Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Nation of Spoiled Brats

Last year was the year of the Tiger Mom.

Considering the violent reaction to Amy Chua’s book it comes as no surprise that American children, in Elizabeth Kolbert’s phrase, are “spoiled rotten.”

The Tiger Mom inculcated values of hard work and discipline in her daughters. America’s parents were offended: how could the Tiger Mom not be spoiling her children? 

Privileged and pampered, cuddled and coddled, imperious and impudent, entitled and vainglorious America’s children have become spoiled brats.

According to the books that Kolbert is reviewing, America’s children not being brought up. They are not being taught the habits that would make them productive and responsible adults.

In fact, they are taught habits that will make them slothful, irresponsible adults.

Kolbert offers a picture from family life in Los Angeles:

In the L.A. families observed, no child routinely performed household chores without being instructed to. Often, the kids had to be begged to attempt the simplest tasks; often, they still refused. In one fairly typical encounter, a father asked his eight-year-old son five times to please go take a bath or a shower. After the fifth plea went unheeded, the father picked the boy up and carried him into the bathroom. A few minutes later, the kid, still unwashed, wandered into another room to play a video game.

Clearly, the father is uncomfortable exercising authority. His son has learned it and is happy to exploit it. A father lacking authority is reduced to asking his son, nicely to take a shower. His rules are made for breaking.

Here’s another cringe-inducing moment:

In another representative encounter, an eight-year-old girl sat down at the dining table. Finding that no silverware had been laid out for her, she demanded, “How am I supposed to eat?” Although the girl clearly knew where the silverware was kept, her father got up to get it for her.

Her wish is his command. How do you think that this girl will fare when she brings the same bad manners into school, the workplace, or an eventual relationship?

These parents seem to believe that children must be allowed to do what they please as they please when they please. They are even afraid to utter the word No.

Living in Paris and bringing up her daughter in the American style, Pamela Druckerman noticed that in any gathering hers was always the most ill-behaved child.

What were French parents doing that she was not doing? Why, they were saying No and meaning it.

In what world would it never cross your mind to say No to a child and mean it?

It appears that these parents have become servants whose purpose in life is to cater to their children’s every whim.

Everyone wants to know how we got into this mess, so let’s indulge in some speculation.

To some extent it depends on the fact that people are having fewer children. An only child is more likely to be spoiled that is a child who has siblings.

But there must be more to it.

Let us first hold the parenting experts responsible. After all, parents want the best for their children. In this day and age they means following advice from child-rearing experts, the credentialed authorities.

The result is that parents no longer trust their own judgment. They no longer rely on a set of moral precepts. They have outsourced authority to a crew of psychologists and developmental experts. And they have never considered the possibility that these men and women of science might be purveying an ideology.

Last year American parents were directing their anger and anguish at the Tiger Mom because, among other things, she dared to bring up her daughters using her own judgment and the moral teachings of Confucius.

Apparently, our current experts believe that happiness means never feeling frustration. They seem to be advising parents to do everything in their power to meet a child’s needs and to satisfy his desires. Otherwise, why would these parents be doing what they are doing.

Finally, the fault lies in our gender-bending, gender-neutering culture. As a culture we refuse to recognize the difference between men and women, fathers and mothers. Thus we have undermined the structure of the family and have produced a nation of spoiled brats.

The children Kolbert writes about have neither mothers and fathers. When eight-year-olds condescend to adults it seems that their parents are glorified servants, like the eunuchs who used to serve the Emperor and Emperor in ancient China.

In more contemporary parlance we no longer identify people as men and women, with distinct and defined roles in society. Everyone is a person. In place of motherhood and fatherhood we have the aberrant notion of personhood.

For the record, the word “personhood” is a recent ideological concoction. I looked it up in a fifty-year-old copy of the Oxford English Dictionary and it was not there.

As a culture we have acquiesced to the blurring of gender roles in the name of a specious notion like gender equality. We bow down to the goddesses of feminism by declaring that there is no real difference between men and women.

In the old pre-feminist days mother and father were distinct and clearly defined roles.

Mothers made homes and nurtured children; fathers protected and provided for their families. Mothers offered unconditional love; fathers imposed discipline and authority.

