A friend of mine shared this article from The New Yorker on Facebook yesterday, “Why Are American Kids So Spoiled“.
At first glance, I scoffed a bit.
Not MY American Kids. They are 3 and 5 and they have chores. They have responsibilities. Yeah, they have a lot of toys, but it’s not like we even bought half of them.
Then I read the article:
A member of another family, Yanira, asked if she could come along. Izquierdo and the others spent five days on the river. Although Yanira had no clear role in the group, she quickly found ways to make herself useful. Twice a day, she swept the sand off the sleeping mats, and she helped stack the kapashi leaves for transport back to the village. In the evening, she fished for crustaceans, which she cleaned, boiled, and served to the others. Calm and self-possessed, Yanira “asked for nothing,” Izquierdo later recalled. The girl’s behavior made a strong impression on the anthropologist because at the time of the trip Yanira was just six years old.
Um…yeah. My kids could likely sweep sand from beds. They could probably stack leaves no problem. Could they fish, clean and boil crustaceans though?
Does this mean MY American kids are spoiled?
Further down in the article you read about a 3 year old French girl who is baking cupcakes on her own:
While Druckerman and Martine are talking, in Martine’s suburban home, the daughter, now three, is baking cupcakes by herself. Bean is roughly the same age, “but it wouldn’t have occurred to me to let her do a complicated task like this all on her own,” Druckerman observes. “I’d be supervising, and she’d be resisting my supervision.”
MY American kids would not be baking cupcakes on their own at the age of 3. In fact, the thought of my kids in the kitchen using the oven/mixer/etc on their own at the age of 3 sounds kind of catastrophic. Honestly, if they wanted to bake cupcakes, I wouldn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to be in there with them. Not just to supervise, but to enjoy that time with them doing something constructive.
Does this mean my American kids are spoiled?
Then we read the author’s take on the “typical” American home:
The cycle in American households seems mostly to run in the opposite direction. So little is expected of kids that even adolescents may not know how to operate the many labor-saving devices their homes are filled with. Their incompetence begets exasperation, which results in still less being asked of them (which leaves them more time for video games). Referring to the Los Angeles families, Ochs and Izquierdo wrote, “Many parents remarked that it takes more effort to get children to collaborate than to do the tasks themselves.”
I knew how to operate every labor saving device in my household by the age of 8 or 9. My kids will likely learn even earlier.
Could I fish and use my machete to cut the weeds down in our backyard by that age though? No, probably not. In fact, I’m 29 years old and those skills still elude me 😉
I think the generalizations in this articles are a bit over the top. I’m willing to bet there are spoiled children in every culture. Children learn or don’t learn the skills they need to survive based on where they live and what’s expected of them in society. My kids have no need to learn how to use a machete right now. It’s not a survival skill they’ll need unless they choose to one day go on a safari somewhere.
My children don’t need to learn how to bake cupcakes on their own by the age of 3. It’s not something we need to focus on right now and truth be told I enjoy that time with them baking, I’m not ready to give that up in order for them to become more independent.
My children do not behave like the American children profiled in that article. If I ask them to do something, they might whine…but a quick reminder of the consequences is all it takes. Yes, they rely on me for a lot of things. Yes, I am not in a hurry for them to grow up.
Absolutely I indulge them more than a mother in a 3rd world country might indulge her own children. We’re preparing our children for different futures.
I’m not sure I’d say my children are spoiled because they don’t have the skills to survive in a 3rd world country by the age of 6.
Do I think American kids are spoiled? Of course there are spoiled American kids. Do I think all kids in America are spoiled if they can’t properly use a machete and bake their own cupcakes by the age of 3 though? Absolutely not.
Do I think MY American kids are spoiled?
In comparison to children from other countries, definitely. In comparison to other children in America, not really.
What do you think? Did the article rub you the wrong way? Or do you agree with it? Are YOUR American kids spoiled?