Are Today’s Children Really That Spoiled?

posted by Andrea | 06/26/2015

donuts for breakfast

Every year, around this time, I start reading lots and lots of blog posts, news articles, and social media posts that rant and rave about how “spoiled” our kids are and how they depend on adults for almost everything — including the fact that our kids apparently expect to be entertained 24/7.

I get it… the summers are WAY harder for most parents than the school year. As I mentioned last week, I have the HUGE luxury of a husband who is home all summer — so I actually look forward to the summer months because they are easier for me than the school months!

I honestly can’t even imagine what it must be like for parents to go from blissfully quiet school days without children at home… to then, all of a sudden, everyone is home all day long. I’m certain it must feel overwhelming to care for and entertain school age children who are home for the summer (especially for parents who also work outside the home).

Maybe our kids aren’t as good at entertaining themselves as kids from previous generations. Maybe we do rely on TV and video games more than other parents. Maybe we are putting too much effort into make sure our kids have activities to fill their days. Or maybe we’re just being good parents and trying to ensure our children enjoy their summer break to the fullest.

At this point in my parenting journey, I have no “answers” or strong convictions either way.

However, I am fairly confident in a few things:

1. As with EVERY generation, there are shifts and changes in the way parents and children interact and relate. These changes are NORMAL and based on many factors — including the environment, socio-economics, and technological advances. They really have nothing to do with one generation of parents being better or worse than another.

2. I’m sure there are times when my mom and mother-in-law think I’m doing something “wrong” when it comes to caring for my kids… and in 25-30 years, there will be times when I think that Nora is potentially doing something “wrong” with her children. However, it’s most likely not “wrong,” it’s just “different”.

3. The vast majority of our children will grow up to be perfectly content, well-adjusted adults who will be able to focus and entertain themselves — just like the vast majority of EVERY generation has grown up to be well-adjusted adults who can function normally in society. Yes, there are always some outliers, but that’s just simple statistics — just ask Dave, he’s the math pro! 🙂

4. There are many parents who truly DO enjoy coming up with fun activities for their kids, planning special outings, etc. Maybe it’s their “one thing” and the way they bond with their kids. And even if they post the pictures to Facebook and Pinterest, their primary objective is not always to gain recognition from their peers, it’s to delight their children.

5. Today’s parents (or any parents, for that matter) certainly do NOT need someone telling them they are “trying too hard” or “doing too much” or “being over protective” when they are obviously just trying to love and care for their kids (or grandkids) in the best way they know how to.

Yes, I think there ARE parents who probably go over-board and spend every waking moment trying to be the “cool mom” or the “cool dad” who plans the best parties and makes the best snacks and buys the most expensive toys for their kids. But then again, when I was growing up, I knew a few kids whose parents tried WAY too hard to be the cool parents too. They sacrificed their own lives and their own happiness to give everything to their kids… and most of the time, the kids just turned out like spoiled brats.

It happens in every generation — and I’m positive not all of today’s young children will grow up to be spoiled brats just because there are more parents who go to playgroups and plan a few crafts for their kids to do during the week.

In fact, although I definitely do not think we must entertain our children 24/7, I do think it’s actually a privilege that we are able to spend so much time and energy raising our children and being together as a family. 

Just think back to the classic 1950’s housewife (some of you might more easily recall that time than others!)

Obviously, I have no actual memories of the 50’s, but for some reason, I am fascinated with that time period. I’ve read books on it, heard countless stories from my grandma and other older ladies from church, and I’ve watched many documentaries and movies that are set in the 50’s.

EVERY time, I am in awe of what those women had to do on a daily basis — just to keep their home and family running smoothly. I can’t even fathom how much more challenging it would have been to be a wife and a young mother in that day and age.

Not only did they have to look fabulous every day, they also had to do many more household chores to do every day:

  • cooking 3 full meals (usually for larger families than today)
  • washing dishes by hand after every meal
  • cleaning the house with inferior cleaning tools, and holding a much higher standard of “clean” than today’s homes
  • doing laundry by hand (and boiling diapers on the stove) — and then hanging everything to dry
  • canning and preserving everything, because they HAD to, not because it was a fun activity to do or a way to ‘go green’
  • sewing their own clothes and/or mending clothing
  • ironing EVERYTHING!

Those women didn’t have time to plan craft projects or play dates or go on special “dates” with each kid because they were too busy doing what had to be done for their home and family to function on a daily basis.

They didn’t get “girl’s weekends” or “spa days” or have monthly “date nights” with their husbands. In fact, from what I am told, the dads were far less involved in the child-raising process than they are today — so the mom’s rarely ever got a break.

Of course their children had more freedom to run around, play outside, and entertain themselves — because they HAD to. It was either that or sit at home and help with the chores.

photo source

And then, let’s think a little further back to the late 1800’s when women literally worked from sun-up to sun-down simply to prepare food and care for their families while their husbands worked from sun-up to sun-down to make an income, take care of livestock, or work the land. (I often think about this time period since our house was built in 1890 and I wonder what life must have been like back then).

