Are you raising a Douchebag?

Sara - posted on 10/20/2010 ( 32 moms have responded )

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Let us begin with the assumption that if you are a parent, you wish for your child every advantage and opportunity. From the ergonomic high chair to that all-important first sushi experience and beyond, life should be as golden for your little one as it is for, say, Pax Jolie-Pitt.

But inevitably the moment arrives when all your doting and care come back on you in the form of a precocious little barb that reminds you in no uncertain terms of . . . you. It might be that his friend Jake's eighth-birthday party was "unbelievably lame" or that "it's weird that Brandon's family flies first-class and we don't," or maybe it's simply that "these taquitos taste like turd."

It's then that you must reckon with the real possibility that your drive to make little Johnny better, smarter, and hipper has merely turned him into a douchebag. Put it this way: If it's your child, not you, who gets to choose your weekend brunch spot, or if he's the one asking how the branzino is prepared, it's probably time to take a hard look at your own behavior.

It's not like we're the first generation to turn out Frankenkinder. Since the dawn of time, parents have been dressing their kids in ridiculous sailor suits and dragging them on ski trips to Gstaad. But lately it feels like we're scaling new heights as bad examples. We create parenting blogs that transform our preschoolers into fetishized celebrities. We subscribe to magazines that suggest buying a 5-year-old a $400 Marc Jacobs cashmere hoodie. We think it's cute when our kids learn to text message (until we realize POS means "parent over shoulder") and quietly rejoice when they can tell which Ramone is Dee Dee and which one is Joey.


Alas, convenient as it might be, we can't blame the children. "There's no such thing as a spoiled gene," says parenting expert Michele Borba, author of Don't Give Me That Attitude! "The brat factor is all learned." Which means that if you're the dad pushing Junior around in a limited-edition Bugaboo stroller by Bas Kosters ($2,000), carrying a Louis Vuitton diaper bag ($1,380), and checking in at a members-only parenting club like Citi-babes in Manhattan (annual membership: $2,000), your offspring are probably developing some serious entitlement issues. Just read the news. The Wall Street Journal recently reported on the rise of sixth-grade "fashion bullies" who terrorize peers who don't wear Junior Dolce & Gabbana. Then there was the New York Times article on youngsters—4-year-olds!—who fancy themselves collectors of highly coveted works of art.

It's not just about money, though. Since the nineties, a surge in overprotective parenting has promoted discussion over discipline and made leisure activities contingent upon nanny CPR training (have you ever even considered letting your kid play with a pocket knife or a rusty Flexible Flyer, never mind have a paper route?).

In 1999, Katie Allison Granju wrote a book, Attachment Parenting, about the virtues of catering to the needs and emotions of the very young, from breast-feeding-on-demand to co-sleeping. While she still advocates that approach, she also believes that society tries to turn babies into children too fast and then treats older kids much like babies. Her forthcoming book is titled Let Them Run With Scissors: How Over-Parenting Hurts Children, Parents and Society. "We no longer allow children to have personal autonomy, to experience hard knocks, or to take real risks," she says. "The result is a nation of overweight, overindulged, overly neurotic kids who whine and moan and often can't function on their own."

It certainly doesn't help that we 21st- century thirty- and fortysomething parents expect our children to dress, speak, and appreciate Roxy Music just like us. "The Mini-Me phenomenon of kids wearing Sex Pistols T-shirts and sending back foie gras is cute but also gross and dangerous," says Ada Calhoun, the editor-in-chief of Babble, an online bible for hipster parents. "If you've turned your kid into a carbon copy of yourself, that kid loses his voice. He's only trying to please the grown-up, who only wants to live vicariously through the kid."


Greg Ramey is a child psychologist with nearly 30 years of experience counseling families and children at Dayton Children's in Dayton, Ohio. He says the biggest change he's seen is that parents no longer want to act like parents. "Over and over, I see parents who try to be their kids' best friends," he says. "That's a flashing red light. Our kids don't need to be our buddies. They can like us when they're 30. Mostly what kids want is for a parent to be in charge."

