Show me where the brats are

by Jessie K on July 23, 2012

I recently came across an interesting article in The New Yorker by Elizabeth Kolbert about why American kids are so spoiled, which seems to be Topic A among anxious parents these days. I love reading such articles because they satisfy my innate sense of moral injustice while providing evidence-backed reasons (for the most part) why modern children are such wienies.

Kolbert lays out a couple of compelling reasons for the brat epidemic (I’m not going to delve deeply into those reasons when you can read the article yourself) and I’ve added some highly subjective, anecdotal analysis of my own.


{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

sarina July 23, 2012 at 4:41 pm


I think the “Self-Esteem” movement has really created problems for a lot of kids. It seems that everyone is special and great. They have graduations from Kindergarten, Elementary School, Middle School etc.. I remember way back in the day that we did have awards assemblies at year end and maybe a few kids would get special recognition.. like for attendance.. or honor roll, but most kids just clapped for their peers who excelled.

It almost makes any real achievement meaningless… if you are congratulating the kids all the time for such a “super job”.. how do they know when they have truly done something worthy of praise? Not every kid can excell in everything.. at a certain point, not every kid can or should make the team.

Believe me, at some point, the world is going to start telling these kids “no” and that they aren’t that “special.” They will learn that the world does not owe them a great job or a fantastic apartment and super cool car. I remember the pie in the sky aspirations of some of the college kids who worked for my husband. Oh.. yeah.. we are gonna make over 100K a year.. plus great vacation benefits. HAHAHAA I was asking if they thought that was realistic.. “oh yes..”.. I watched each of them take jobs that were well below what they thought they deserved.. and that was a humbling experience for them.

We have always expected the girls (my step daughters) to work for what they want. Participation in work in support of the family through chores is vital to helping them understand that the world is not a free ride. In addition, at age appropriate times, they have had to do things for themselves.. like go to the DMV.. or fill out scholarship paperwork.

The best gift you can give your children is the gift of self sufficiency. They need to feel confident they can take care of themselves. They need to know how to cook, clean, do the bills and how to navigate in the real world. The sooner they learn that they live in a world that does not revolve around their needs, the better off they will be. Just look at how Paris Hilton reacted when she had to go to jail.. it was sad to see a kid who never had any adversity hit up against it in a huge way!

Paula S. July 23, 2012 at 4:58 pm


I agree with all you said. We must be about the same age. No “graduation” ceremony for me, either, until high school. In grade school, we had the end of year assembly where awards for scholarship, citizenship, perfect attendance, etc. were given out by each teacher.

The self esteem movement has run amok. It is fine to realize that children need to be raised with a healthy sense of self esteem, but it has become unhealthy. You hear parents of kids in serious trouble say it is because “he has low self esteem.” Really? It would seem that when young Johnny steals and vandalizes, his self esteem is so gargantuan that he thinks the world revolves around his wants and that he is in charge of the universe.

When I was growing up, certain chores were required just for being part of the family and enjoying the food and shelter. Although I got a small allowance, it was not for doing the chores. The chores would have been required, period. I could do bigger, extra chores to earn more money.

sarina July 23, 2012 at 8:28 pm


The joke in our family was when you were asked to do things we would ask if it was for “love” or “money”. We had to do some stuff just because…but some things did rate a little extra. Usually the paying ones would come up when we were saving for things. I earned the money to buy my own timex watch when i was five. I am sure my chores were a bit charity…but i felt i earned it. That sense of working towards a goal and feeling the satisfaction of reaching it are priceless.

maria July 23, 2012 at 7:38 pm


After asking my son to take out the trash for the first time he asked- “what I get for doing this?” My response–“you get to live here.”

Jessie K July 24, 2012 at 2:26 pm


Ha ha ha ha!

Janelle July 23, 2012 at 10:34 pm


I have two kids ages 8 and 10 and I’m a high school teacher in Princeton, NJ and I really don’t see these “brat” kids much at all. The problem is not with the kids. It’s with the parents!

Brad K. July 24, 2012 at 10:37 am


Just a thought. There have always been bratty kids; recent and ancient history both hold examples – – mostly among the affluent.

In the 1960s, the US space race transformed the state of American education to extract children from their families and family influences, and redirect them to college for the scientists and engineers needed to bootstrap a national investment in technology. Since then, much media, the games industry, most advertising and merchandising and entertainment — and the so-called sexual revolution — have focused on dividing individuals from considering “what does this mean for my family and community” to “what does this mean to me?”

What we see as an “epidemic” of bratty kids is second and third generations of families living a near-affluent lifestyle, that has been increasingly ego-centric rather than based on family or communities.

Janelle, I work at WalMart. There are bratty kids – – it seems High School brings out the worst to “play”, destrctively, in WalMart of an evening. Yet I also see small children being well behaved, engaged in the shopping that Mom and/or Dad is doing, not just the ones throwing a tantrum for a toy or another whim. We aren’t lost, as a culture, but mass media and the US Department of Education are not interested in strong families or communities. They are out to alienate children from their families as early as they can.

Communities with larger families, where children are spaced over a decade or more, are priceless resources. It takes time and experience to learn to parent well. Some communities (like the Amish, and various other faith-based communities) retain and share the cultural knowledge of what children need to grow to be productive for their community, and not just for their own whim. Fewer families today have access, or recognize the need, to share in the wisdom of good parents. Fewer have parents that know what good parenting is.

As for taking out the trash, it really does come down to respect. “Because I said so,” really is a very good reason, as long as deciding what to require is done thoughtfully and for the good of the family. “Get me another beer” isn’t the same as “help your sister wash her hands.” Doing something because it needs doing is more than sufficient for anyone.

Daedre July 24, 2012 at 4:59 pm


Aww, I was expecting this post to be about sausages! Haha.

Jessie K July 24, 2012 at 7:51 pm


Sorry to disappoint! Ha ha!!

Charlotte July 25, 2012 at 6:04 pm


The Wisconsinite in me read this as brats — as in the sausage!

Kate July 27, 2012 at 8:34 pm


So glad to see a response like this! I read that article when it came out and couldn’t help but think it was just another way to suck the joy out of parenting and raising children. Most of the kids I know are fabulous and I teach high school! Granted, we get a couple humdingers every once in a while, but then parent teacher conferences come around and you just nod and think, “Well, that pretty much explains everything.” I can’t help but think the general voice in media wants to instill as much fear and paranoia in parents as possible so that we will keep buying parenting books, attending seminars, and buying magazines to read articles that tell us exactly what we are doing wrong and how we are irrevocably damaging our children. The saddest part is that the most important part of my life, being a parent, is so fraught with fear and anxiety I have to constantly negotiate with myself that we are okay (even if we make mistakes) and we are allowed to enjoy this (if we dare).

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