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Why American Kids Are Brats

Posted by on Feb. 12, 2012 at 10:20 AM
  • 228 Replies
15 moms liked this


Why American Kids Are Brats

And their parents might be getting just what they deserve

Marcelo Santos / Getty Images
MARCELO SANTOS / GETTY IMAGES

Warner's latest book is We've Got Issues: Children and Parents in the Age of Medication.

Amidst all the talk this past week about Pamela Druckerman’s new book, Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting, there was one phrase that immediately lodged itself in my mind. It was in a sidebar that ran with the Wall Street Journal adaptation of her book,“Why French Parents Are Superior,” and it said this: “Children should say hello, goodbye, thank you and please. It helps them to learn that they aren’t the only ones with feelings and needs.”

That statement points directly to what I see as one of the most meaningful differences between the French and (contemporary) American style of parenting. I don’t happen to believe, as the Journal pushed Druckerman’s argument to say, that French parenting is necessarily superior, overall, to what we do in America. I don’t think French children are, overall, better or happier people — such generalizations are silly. But it is true that French kids can be a whole lot more pleasant to be around than our own. They’re more polite. They’re better socialized. They generally get with the program; they help out when called upon to do so, and they don’t demand special treatment. And that comes directly from being taught, from the earliest age, that they’re not the only ones with feelings and needs.

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I say all this based on many years of extended hanging out time with French families, both before and after my own girls — who, like Druckerman’s children, were born in France — came along. In fact, that experience — and the contrast with the American way of parenting I discovered when I moved back to the States — inspired my book Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxietythe main argument of which Druckerman recapitulates at the very beginning of Bringing Up Bébé. (Fuller disclosure: she interviewed me for the book as well.)

Like Druckerman, I’ve often noted wistfully how French children know how to handle themselves in restaurants. I’ve envied how French children eat what’s put in front of them, put themselves to bed when instructed to, and, generally, tend to help keep the wheels of family life moving pretty smoothly. But the difference that struck me the most deeply, when my family moved to Washington, D.C., from Paris and my older daughter began preschool, was how much more basically respectful French children were of other people. Indeed, how much emphasis French parents put on demanding they behave respectfully toward other people. And how that respect helped make life more enjoyable.

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In the years when I was gathering wool for, and then formally researching and writing Perfect Madness, I was disheartened time and again by the ways parents in the U.S. often did just the opposite. American parents assiduously strove to make sure that their children’s wants and needs came first, no matter what. This sometimes had a name — “advocating for your child” — and was clearly predicated on the belief that if you didn’t yourself do it, didn’t teach your child to “self-advocate,” no one would, and in the great stampede for resources and rewards your child would get left behind in the dust. In my preschool-mom world back then, this took the form of letting kids step all over the feelings of other children if their own feelings so compelled them, as when a mother in suburban Maryland explained to me that she let her little girl cancel playdates right up to the last minute because she “couldn’t force her” to engage in social commitments that now bored her. It never seemed to dawn upon the mother that her child’s passing boredom was less important than the other child’s potentially hurt feelings; and that teaching her daughter to think of the other child’s feelings would, in the long term, be better for them both.

This lack of parental empathy was brought home to me much more recently, when a mom in my then eighth grader’s class complained to me about an incident in which another girl in the class had had a panic attack — a full-blown panic attack — just as the doors closed on the bus that was to take the class on a camping trip. Without a word of sympathy, the mom vented to me, “Like [my daughter] really needed to see that.

This lack of compassion and empathy, I’ve found, is rampant in today’s hypercompetitive parenting culture in which almost every child is eternally being groomed to look out for No. 1, cheered on by parents who view other children more as potential impediments to his or her full flowering than as comrades-in-arms — or friends — united in the difficult task of gracefully growing up. As American parents, we parrot a certain amount of knee-jerk politeness, urging our kids to say “please” and “thank you,” but I don’t necessarily have the sense that all this is aimed at doing anything more profound than making our kids (and ourselves, by extension) look good.

A more deeper understanding of courtesy — that we do things like make eye contact and say hello and goodbye because such behaviors convey to other people that they matter and are worthy of respect — is all but entirely absent from our parenting culture today. It’s far more important to us that our children be in touch with their feelings and true to themselves than that they create good feeling around them through “superficial” good manners.

An old-fashioned French online guide to proper comportment shoots down that very modern way of thinking, which many view as an encroaching threat in France as well: “Philosophers may say that politeness is the greatest form of hypocrisy,” it states. “But if saying hello, apologizing, thanking, helping those in need, being attentive to others, are signs of hypocrisy, then we accept that epithet, and can offer no defense.”