The consequences of parental boundary blurring are everywhere. As Vanity Fair recently noted, 2007 is the "year the mothers of Hollywood's wild girls—Paris, Lindsay, and Britney—have found themselves almost as much a part of the tabloid circus as the daughters themselves."

Fortunately, it's never too late to fix the problem. Sharon Pieters sees kids with terrible behavior make the turnaround week after week, and it has everything to do with parenting, she says. The former nanny runs Child Minded, a parent-coaching company that goes into homes to vanquish the Scylla and Charybdis of offspring hell: disrespect and boorishness. For $1,200 a day, Pieters will help parents tame their brats. Whether it's a problem with too much stuff ("I visited some kids in Long Island who had their own moon bounce," Pieters says) or incessant back talk ("Some children's vocabulary is limited to 'Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!'"), the solution is the same: "Set limits and stick to them." The hard part for most moms and dads is admitting there's a problem in the first place. Borba, the parenting writer, says, "The last thing parents today want after a day of work is to come home and be a cop. They think it's going to hurt the child's self-esteem to get a hard no. But you have to look at your kids and say, 'Are they turning out the way I want them to turn out?' If not, it's up to you to start to change things."

That takes care of the kids, but what about you? A possible solution comes from Asra Q. Nomani, who recently wrote an essay on Babble about being trapped in a cycle of out-of-control birthday parties, in which she kept trying to outdo the previous year's festivities. Turns out what her kid liked most wasn't the trip in the limo to the recording studio or even the playtime with a real tiger cub. It was the simpler, everyday stuff, the things that any kid's birthday party might include, like a birthday cake. Which makes you realize, the next time your inner douchebag tells you to book Criss Angel for your son's fifth birthday, you might want to take a deep breath and give yourself a hard no.


Thoughts?

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Johnny - posted on 10/20/2010

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Some of what is going on here is the difference between having an appreciation for the finer things in life and feeling entitled to them. There's no harm in liking nice stuff, as long as one can recognize that it is simply materialistic, that it's not actually important to true happiness, and that one does not feel that anything less than the best is no good.

Jenny - posted on 10/20/2010

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I believe our self obessed, consumer driven society is going to collapse in very short order.

I teach self sufficiency. I want my kids to learn how to feed, house and clothe themselves, from scratch. My daughter loves sushi too but it's healthy so have at 'er.

Teaching a love for material things is detrimental IMO. I emphasize quality and comfort when shopping for things with my kids. Sure, it's not so bad if it looks good too but I want them to think of that as a bonus. My daughter has a winter jacket that was priced @ $300.00 BUT it was on sale for $75, has built in gloves, is made out of amazing waterproof material and she is on her 2nd year wearing it. I have a few expensive purses and jeans too but all were second hand or purchased wholesale (True Religion jeans for $99 instead of $390).

You may drive an expensive vehicle but I want you to know how to do basic mechanical work on it yourself. Having a hands on approach to material things gives you a greater apprecation for them.

Erin - posted on 10/21/2010

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The problem is not children liking or wanting nice things, it is definitely the sense of entitlement. Throwing toys and gadgets and money at kids for no reason is a bad idea. It teaches them nothing. But encouraging a child to work hard, contribute to the family and appreciate things is an important life lesson.



I didn't miss out on much growing up. My parents split up when I was 10 but my Dad always made sure we were well-provided for. But I was also taught the value of money. I had to get a job at 15 because my parents refused to fund my increasing social life. I worked two jobs while going through uni, and took on a HECS debt to fund the fees (as opposed to my cousin who's parents took out a loan of their own to pay hers). I have learnt the difference between need and want, and my daughter will too. Everything I have, I have earned. Yes, my father has money and has helped in an emergency, but I would never ask or expect it. That is the difference between a person who has been taught to take pride in independence, and one who takes advantage of the fact someone will always be there to bail them out. I could rattle off a handful of names of people I know who fall into this category, and it drives me nuts. How can you feel good about yourself when you have to go running to your parents at 28yo because you can't pay your rent? Douchebags

Krista - posted on 10/20/2010

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Exactly -- douchebaggery isn't about how much stuff you have. It's about how much stuff you think you're entitled to.

