A recent article posted in the New Yorker Magazine has received a good bit of press because of the powerful statement that American kids suffer the fate of being incredibly spoiled. The author sites too many examples to retell here, but from 6 year olds with iPods and cell phones to the incredible market for “kiddie couture” (e.g., Burberry Baby - c’mon y’all…really?), the point she makes is pretty compelling.
Amazon (THE Amazon, not .com) vs. LA
She tells the story of an anthropologist from Los Angeles who spent some time with a small tribe in the Amazon researching how the family structure worked and what roles kids played. In contrast with the “spoiled” brats (my word, but you will agree when you read the story) she researched in LA, the 6 year olds in the Amazon were helping with the daily needs of the tribe. They were integral to the daily progress of the family. They did so without asking. They cleaned, cooked, hunted for food, and maintained the living area by sweeping the sand off the sleeping mats (twice day…yeah, I know). By the time the kids were in early adolescence, they were able to manage everything for themselves. They were built to survive in a world much more difficult than the neighborhoods of Main Street America (MUCH more difficult, they lived in the Amazon for crying out loud).
Do our kids really have it “good?”
Reading the story, you might sit back and say, “man, our kids have it GOOOOD.” But, do they really?
There is a story about a kid who, before leaving the house demanded his father to untie his shoe and demanded for him to tie it back once he put it on. The demands were interrupted only by the father telling the son to “ask nicely.” Ug
Keeping them comfy
I have written several things about this situation: a mother whose only desire was to make sure her kids were “happy,” had done the exact opposite, problems with trying to reason with tantrummy 5 year olds, and parents who potentially create separation anxiety by trying to make sure their kids are always happy when leaving them. But, there is a bigger issue here and it is the issue of dependency and expectation.
“What do you need?”
Wow, I wish I knew how many times I have said this. I wonder how many times parents (myself included) have asked the question and offered help when it really would have been better for the kid to figure it out by himself. “Let me help you with that” is a slight variation of this.
Every now and then, I have moments where I have the foresight to say to myself “let him do it…” or “she is completely capable of doing that” as I occupy myself in an attempt to look busy and coach myself not to intervene.
What happens, much more often than not, is the kids end up doing it by themselves. Figuring it out, working through it, and experiencing the benefits of not only the end result, but the struggle itself. “Whew…that was tough!” A calming celebration.
Parent or entertainer?
Sometimes we feel like a little of both, but maybe we should do more of the first and less of the latter. I also recently saw a list of 25 Reasons NOT to keep your children busy this summer that proves this point. So much are the benefits of backing away!