washing machine and which one is the drying one, but I'll make sure he knows that before he leaves for college - thanks for reminding me ;)
@DRF @48

On your other point, I think #14 may have experienced what many parents, especially isolated parents like me, often come to experience : a judgemental non-parent coming up to us, to declare that we are badly parenting our children, by pointing out model behaviours at which they fail, that even most adults don't routinely exhibit (like entirely finishing off a plate of food they dislike, or absolutely keeping without any moving or talking during an entire hour-long boring talk). It's not helpful. Parenting is hard work, long work, it takes years to show results, it's not something magically simple that we are too stupid to instantly get.

Of course even a non-parent can spot instances of bad parenting... but it's not always what it seems.

Let's take your example : what if the single parent of the two-year-old at 10:45 PM in the mall had just been back from the local clinic because an older child has been hit at school and needed a radio and there was such a waiting line - and that parent had planned to go to the groceries that day, because the fridge was empty since there had been no time for groceries on other days because of work - and thus the parent had ended up going late evening to the mall to feed everyone ? It's happened to me once or twice. I didn't like it and I felt bad, but better get food and eat too late than not eat.

Stupid tricky situations like that do happen to parents. As long as a parent strives to do his/her best parenting for the children despite his/her circumstances, that parent is OK in my book.
"Anything that brings us closer to the extinction of the human race is fine by me."

What is your address?
(kidding, only kidding...)
@50: I totally agree that things aren't always what they seem and non-parents should spare their judgement. Actually, coming from a dysfunctional family myself, I believe that more often then not, the "dysfunctional" behavior one sees in public is just an ordinary family under extraordinary circumstances, while the actually dysfunctional family tries much harder to keep up appearances. I know that no one ever guessed that my mother was an abusive alcoholic, we always looked like the picture perfect family of five.
As a teacher I have to point out that this phenomenon is confined to the middle to upper class. The poor kids I teach - 8th graders - are taking care of their younger siblings (often missing school to do so), cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, and many times caring for their parents who have substance abuse problems. They're responsible for more than any 13 year old should have to be and their own education often suffers for it.
@Katy, glad you made the point about class. Rich people have a greater sense of entitlement no matter their age.

Also, society would use less resources if all the people worried about using resources would stop using resources.
@50 This particular family looked to be hanging out, not rushing from place to place, but I do see kids there a lot. The later it is, the more likely that the under-threes are screaming.

As for daycare age, in the U.S., kindergarten starts no earlier than four, usually five. Kindergartens usually have "nap time," which doesn't last long, and no one actually sleeps.
In sum: everyone who is reading this article is better than everyone who is currently grocery shopping with two kids under the age of 6 right now... my viewpoint on child rearing is so valid even though I have no kids... I get to rant about others being so entitled that it's crippling them even though I am blind to my own entitlement because I think my brain is so superior... other countries are so much better than America even though I'd never really consider moving because this is my home but I'd rather trash it than try to lift it up or do one thing for any other person...


Also: let them struggle. Life often has a lot of struggling. They'll learn all those lessons, just much later, much quicker, and much more painfully.
@53 Friendstastegood I'm sad that you come from a dysfunctionnal family too. There are many of us around, trying not to pass it on to the next generation.

I agree that dysfunctionnal families do hide pretty well their behaviour, the more dysfunctionnal the more hidden. But in some cases the parents don't even have a clue that their parenting is wrong, and they don't hide it at all - and some parents think they are above everybody else and that nobody will ever dare to confront them. So - not all dysfuntionnal public behavior is innocent.

@54 Katy The plight of children in poor classes is the basic argument for social state help in my country. Giving money and a home to their parents is intented for the children to be able to concentrate enough on their studies, to find a path out of poverty for themselves.

@56 DRF I'm sure that most of the time, young children out late are due to parents who couldn't care less, and that's what you've seen at the mall. Over here too there are parents who do the same. I was, rather clumsily, trying to jump on your example to make the point that parenting is not a bed of roses, and that one can end up doing not-very-good parenting because of circumstances.

I think there should be parenting classes included in the basic education, at highschool level for example. Also relationship classes. It would save a lot of hurt.
This is a very interesting column. I am currently a tutor of special-needs students and I have one client who is Chinese. The little girl I work with turned 13 in February but can't do anything for herself. Her mom insisted on her getting braces even though she can't take care of her teeth properly--and everyone knows what braces food traps are!! But she got the braces anyway and her mom brushes her teeth for her, but I would not be surprised if her mouth isn't full of cavities by the time she gets the braces off because the oral hygiene is so inconsistent. I have come to the conclusion, after 2 years of working with this girl, that the reason she needs an IEP is not because she lacks the ability so much (she can do it if she wants to), but because she lacks the attention span and is not required to do ANYTHING. Apparently, her mom even picks out her clothes the night before for her to wear because she cannot do that either. The issue is not the student's ability, but the parenting she has received, in which she's constantly yelled at, but not taught to do anything.