No crafts or planned extra-curricular activities back then because the children were often working and doing chores in their free time. I promise, life back then was not always as nostalgic as it was on Little House on the Prairie either!

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Fast-forward 100+ years and today’s parents have the LUXURY of so much more discretionary time. 

  • We have super efficient appliances that will clean almost everything in our home in a fraction of time it did “back then”… and if we don’t want to clean, we can hire that service out to someone else.
  • We have supermarkets to buy our food so we don’t need to spend hours and hours preparing every meal… and if we don’t want to cook, we can go out to a local restaurant.
  • We can look through Craigslist or an online garage sale to stock up on frugal clothing so we don’t have to make our own… and if we don’t want to buy used, we have ample shopping malls that offer more clothing than we could ever need.
  • For parents who want to (or need to) have a career, we often have the option of a flexible work schedule or working remotely which could allow us to work from home while still raising our children.
  • We have fabulous baby wraps and strollers to allow us to get out and about and work around the house with 2 hands
  • We don’t have to use cloth diapers… and even if we choose to use cloth diapers, we have tools to make them much easier and faster to wash.
  • Thanks to technology, we have almost limitless resources at our fingertips — and thanks to so many time-saving modern amenities, we actually have time to implement some of those things we learn or find on the internet.
  • Also, thanks to technology, we are able to stay connected with our friends and family — and build communities of moms and parents who can come together and share struggles, concerns, triumphs, and failures without nearly as much judgement as there has been in the past.
  • We actually have free time — and we’ve learned the benefit of taking a little time for ourselves, as well as spending time with our spouse or significant other.
  • We’ve learned that it’s OK for dads to be really involved in the child-raising process, and that moms are happier and less stressed when they have a little help with the kids.

All of these things (and so much more) have made it possible for today’s parents to spend considerably more time with our children than any other generation in history.

Yes, I realize there are more kids enrolling in daycare than ever before as well… but the (many) parents I know who send their kids to daycare during the day, do a bang-up job of spending quality time with their kids when they are together. And yes, that might involve doing planned-out craft activities, attending a playgroup, planning fun birthday parties, or any other number of activities geared towards the kid’s enjoyment.

But is that REALLY so bad?

In general, I am the type of parent who doesn’t care if her kids watch a little TV every day, I don’t care if they get a little bored from time-to-time, and we definitely DO play outside as much as possible when the weather is cooperating.

However, I also do enjoy planning occasional crafts or activities for Nora (mainly to keep her occupied so I can get something done). I enjoy getting out a couple times a month for playgroups or other local events, because it gives me an opportunity to interact with other adults and helps me to feel “normal” again. And I enjoy keeping my kids busy during the day as it most definitely helps them to sleep better and longer at night!

Oh, and I don’t think I even need to mention how hands-on Dave is when it comes to raising our children. I’ve shared many times already how helpful he is around the home and with the kids — and now that Nora and Simon are to the point where they can actually start playing together, Dave really enjoys playing with both of them when he comes home from school every afternoon (which I greatly appreciate).

So are we horrible parents because we enjoy spending time with our kids and making them happy? 

I don’t think so.

I fully agree that today’s children are growing up in a completely different world than what I grew up in. Some of that is positive, some of that is negative. But I think we can say that for every generation — and it certainly seems like every other generation of children have grown up to be fully functional adult members of society. I don’t see why today’s children would be any different!

You all know I’m a HUGE advocate for “everything in moderation”, and I think that rule can also apply to parenting.

For example, if you’re planning a huge birthday bash for you kids just so you can impress the neighbors or post cute pictures on your social media sites… then that might not be the best reasoning. However, if you’re doing it because you know your kids will love the party and you really enjoy planning all the little details — then I think that’s just great!

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I realize that I am over-simplifying this topic (what can I say, that’s what I do!) but in general, I feel like the issue of today’s parents giving too much attention to our children is somewhat ridiculous.

After all, it’s not like parents today are literally trying to do harm to their children by planning a few fun activities or events for them.

Yes, I think “simple” is often better — and I think all kids should learn to play outside, entertain themselves for a bit, and live without screen time every minute of the day. But I also think it’s fabulous that parents (and grandparents) today are willing and able to be more involved in their kids lives than in previous generations… and I feel that a lot of good could come out of that time spent together.

Only time will tell I suppose!

I’d love to know your thoughts on this topic too — especially those of you from different generations!

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11 comments

  1. Jaime

    06/29/2015

    I agree with so much here! To me, there is a big difference in parents planning a memorable experience versus parents buying their kids all kinds of junk. We know a few couples who, rather than spend time with their kids by creating that cool craft project or planning a fun outing, will just buy them a new toy as soon as the initial appeal of the last new one wears off. In my opiion, our kids run a much higher risk of being spoiled with THINGS rather than with our TIME and ATTENTION.

