Spoiled (not so) Rotten

You have to be careful when you are talking about other people’s rotten kids.

Even to define what it means to have a “good” kid or a “bad” kid can be tricky.  It’s broad terminology.

Regardless, I couldn’t help but ponder a comment I heard about an obviously “bad” kid who had grown into a bad man.  The comment was that his grandparents had raised him and they had “always bought him anything he wanted.”

There was tons of heavy implication within this comment, laid on with a skill that only the elderly Southern lady possesses.  I, being skilled in interpreting this clandestine dialect, understood what was really being said.  The boy had been “spoiled” by his grandparents and so had turned out to be no good as an adult.

This got me thinking.  Does buying too many things for our children turn them into bad people?  I have always seen the clichéd images of the over-indulged child throughout my life.  The greatest and most recent, of course, being Dudley Dursley.  This is archetype of the “bad” child.  He has too much of everything.  He is bought too much, fed too much, simply given too much. As a result, he (or she) is spoiled.

I’ll be honest.  This comment hit me on a personal level.

I have always been guilty of overbuying.  I’ve never mortgaged my house to buy my kids something, but if it was in the budget and there was something cool they wanted, or even something cool I thought they might like to have, I probably got it for them.

I love technology and gadgets, so we always have the latest iPhones and iPads.  The Boy likes Nike shoes, and I got him a pair.  I guess I just never really thought of it as a big deal.

Now, The Boy is 16.  He got his first job this summer and is working hard.  He does very well in school.  So, we got him a car.  It’s cheap, it’s small, and it’s not at the top of anyone’s dream car list, but it is new, it gets great gas mileage, and it is his.

So I ask, have we been doing things wrong?

If I go by what society (and some family members) tell me, then we have spoiled children.  But the funny thing is, they don’t act like spoiled children.

Obviously, my daughter doesn’t really fit into a simple mold, be it spoiled or not spoiled or anything else, but my son is pretty much a typical 16-year-old boy.  However, I happen to think he is an exceptional 16-year-old boy.

He is compassionate and kind.  Little kids are drawn to him like moths to a flame.  He pretends like this annoys him, but I know he loves them and it brings him joy.  He is one of the most generous people I have ever met.  I honestly don’t think he has a selfish bone in his body. He works hard and is so smart.

I don’t think it is what we buy our kids that makes them who they are.  I think it is what we teach them.  You could buy them things and they could be little brats.  However, you could also buy them things but still demand that they treat people with respect, and do their chores, and behave a certain way.

Ultimately, it really isn’t anyone’s business what you do or don’t buy for your kids.  I think we are all probably guilty of overbuying, especially in this modern age of “stuff.”  But the responsibility of raising respectful, responsible children remains the same.

It seems to me blaming the “stuff” is taking the easy way out.  It’s easy to blame something superficial like “spoiled” rather than say, “his grandmother let him speak disrespectfully to her all of the time” or “he was never responsible for anything around the house.”

So yes, I think you can spoil your children.  But I think you spoil them not by giving them too many material things, but by not giving them enough of what we all need to be decent adults:  discipline.

What do you think?

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Shoot ‘Em (or their laptop, anyway)

I have no idea why I continue to watch morning news programs, other than the fact they provide me with excellent blog material.  My personality, which is dubious at any time, is at its lowest ebb early in the morning, so I always end up getting mad.

Usually the source of my a.m. rage is a politician (usually Newt Gingrich) or some stupid commentator (usually Nancy Grace).  However, this morning my ire came from an unusual source: Dr. Nancy Snyderman.

For those of you who don’t know, the usually benign Dr. Snyderman is the medical director for NBC news.  Apparently she’s expanding into the field of social commentary, because she was on a panel with a couple of others this morning offering opinions about various topics.  Right at the end, with like one minute left, Matt Lauer asked what they thought about the dad who shot his daughter’s laptop.

Now, for those of you who haven’t been in touch with the world much lately, I’ll give you the highly abridged version: a teenage girl blocked her parents from Facebook, then wrote a letter on there about how horrible her life was because she had to (gasp!) do chores without pay.  She criticized her mother, father, and used foul language.  Naturally word got back to her dad, and he reacted by posting a video on YouTube.  He read her letter, made a few remarks, and then proceeded to shoot “her” laptop with a pistol.

So anyway, the reaction has been huge and mixed.  With only seconds remaining, Dr. Snyderman said, “CPS should be at their house today.

Lots of arguments have been made about whether this was good parenting, bad parenting, genius, psychotic–I’ve seen it all.  I’ve entertained myself for hours by reading the comments of others.  But nothing, nothing, has got under my skin like this comment by the good doctor.

CPS?  Really?  We could all have a good debate about whether not this dad overreacted.  It’s possible.  Obviously, temper is a genetic issue in that family.  But CPS?  Calling this man a bad father?  He didn’t threaten physical harm to his daughter, or even call her bad names, although if I was in his shoes, I can testify that both of these things would probably cross my mind.

People like Dr. Nancy Synderman (said with no irony whatsoever, I assure you) are what is happening to our kids.  Have you looked around at kids lately?  I don’t want to sound like one of those old people who talk about “kids today,” but really, I think the fact is most kids have a total disconnect with reality.  I know my own son does, and I know it’s my fault.  He, too, feels as though he should receive some compensation for doing chores or helping out around the house.

Here’s a crazy thought for all of you poor kids out there: you do your chores because you are a member of your family, a member of the household, and mostly because your parents told you to!  How can a child be raised to be a contributing member of society when they can’t even be taught to be a contributing member of their own family?  How can they learn selflessness and empathy when they think it’s “unfair” to be asked to take out the garbage?  Guess what?  There doesn’t have to be a reason.  At the end of the day, I’m the parent, and I call the shots.  That’s it.

I’m also not a big preacher of all of that “real world” stuff, because I think kids are exposed more and more to the real world than they should ever be at an early age, but has anyone else noticed that it’s usually the kids that are handed the most that are the most ungrateful?  One of the comments I read about this video even had something to do with destruction of property and respecting a kid’s things.

Destruction of property? I wonder who bought that computer he shot?  I wonder who pays the cell phone bill, or who pays for the Internet service provider?  My son and I had this rather hot and brief discussion a few weeks ago.  He password protected his phone.  I told him to take the password off immediately.  He said, “It’s my phone.”  I said, “Um, actually, I bought it and I pay the bill.  So I think that makes it my phone that I’m allowing you to use.”  There was some huffing and puffing, but guess what?  There is no damn password on the boy’s phone.  And the day he blocks me on Facebook?  That will be the last day he uses Facebook. (I wouldn’t shoot the computer, though–I paid too much for it.)  If he wrote some dirty-mouthed letter on Facebook about me?  I can’t say what I’d do, because I don’t know.  I know I’d be mad.  I’ve seen comments from people who say they don’t get mad at their kids.  They talk reasonably to them, then they go outside and feed their pet unicorn together.  The point is, kids are not entitled to these fancy things–they are a privilege, and privileges have to be earned, and can easily be revoked.  We just have to have the guts to do it.

So do I agree with shooting a computer?  In a word, yes.  I wouldn’t do it personally, but I will never judge the man who did it.  He was fed up.  He wanted to make a strong point, and I think he did.  We are always threatening, “if you don’t do blah blah blah I’m going to blah blah blah.” And we never do.  We never take the phone or the computer.  Or maybe we do, then we give it back the next day.  We lack the courage of our convictions.  It’s wimpy parenting, and while Dr. Snyderman thinks it’s okay, I think it sucks.

Worse, I think it’s ruining our kids.  Maybe somebody should call CPS about that.


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