Read more: http://ideas.time.com/2012/02/10/why-american-kids-are-brats/#ixzz1mBIMkC2S
by on Feb. 12, 2012 at 10:20 AM
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Replies (1-10):
krysstizzle
by on Feb. 12, 2012 at 10:29 AM
10 moms liked this
Good article! Empathy and compassion are the key words, I suspect, both which lead directly to respect. I hear people talk about how kids are so entitled , to which I want ti respond: well look how they are raised, as if they are the end all and be all.
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PestPatti
by on Feb. 12, 2012 at 10:31 AM
11 moms liked this


  OH please not every kid is a brat.   And in my opinion the only one who can tell me I suck at parenting call me mom.   And both think I did well, and my daughter in law agrees.

 

Tanya93
by on Feb. 12, 2012 at 10:33 AM
47 moms liked this

I've been told on this board how it is wrong I make my son say thank you for anything he is given, including stuff he may not like.  I've been told that my son using ma'am and sir is disrespectful.


Many parents raise kids with manners, the problem is we are being drown out by those who think manners are weak.

Debmomto2girls
by Platinum Member on Feb. 12, 2012 at 10:37 AM
8 moms liked this

 Entitled kids are not born that way. They are created.  My girls are very well-mannered.  THey say please and thank you since they were very little. My almost 14 y.o. teachers told her she was a "breath of fresh air" and a very nice, well-mannered girl.  I think it is sad that she found my dd unusual.  Both my girls are very empathic. Especially my oldest. 

tooptimistic
by Kelly on Feb. 12, 2012 at 10:38 AM
1 mom liked this


Quoting krysstizzle:

Good article! Empathy and compassion are the key words, I suspect, both which lead directly to respect. I hear people talk about how kids are so entitled , to which I want ti respond: well look how they are raised, as if they are the end all and be all.

I agree.  So many parents are raising thier kids that its all about them and the children have no empathy or compassion for anyone or anything else.  

SueDNym
by on Feb. 12, 2012 at 10:39 AM
3 moms liked this

I enjoyed the article, and I was surprised by that.  I tend not to like articles with broad generalizations, but I have seen the 'me first' trends mentioned. 

Up to a certain age, 'me first' is to be expected in children - but once in pre-school they can understand that they are NOT the only beings in the world.

krysstizzle, I'll admit that my kid is pretty much my 'end all and be all' - to a point.  I will fight to get a well-matched school for his learning style, and help that enables to him succeed.  I've also tried my best to teach empathy ('how do you think your action made so-and-so feel?   would you have liked that to happen to you?"), respect, and a bit of social common sense ('dude, you are bigger than a lot of kids here.  you HAVE to watch out for the little ones.  pay attetion to where you are going."

krysstizzle
by on Feb. 12, 2012 at 10:49 AM
Yes, the end all be all statement is pretty broad and vague, but you nailed it with "to a point" and your examples.


Quoting SueDNym:

I enjoyed the article, and I was surprised by that.  I tend not to like articles with broad generalizations, but I have seen the 'me first' trends mentioned. 

Up to a certain age, 'me first' is to be expected in children - but once in pre-school they can understand that they are NOT the only beings in the world.

krysstizzle, I'll admit that my kid is pretty much my 'end all and be all' - to a point.  I will fight to get a well-matched school for his learning style, and help that enables to him succeed.  I've also tried my best to teach empathy ('how do you think your action made so-and-so feel?   would you have liked that to happen to you?"), respect, and a bit of social common sense ('dude, you are bigger than a lot of kids here.  you HAVE to watch out for the little ones.  pay attetion to where you are going."


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FromAtoZ
by AllieCat on Feb. 12, 2012 at 10:51 AM
4 moms liked this

Interesting article.

Our children are coddled from the get go and in continues well in to their teen years.  Then we wonder why they are so self absorbed, carry a sense of entitlement and are rude.

While at a hockey game last time I was observing the crowd. There were far too many children who were literally unruly.  You could hear a few kids a few rows away demanding cotton candy.  When told no they got louder and guess what, they got that cotton candy if they sat down to eat it and were quiet.  The quiet lasted as long as the cotton candy did.

stacymomof2
by Ruby Member on Feb. 12, 2012 at 10:52 AM

I like this article, although like every other mother on this board I will insist my little angels are empathetic, respectful and considerate.

But really, I think they are.  I try to model it, and teach the polite trappings of polite words, as well as things like treat people kindly, share, and think about how they may be feeling.  They are making good progress and are popular little girls with their peers and their teachers.  

katzmeow726
by Platinum Member on Feb. 12, 2012 at 10:52 AM
2 moms liked this

This makes me feel good that both of my kids are  VERY empathetic, which they get somewhat from me but mostly from DH.  So much so, that they both, at 2 and a half, cry when Mufassa dies in the lion king.  THey don't really know about death, but they know Simba is sad.

They say please and thank you all the time, even to each other (even when fighting over a toy, which is really amusing lol).  It always amazes me how shocked people are to hear my 3 year old twins say thank you and please.  Or how DS always holds doors open for people, he's been doing that for the last few months since he was 2 and a half.  Okay...bragging a little, but I am very proud of them.

They know I am proud, and I give praise where praise is due.  But I don't do it to the point where they feel they can do no wrong.  

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