♏*PHOENIX*♏ - posted on 10/20/2010

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I currently carry a Louis Vuitton diaper bag…that was a gift from my mother-inlaw (How do I know its real…well it comes with a very special card, placed in an envelope, not to mention it comes in a bag…not plastic one..for the ladies who have the real deal..They will know what im talking about)
my 7 almost 8year old son loves sushi; we also eat fine foods quite often…(where the bill comes to 100+ with just 3people alone)
He gets pretty much everything he wants..Everything
And yet….he is one of the nicest kids you will ever meet, he is polite, he is empathetic, he is a little gentlemen…how and why ?
Well first of all, kids copy their parents or who ever there guardian is…I always tell him please and thank you (when I ask him to do anything for me) and sometimes adults feel that they don’t need to say that to there children.
He’s father (not biological, but has been around since he was 2) teaches him to hold doors for others and me…and now at 7, I don’t ask him to…he just does it. (there are even times he will tell me to wait…get out the car and come open the driver door for me)
And when he was younger I demonstrated a few times that when he acts up or disrespects me (any and everything he owns will be thrown away..and I did once when he was 3 almost 4 and again around 5) so now at 7 he knows I don’t mess around.

I don’t feel there is anything wrong with a child feeling self-entitled about life, but there needs to be a balance and boundaries SET EARLY in childhood, you do need to let them know and show them that sometimes or a lot of the time you will have to work hard for the things you want…or you will have a douchbag son/daughter…and luckily we found it with our son.

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[deleted account]

I think teaching you children to be well-mannered, respectable people is most important. Yes being spoilt and expecting things is a learnt behaviour but at the same time different people see being spoilt as different things. When I was younger one friend called me spoilt because we took a holiday abroad every year...to me that's not being spoilt but to her it was.

Jenn - posted on 10/21/2010

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No douchebags here! :) It kills me when I see kids my sons age (4-5) with Ipods and cell phones! Like, WTH?!? Why do they even need that crap?

September - posted on 10/21/2010

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IMO regardless of how spoiled your children are I think the most important thing is how you raise your children. You can raise them to be spoiled little brats who come across as being better than those around them or you can raise them to be hard working appreciative people who are aware of their privileges.

Sharon - posted on 10/20/2010

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Nope. I'm not raising douchebags.

I'm raising myn children to have taste, manners, and limits.

Cat - posted on 10/20/2010

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Love LOVE that article, although its never a problem in this house, we cant afford to give our kids the best of everything, and thankfully they dont seem to care much... I know that time spent as a family means more to them than any little trinket or bauble could... We stress to them that appreciating what you have, no matter what or how much it is, is what's important...

♏*PHOENIX*♏ - posted on 10/20/2010

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Glad that I made you laugh…anytime, Tah.... anytime :-)

Jenny - posted on 10/20/2010

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Where I live has one of the biggest numbers of millionaires per capita than any other place in Canada so the douchebnag ratio is very high. Case in point, Pauly D from Jersey Shore is coming to a nightclub soon, it sold out right away and they're adding a second night.

I used to work for a drywall company and most of the guys drove brand new trucks. They were very young but made good money and most of them were leasing the vehicles. Tradesmen make very good money and most of them work hard and play hard. Yes, some are also douchebags but you wouldn't know just by checking out their loot. Don't judge a book by it's cover and all that.

Meghan - posted on 10/20/2010

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Well, the way I look at it is J is entitled to any and everything he wants...as long as he works hard for it and treats everyone else with respect and compassion.

