How would you make yourself useful if you went along on a voyage up a rainforest river? Yanira, of Amazonian Peru’s Matsigenka people, knew what to do. She swept, tidied the plants being collected on the trip, and caught crayfish and prepared them for her fellow passengers. Yanira was six years old when an anthropologist recorded her story.
This little girl is like very few American children. Several new books on the subject note that today’s kids are indulged, spoiled, and coddled like no generation before them. The result, they say, is widespread incompetence. American teens may have mountains of gadgets with which to entertain themselves, but they may not know how to operate a washing machine if they’ve never done their own laundry. Studies of American households reveal that parents have to beg their children to do chores and allow their kids to disobey reasonable demands. Many parents finally complete the tasks themselves rather than deal with the hassle of a lazy, rebellious kid. Throughout their children’s school years, far too many parents remove obstacles that might trip up their offspring. Then the parents go on to manage their kids’ college careers and even accompany them to job interviews. The outcome, according to one researcher, is a nation of “adultescents”—adults who still function as adolescents.
One psychologist sees the cause of such overparenting in parents’ attempt to get their kids into the best universities so that they can have successful careers. She asks if we are defining achievement too narrowly. She warns that we are running the risk of raising a generation that is more prone to emotional, psychological, and academic problems.
Of course, many teenagers routinely do chores around the house and even work paying jobs so they can contribute to their families’ expenses. Although their lives may be harder now, the research indicates that these teens will have a better chance of succeeding when they do reach adulthood.
Image credit: © Sven Hagolani/Corbis
- Spoiled Rotten: Why Do Kids Rule the Roost?
This article includes book reviews on the topic and explores issues related to “adultescence” and differences in child-rearing practices around the world.
(Source: The New Yorker, July 2, 2012)
- Slouching toward Adulthood: Observations from the Not-So-Empty Nest.
Check out this review of Slouching toward Adulthood.
(Source: USA Today Books, June 12, 2012)
Teach Your Children Well
Read more about Madeline Levine’s advice for parents.
(Source: Kirkus Reviews, June 12, 2012)
At Freshman Orientation, Helping Mom and Dad Let GoThis page about “helicopter parents” and their college-bound kids includes a video interview with the article’s author, Sanette Tanaka.
(Source: Wall Street Journal, July 24, 2012)