Spoiled Rotten

Last week I read “Spoiled Rotten Why Kids Rule The Roost” by Elizabeth Kolbert in the New Yorker. A few days later, my girlfriend sent me the article’s link and suggested I use it in my Blog. I think it should be required reading for Ninja Parents who have infants, toddlers, tweens, teens and college graduates – we are all in the same boat!

Rafting Down the Jordan River, Israel with a tween and a teen.....

The author reports on some interesting stories and studies:

1. She commences with a story from an anthropological study of a 6-year-old girl from the Matsigenka Tribe in the Peruvian Amazon that hunts for monkeys and parrots, grows yucca and bananas and builds houses with palm tree leaves. The little girl sweeps, cleans, fishes and cooks! In conjunction, there is another anthropological study – 32 middle class Los Angeles families were video taped in their normal home lives: This study revealed children who would not do basic chores or activities (tying shoe laces/bathing) without being reminded and helped! This lead the researchers to ask the following question: “Why do Matsigenka children “help their families at home more than L.A. children?” And “Why do L.A. adult family members help their children at home more than do Matsigenka?’”(New Yorker)

Arab woman strolling along the bank of the Jordan.

2. As a group, American Kids are the most indulged young people in the history of the world. ‘”It’s not just that they’ve been given unprecedented amounts of stuff—clothes, toys, cameras, skis, computers, televisions, cell phones, PlayStations, iPods. (The market for Burberry Baby and other forms of kiddie “couture” has reportedly been growing by ten per cent a year.) They’ve also been granted unprecedented authority. “Parents want their kids’ approval, a reversal of the past ideal of children striving for their parents’ approval, Jean Twenge and W. Keith Campbell, both professors of psychology, have written.” (New Yorker)

Rafts full of Druze teenagers floating along side us.

3. One woman discussed her own son who moved home after college graduation: he liked to stay out late, sleep til noon and wander around in his boxer. She referred to this as permanent “adultescence.” “They inhabit “a broad savannah of entitlement that we’ve watered, landscaped, and hired gardeners to maintain.” She recommends letting the grasslands revert to forest: “The best way for a lot of us to show our love would be to learn to un-mother and un-father.”‘(New Yorker)

Two young men in swim suits relaxing on the Jordan Shores with their hookah.

4. One psychologist writes, “Most parents today were brought up in a culture that put a strong emphasis on being special,” she observes. “Being special takes hard work and can’t be trusted to children. Hence the exhausting cycle of constantly monitoring their work and performance, which in turn makes children feel less competent and confident, so that they need even more oversight.” (New Yorker)

My MN Teen rowing and steering our raft down the Jordan River.

5. One American reporter who moved to Paris and had a child wrote a book on the differences between the French and the Americans. ”Also key, Druckerman discovered, is just saying non (no). In contrast to American parents, French parents, when they say it, actually mean it. They “view learning to cope with ‘no’ as a crucial step in a child’s evolution,” Druckerman writes. “It forces them to understand that there are other people in the world, with needs as powerful as their own.“‘ (New Yorker)

Druze folks dining in the shallow banks of the Jordan River greeting us.

6. One writer assails that college rankings are to blame for what ails the American family. She argues, “High-powered parents worry that the economic opportunities for their children are shrinking. They see a degree from a top-tier school as one of the few ways to give their kids a jump on the competition. In order to secure this advantage, they will do pretty much anything, which means not just taking care of all the cooking and cleaning but also helping their children with math homework, hiring them S.A.T. tutors, and, if necessary, suing their high school.” (New Yorker)

Family rafting day

7. Other authors write, “Each new child in a household leads to a 30 percent increase in a family’s inventory of possessions during the preschool years alone.” “The kids’ possessions, not to mention their dioramas and their T-ball trophies, spill out into other rooms, giving the houses what the authors call “a very child-centered look.”‘ (New Yorker)

The Final Fall!

8. Kids are growing up slower than the past, “Evolutionarily speaking, this added delay makes a certain amount of sense. In an increasingly complex and unstable world, it may be adaptive to put off maturity as long as possible.” (New Yorker)


After thinking about the article and my 5 children, I came to the conclusion that they are all a hybrid of the Matsigenka Indians of Peru, the French Children and the Spoiled Brats of Los Angeles. While I do not hold any higher degrees nor the sophistication of these professors, anthropologists, psychologists, doctors, editors, I do have many hours of on the job training! My 14-year-old MN Teenage Daughter, when she was 3 years old was sweeping the floors, when she was 5 years old, she was baking cup cakes and until she turned 13, she helped around the house without being asked! I am not suggesting that I will give my 10-year-old son a machete, but I am seriously grappling with the idea of buying him the lawn mower he asked for as a birthday gift to trim our grass and mow our neighbors’ lawns as well. Perhaps a reality show in the making – “Matsigenka meets LA!”

Read the full article! Click here - Spoiled Rotten

Ninja Mom

2 thoughts on “Spoiled Rotten

  1. My son asked for a lawn mower too!
    I said no… I need to rethink that
    ‘no’response. Perhaps I can reuse it!

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