C. - posted on 10/20/2010

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I only read about half, if that.. I just don't have the patience right now, sorry.. I'll come back and finish it later, though..

But I just wanted to say THANK YOU FOR POSTING!!!!! I agree that people are wanting babies to grow up too fast and that parents try to treat their older kids as babies (probably to compensate for wanting their babies to grow up too quickly). It's a dangerous cycle. Too many bullies and it's the parents' fault for spoiling their kids, IMO. I'll write more later after I've finished reading the post, though.

Charlie - posted on 10/20/2010

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But you cant always judge just by looking .

I know my sisters boyfriend and his little brother both owned their own homes by 17 paid in full by 25 both have new cars , wakeboard boats , a room full of surfboards , motorbikes , jetskis ect EVERYONE labelled them self entitled little spoiled brats and that could not have been further from the truth , those boys both quit school at 16 and worked their asses off to get the things they have , it infuriates me when people bitch about the things they have saying things like " oh their parents are rich so they must be spoiled "

You know what ? their parents ARE rich but it wasnt money that was given to those boys it was a strong work ethic and an ability to save money and they are some of the most down to earth guys i know who were never given a cent , i guess thats why his parents are rich they are such tight asses LOL.

Jodi - posted on 10/20/2010

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My nephew is like this. He just had a 7th birthday last week, and when I saw him and told him happy birthday (without a gift btw, my aunts never bought me gifts and I've never bought gifts for my nieces or nephews.) he was telling me everything he got...and then how when they went to walmart he looked for the toys to find out who spent the most money on him!!!! He is the most self-entitled, spoiled, snobbish child I know...I love him despite this...but it's insane. He thinks he's an adult and because of basically everything that was in the OP. On the other hand, his big sister (turning 10 soon) was raised the exact same way, but you would never tell, so, some is parenting (probably most), but some is also based on a child's personality.

Sara - posted on 10/20/2010

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I work on a college campus. I constantly come in contact with people who very obviously have been given whatever they want, whenever. 19 year old kids are driving $50,000 SUVs around town. Now, maybe some of them worked to own it, but I doubt it. And working with these kids you can tell by their attitudes that they think they deserve special treatment, etc, etc -- basically, they're jerks...so, I think it's all well and good to say that it's more important to be a good role model, but how many of us can step outside of ourselves and see that maybe our behavior is not the best for our children to model after? If you've been raised entitled, then you'll raise your children the same way, IMO. And it won't seem wrong to you.

Bonnie - posted on 10/20/2010

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I think if the parents are rarely around and the kids don't know the meaning of family or when the child gets whatever they ask for/want is what causing problems. If children have a well rounded family who they know love them and respect them and expect the respect in return, children will understand the meaning of life and that you don't need to have everything under the sun in order to be happy.

Tah - posted on 10/20/2010

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lol@ ebony..too funny..anywho...

As long as their is a balance. I don't think they meant that children can't eat sushi(mine do) or other foods, i think when they have all these things and it is not balanced with repsonsibility, respect etc, it will lead to children who act a certain way.

Charlie - posted on 10/20/2010

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I dont think its about "things" its about how their parents behave as role models .

Like Ebony said if a child has parents that model good , pasisonate , empathetic and socially aware behaviour no doubt the child will too but if the parents display the opposite then the child will too reguardless of "things" they have .

Caitlin - posted on 10/20/2010

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*applause* I plan on doing exaclty this. Honestly, my daughter wont shrivel up and die if I dont`feel like like cooking 2 nights in a row and she gets hot dogs. She knows that when she helps me and is nice, i`m a happy mommy and when she`s a brat i`m not so happy. She's learning that when I say something I mean it and I think already I have so many toys that I stuck to kids DVDs for her b-day and x-mas list this year, and the ones I asked for last year for her still aren't open yet! (It's more of a collection for when the girls are a bit older, she still doesn't care much).