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  2. Desiloubleu

    06/28/2015

    2 things to ponder…

    1. Studies are showing that children with lots of downtime are actually better off than the ones who are overs scheduled and have constant “things to do”. Down time/independent play/ boredom is actually good developmentally.

    2. I was a child of the 80’s when the “it” toy was a thing. My parents were by no means well off and we went without a lot. Christmas came around, and I wanted a Cabbage Patch doll more than anything. My parents could not find a doll anywhere, and sat me down to say that maybe I shouldn’t have my heart set on it for Christmas. Apparently my response was “that’s ok, Santa Clause can bring me one!” Thankfully, my Aunt had a connection and found one for them the day before Santa came.

    All in all, your moderation concept is perfect. You are making the balance in this crazy world!

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  3. Lee Cockrum

    06/27/2015

    I have been a pediatric phyisical therapist for the past 29 years. I am the oldest of 5 kids, with a few foster kids thrown in for good measure. A few things that concern me these days are the lack of discipline, as well as the way schools teach to the test, and stifle children’s creativity.

    I see so many parents who have no concept of how to set limits or discipline their children.They cannot take their children out to church, or to restaurants, shopping etc because they won’t behave. My mom took all of us many places alone. And she had no problem leaving if we misbehaved, and we knew it!! We did not want to have to miss out on things, so we generally behaved. I was never able to have children, but have babysat for multiple kids over the weekends etc, as well as working with kids as their therapists. Children know when you mean what you say, and they understand when you set limits. Wow, I guess I ranted a bit there!!

    I also think children are amazingly creative, and they love to explore and learn, and sadly I think many times our education system drills those wonderful traits out of them.

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  4. Lynda

    06/27/2015

    Love this! Totally agree! I do see some entitlement in our community but I try to focus on our own kids and just try to raise three compassionate, respectful, life-loving people 🙂 Nurture good hearts!
    On a completely different topic…. what kind of trampoline do you have in your backyard (is that a trampoline?!)? My daughter would love one but haven’t really researched any yet. Didn’t want to spend a ton or have it take up the whole yard either 😉

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    Andrea Reply:

    The tramp is just a “toddler tramp” that we got on Craigslist almost 3 years ago for about $70

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  5. Heather

    06/26/2015

    What books and documentaries on the 1950s have you read and seen? I’m interested in that time period too and would like to read or watch some of them.

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  6. Jane

    06/26/2015

    I see a lot of parents who are so busy working to make money to keep up a certain lifestyle that they buy their kids whatever they want to make up for them not being there. I also find it frustrating that most kids seem to feel entitled to get whatever they want, whenever they want it. I am concerned for our future but the best thing I can do is raise my children to be happy, healthy, well-adjusted, productive citizens.

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  7. Juds

    06/26/2015

    I agree with everything that you shared. Those kinds of beliefs and behaviors and interactions are important. Frankly, I wish more adults carried the same supportive behaviors with them.

    What concerns me is not so much in material things, or even spending too much time with our children…in my case my grandsons, but the overall lack of simple courtesy and respect for other people and things and places.

    I observe this with some/not all the children and grandchildren of my friends, clients, and very sad to say with my own grandsons, and when I am out and about in stores, community events and nice places like restaurants, museums and the like. There seems to be a lack of personal restraint and my guess it relates to a lack of training by parents and grandparents; parental behavior is not all that civil either. Or, perhaps the belief that fewer restraints on self expression is desirable. And, maybe that is true, that speaking one’s mind about important things, indiferance, racism or other socially disabling issues is important. As regards those, I am in full agreement.

    But, simple manners and respect for other people’s feelings and restraint with the property of other people/stores/facilities seems to be lacking in a way that I was not seeing even ten years ago.

    Perhaps if more parents, grandparents and care givers of all kinds spent the kind of quality time that you do, and propose as a model for others, that common courtesy, civility and respect could follow.

    We are responsible, people of all ages, for our homes, communities, cities and villages, our states, countries and the whole planet. But, that does not mean that it all belongs to us and we can, individually or in partnership do anything we want, say anything we want or treat anyone or anything in any way that suits us. To me, that kinds of entitlement screams “spoiled.”

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    Andrea Reply:

    yes, I WILL agree with you there — 100% 🙁

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    Juds Reply:

    It makes me so sad, too. I insist on civil and supportive behavior from my grandsons, but when we are back with their parents, they do the very same things I do not permit, and watch me to see if I will say anything.

    I always do.

    I love my daughter and son-in-love, but their parenting is too loose and modern for me and the result is double-edged. They are sweet and wonderful and thoughtful grandsons, but have way too few filters for some behaviors.

    My daughter is the same wonderful, kind and lovely person, and she managed to get there with manners and respect for others.

    Despite my insistence on proper behavior and standards, they still love being with me. However, there are times, when we are out somewhere when I have to be vigilant. Patience and time and love.

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  8. MrsD

    06/26/2015

    Wow…this is so sensible, Andrea! THIS article needs to be featured on Huffington Post!!

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