Pi Attitude Zone: Affiliation & Cohesion

Spoiled Rotten

What is it with kids these days?  The answer will depend on where the kids are from.  A study by anthropologists at the University of California in Los Angeles has revealed differences between the ways that parents in different cultures get their young to assume responsibility. 

Some, it seems, simply don’t.  A group of families in Los Angeles itself were observed over time, and not a single instance was found of children routinely performing chores voluntarily.  When asked repeatedly to help with even simple tasks, many kids simply refused.  In a typical instance, an 8-year-old girl sat down at table and found that no cutlery had been laid for her.  “How am I supposed to eat?”, she wanted to know.  She knew exactly where the knives and forks were kept, but waited for her father to get them for her.

The same anthropologists contrasted this spoiled-brat behavior with that of indigenous Matsigenka families in the Amazon region of Peru.  They found a child who routinely accompanied another family on excursions into the forest, to gather leaves for building huts.  The little girl, without anyone telling her, made herself useful by sweeping sleeping mats, sorting and stacking leaves, then catching, cleaning, cooking and serving river crustaceans for the whole party’s evening meal.  She asked nothing in return.  No-one thought this odd.  She was six years old. 

Meanwhile the typical American household, rather than doing anything about it, has adapted itself to the storied inability of its children to keep their living space tidy.  Another group of LA-based anthropologists have collected photographs of “the crap-strewn core of American culture”.  The pictures show kids’ bedroom floors littered with toys and clothes so impenetrably that there is no way of getting to the bed.  Their study concluded that “[American] children ...are disproportionate generators of clutter.  Each new child in a household leads to a 30% increase in a family’s inventory of possessions during the pre-school years alone”. 

The parents concerned know their kids are spoiled, but can’t or won’t do anything about it.  How to account for this strange cultural aberration?  It seems to be a combination of low expectation of children’s capabilities, along with acquiescence before some kind of ‘childhood entitlement’, almost a reversal of the principle of parental authority.  Parents weirdly seem to crave their children’s approval.  These children are thus the most indulged generation in human history.

As a postscript, Pi adds the case of French children, whose parents believe that they benefit from being ignored.  In France, it’s a matter of kids learning the indispensable life-skill of coping with frustration.  An American mom living in Paris was told by her French friends that “Learning to cope with ‘No’ is a crucial step in a child’s evolution.  It forces them to understand there are other people in the world, with needs as powerful as their own”.

Pi says: try that approach in Los Angeles.

Zone: Affiliation & Cohesion Country: Europe Product –