Of course, defined roles did not prevent fathers from helping around the house or women from working outside the home. Nor did they prevent fathers from loving their children or mothers from exercising authority.

But then feminism found that these roles oppressed women. They placed the blame on the patriarchy, thus with fatherly authority.

They instructed women, in name of liberation, to rebel against the patriarchy, thus to undermine and disrespect male authority.

Today, fathers have been relegated to the status of co-caregivers; their word does not count; they are neither feared nor respected.

Is it really a surprise that eight-year-olds treat their fathers with contempt. 

Why do they do it and how do they get away with it?

They do it because fathers who have abrogated their authority deserve contempt.

These fathers accept contempt because they know that they deserve it.

But, you will be thinking, can’t women also exercise authority? Of course, they can and they do. In the home, however, their success in doing so, to say nothing of their confidence, depends on the extent to which they do it in a father’s name.

If a woman is bringing up a child in a fatherless household, no matter how definitive and determined she is, her child will have a great deal of difficulty respecting any authority. It’s the story of America’s inner cities.


n.n said...

To dream the impossible dream... of instant gratification (i.e. material, physical, ego) without consequence.

The consequence is, of course, a decadent civilization in decline.

Everyone had a cause. The indigent (and opportunists) desired redistribution. The "minorities" desired retribution. The women desired to be freed from the shackles of the natural order. People generally desired to have their egos massaged. Everyone wanted the beachfront property in Hawaii. The outcome is predictably dysfunctional.

Anonymous said...

Amen, Brother Spiderman (that's my little kid's name for you; I read your posts to him and he is better for it).

With just the whiff of force and authority in the air, my wife and I found we never have to actually use force to get sweet compliance; Example and Trust win out.

I suggest that many of the wretched parents in that article are lacking wholly in self-discipline and set a bad example in total, as you've noted. I would never let another human, let alone a child, treat me like that.

Children begin, as we all do, as rough little beasts ready to follow the path-of-least-resistance with a bent towards laziness, squalor and ignorance. A parents' gift is to turn them from willful inadequacy and indolence into a man or woman who can follow the better angels of their nature.

Around here, Mommy is tough-as-nails and we back each other completely. I fulfill the silverback gorilla role of the pack.

We are not raising children. We are raising adults. I actually like them, and so would you if you had the good fortune of meeting them.

Thanks for the good post. Keep it up. I come here for a daily blast of sanity and reason.


Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thanks Gray... glad to hear that your boy is doing so well. I would offer him the official Spiderman greeting, but, alas, I don't know what it is... so the best I can do is to ask you please to send him my very best.

Dennis said...

The sad part here is that RAP is like a scream in the night that yells loudly that "We are being denied our fathers, our image of being male and our respect as black males." Why would so much of RAP be couched in terms that show very little respect for women and so much distain for them as well.
Much like the Kelly Clarkson revenge lyrics, RAP is building the same case for revenge. An aside here. Isn't it interesting that, outside of RAP, most music composed and written by males is about the love they feel for a woman and most songs written and composed by women is about revenge. "These Boots Are Made For Walking," et al.
It should not surprise that the Doctor Spock generation would produce a nation of spoiled brats. I remember when we were bring up children that I loathed Spock for his "Mary had a little lamb" approach to child rearing. To provide space for children to grow and meet challenges is one thing, but to leave them without adult supervision is neglect and child abuse.
It is how we learn to deal with the limitation and rules of a family that we learn to deal with the every day challenges of life. I suspect that is why we have so many addictive personalities. Once they "hit the wall" they have no other means of coping. It is not like their parents demonstrated any "coping" skills.
The 60's generation is responsible for a large percentage of the problems we face today. They were not called the "Me Generation" for nothing.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thanks, Dennis, for bringing up Dr. Spock. I am not very well informed about all of his ideas but I do know that every mother in America read his book and followed his advice.

Which suggests to me that he was one of the first "experts" who told parents not to trust their judgement but to trust experts.

I suspect, as you say, that his influence has been very bad indeed, not only on the generation that was brought up according to his rules, but on the generation that came after.