How Spoiled Are Our Children?

From The New York Times:

ChildA mother asked me last week whether I thought she was spoiling her child. It was the typical pediatric exam-room version of the question: In the weary, self-doubting voice of the recently postpartum, she wondered if it was right to pick up and feed her crying baby. These days, a lot of parents are wondering about the spoiling question. A recent book review by Elizabeth Kolbert in The New Yorker compared American children unfavorably with the self-reliant and competent children of a tribe in the Peruvian Amazon; she discussed “the notion that we may be raising a generation of kids who can’t, or at least won’t, tie their own shoes.”

A parenting column in The New York Times acknowledged that Ms. Kolbert’s observations had struck home with many contemporary parents; more recently, an opinion piece advised parents to stop protecting their children from every disappointment. We’re clearly having another of those moments — and they do recur, across the generations — when parents worry that they’re not doing their job and that the next generation is consequently in grave danger. In cultural convulsions about how spoiled the children are, disapproving adults look back fondly on the rigors of their own childhoods. But many of the same parents (and grandparents) who are now worrying were members of the generation that Vice President Spiro T. Agnew accused Dr. Benjamin Spock of having spoiled. Indeed, the overprivileged and overindulged child was a stock character in 19th-century novels: As veteran governesses who presumably knew the territory, the Brontë sisters wrote powerful portraits of spoiled older children. The culture changes, but many of the battlegrounds remain the same.

More here.