The only thing semi trendy I see myself doign is talking her to the little gym because she loves climbing, tumbling and swinging and needs an outlet to that stuff that's not at home so she'll stop sneaking up onto the kitchen table, the standing there as proud as anything. If she falls and bumps her head, unless I suspect some sort of serious injury, I don't jump up and freak out, she'll live, she usally comes to me for a hug and be off again. She's got a huge bruise on her face from smashing into the corner of the couch (the unpadded one) like 2 weeks ago, it loos really nasty, but she only cried for like 2 minutes, then was back to it. She's my little dynamo, she will keep me on my toes, but I know she will be ready for the world when she's out in it.

[deleted account]

True that having nice things will not, in and of itself, turn a kid into a brat. It's when they come to expect having only the best, or anything they ask for, that becomes the problem. I decided a long time ago that I wouldn't buy my daughter small toys or treats when we go to the store, even if I have the money and she's been good. I don't want her to think that every time we go into a store she gets something. And she's never pitched a fit at the grocery store or even the odd toy store or two we've been in.

Well...one time she did pitch a fit. Two times really. Once you may remember me posting a few months ago about how another girl took her colors at the children's clothes store. But I don't fault her for that. Another time I took her to Children's Place. She saw a jacket that she already owned and apparently thought the one on the rack was hers. She had a melt down when we left it in the store, but was calmed when I pulled hers out of the trunk of our car a few minutes later. Kind of funny really...

Kimberly - posted on 10/20/2010

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I don't think that what my child wears or eats will effect her manners, respect, acceptance, compassion, appreciation, ability to adhere to rules, respect her elders, share, help with chores, do homework, be honest, know that money isn't everything, never ever bully ANYONE or be cruel, NO means NO, ...or the other things that it my job to teach her. She'll get what I give her and appreciate it. And know that being a brat will get her nothing.

[deleted account]

Thoughts....I don't know any parents that can afford to live like the OP. But I do know parents that will go over the top with everything...thousands of dollars on nursery furniture, a new toy with each trip to Wal-Mart, all clothes from the boutiques....etc.



I do see some of this as parents wanting the best for their child. But we have to understand that quality time, consistency, and boundaries are what is best.



@Mary, I love that idea for a birthday party. I tried and failed to have a no present birthday party last year. I was talked out of it by family, so then I made suggestions for things to get my daughter. For example, I suggested that my MIL, grand-mother in law, SIL, and aunt in law go in together to get us an annual family pass to the zoo. But alas, they decided they each wanted to get her something she could open at her party. This is what she got from those four people: 1. strawberry shortcake car that I've hidden because she can't get strawberry shortcake to stay inside and it aggravates her and me. 2. purse with play make-up that has since scattered and various parts have been broken or thrown away 3. An Elmo book and toy that someone had already given her for Christmas, so we donated it. 4. Baby doll (she already had 4) that came with a diaper bag complete with fake baby food, baby bottle, change of clothes and other random stuff that has since been lost. SO this year I'm sticking to my guns and putting, "NO GIFTS!" on the invitation. The excess of toys stress me out and they are not needed. I can't see NOT having a party though, because we love to get together with our family.

[deleted account]

I loved the article. I try to parent so my kids experience real life consequences. I do validate feelings with them and acknowledge how they feel at all times BUT if they are sad because they didn't get this toy or that toy, they can be sad but they have to accept that they can't get everything they want when they want it. they say please and thank you, they give up their seat and hold the doors. birthday parties are low key with a few friends and homemade cake and that's it. I think parents have to find the middle ground in their parenting. Unfortunately, this isn't the case in many families



I hope my parenting is middle ground enough to make the kids decent, caring humans.

Sara - posted on 10/20/2010

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For the record, I don't think there's anything wrong with sushi or ethnic food. Rowan's had sushi and Indian Daal and even Thai, and she likes it! But, it's the entitlement thing that gets me. You can tell the people who have grown up feeling entitled to things, and no one likes those people. I think it was Susan Saradon who said that she raised her kids to be the kind of people she'd like to go out to dinner with. I feel the same way.

