A few nights ago, after cleaning up from the play date I had organized for my 2½-year-old, changing his diaper, and refilling his water, I was about to start cooking him dinner before giving him a bath when the subject of Thanksgiving came up. He didn’t know what it was, so I tried to explain it to him. But somewhere between It’s a special day when we all think about how grateful we are for what we have and So, basically, it’s all about giving thanks, my son took off to terrorize our dog, and I was left stirring pasta that, five minutes later, I had to remind my son to thank me for.
My husband and I are incredibly lucky to be able to give our son what he needs and often what he wants, and we are raising him in a wonderful town in which many families do the same. Yet he’s growing up in a bubble, and that terrifies me. If he never truly struggles for things—important things—and he doesn’t spend much time with people who do, will he ever realize he’s got it so good? And will he ever want to do anything to make the world better? I know—rich/white/entitled people problems. This is the upper-middle-class parent’s existential enigma: How can we lovingly provide for our kids without turning them into spoiled brats? How can I teach my child to be thankful?
“Often, parents are the least appreciated in a child’s world,” says Ross Thompson, a developmental psychologist at the University of California at Davis. That’s a somewhat perplexing fact, but in many ways, Thompson says, it makes sense.
There’s a final way that parents may overindulge their kids, says Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck: They make their kids feel entitled by how they speak of them. “When kids think, ‘I’m great, I’m special, things are coming to me because of my wonderfulness and specialness,’ there’s no gratitude there,” she says. “So the parents who are always telling their kids how brilliant they are and how much better than other kids they are, who go and fight with coaches and teachers who give them any criticism, they’re telling their kids, ‘you have everything coming to you by virtue of who you are.’ ” I certainly wouldn’t feel grateful for having an awesome life if I were told over and over again that I deserved nothing less—and I also wouldn’t be very interested in helping others, because hey, they probably deserve their misfortune.
Read the whole story: Slate