I picked up a new book, The Opposite of Spoiled, at the library last week. If you are raising children in the Western, materialistic world, you should read it. Ron Lieber is the “Your Money” columnist at the The New York Times, which is an impressive credential. But credentials don’t mean anything to me unless an author is talking some sense, and Mr. Lieber does just that.
The book discusses all the ways children in our culture are affected by money– family finances, their own personal finances, and what they see going on in their community and social network. If we think they don’t notice our parental arguments about money or how expensive their friends’ homes are, we’re dullards. They notice. Kids notice everything. And the more we can teach them about finances before they’re adults with their own big-time money problems, the better.
This is the general topic of the book, but a small chapter on spoiled children really caught my attention. Lieber points out many parents fear this one character trait more than any other in their children, because it’s our own fault. Children can’t spoil themselves; they need well-meaning but clueless adults to do that to them. And most of us are mature enough to see the terrible consequences of a spoiled child growing into a spoiled adult.
It’s ugly, folks.
Most parents don’t set out to destroy their children’s future, and so some of our kids are becoming spoiled simply because we think we’re doing exactly the good and kind things. Lieber gives these four qualifications of a spoiled child (p. 10). He says they don’t have to be present all at one time, but these are things they have in common:
- They have few chores or responsibilities.
- There aren’t many rules that govern their behavior or schedules.
- Parents and others lavish them with time and assistance.
- They have a lot of material possessions.
Let me rephrase:
- They think life should be easy and fun. For them. Everyone else can work.
- They think they get to do whatever they want, whenever they want.
- They think adults exist to entertain them and fix their problems.
- They have no concept of self-denial.
In short, spoiled children are taught, in small bits each day, to think only of themselves and their own comfort in any given situation.
My blood is running cold at the thought of this; is yours?
Me, me, me. Gimme, gimme, gimme. Now, now, now.
The solution, as I see it, is simple. Chores teach them to help out and consider the needs of others. Rules and schedules give them boundaries that help them consider the needs of others. Adults are not their servants; they need to teach them to think of the needs of others and to fix their own problems whenever possible. Telling them no teaches them that life will continue if they don’t have everything they desire, which will in turn help them to consider the needs of others.
Parents– we can spoil our kids, or we can help them grown up into thoughtful, mature adults.
Thoughts? What would you like to add to the conversation? I can’t wait to see what you all have to say about this!
Jesus said: I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:11-13)