Jocelyn - posted on 10/20/2010

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Hey what's wrong with sushi?! gqtm
I certianly hope I'm not raising douchebags!
I LOVED this article. No kid needs to feel so entitled that they want (and get) the Wiggles to come to their house for their 5th birthday, or that they deserve a $400 cashmere sweater for back-to-school. (I have a rule, I will never buy my kids a pair of jeans that costs more than the jeans I buy.)

Sara - posted on 10/20/2010

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This is what one woman posted as a comment to the article, and I love it (except the river part):



"My twins are 19. They're okay people. Nice. Polite. Did okay in school. Will do okay in life. We get along well and we're all pretty happy. Many people have asked me what I did (I was a single mother from when they were around 3) to "make them turn out so well". I thought about it. • I said 'no' alot • bed time was bed time ... in their own beds after one story • dinner time was dinner time; whatever was on the table was what was on offer ... be it leftover Kraft dinner with diced hot dogs or pot roast with glazed carrots; if they didn't eat it, they went to bed hungry • we laughed a lot • when I promised something, I stuck to it; if I knew I couldn't provide it, I didn't promise it • they had summer jobs starting at age 15 • I taught them how to swim by throwing them into the Gatineau River when they were babies - they figured out how to swim back to me, no problem • we went out for ice cream once a week all summer • they were allowed one extra activity - not two, not seven, not twelve - one; and it couldn't be hockey • my Native friends taught them how to make a bow and arrow from a branch - just in case they got lost in the woods To all the parents who think that playing Mozart to their fetus or signing them up for jazz ballet with a Bob Fosse wannabe or sending them to train-your-own-camel-in-a-week summer camp will make them turn out to be geniuses, think about it: we can't all be geniuses. Some of us have to be just regular, nice people, who live a nice, ordinary life. With ice cream."

ME - posted on 10/20/2010

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I don't think there's any problem in introducing your child to things like sushi, or other foods from cultures outside of your own, this is not what makes them douches...but i get the point...and my kids won't be given everything they want no matter the price...in fact, we didn't have a big 2nd birthday party for miles because my family refused to do as I asked the first time and leave the stupid plastic, blinking toys at the store...so, we just had blueberry pie and icecream, and miles got a new book...he was thrilled...

Tah - posted on 10/20/2010

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i am almost standing up and clapping, i also think that we are raising over-indulged, entitled brats. It is crazy. My children know that i have no problem saying no, they have to wash their clothes, clean their rooms, i don't do over the top b-day parties, my daughter was just as happy with a hannah montana pinata, pin the tail on the donkey and a bowling party (different years of course) then she would be with anything else, because it's not about the money to her, my son is the same. It is crazy the way we allow children to dictate their lives and goodness me our lives as well.



We do rush them to grow up but we don't prepare them for the real world. I always let my children know that there are so many that don't have what they have and that are blessed that we can provide what they do have. They have to say please, and thank you, my son's have to hold the door open for ladies, (my 3.5 year old does this also) yes mom, and ma'am and sir...etc. I have said it a thousand times to my children(esp my 13 year old). I am raising you, not growing up with you....You need to respect yourself as well as others and every other lesson that will lessen the probability of them becoming douche bags..or convicts. I also tell my son what Greg Ramey said in a matter of speaking, you don't have to like me now, but when you are graduating grad school, i'll take my flowers then....and i mean it, you can talk to me, and we have a open relationship, but i will not put being your buddy over teaching you what is right and wrong and preparing you for the future, teaching you respect, repsonsibility, and hard-work.

Tara - posted on 10/20/2010

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I've always parented from a natural perspective, they learn independence appropriately. They are not made into small adults but more they grow up learning how to act responsible, respectful and honestly etc. those are the adult qualities I don't mind seeing min my children.
I think it's dangerous to turn children into a idol of ones own status in life.

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