Parenting Chat

By Hannah Lee

In the current issue of The New Yorker, there’s an article by Elizabeth Kolbert on why American children are spoiled rotten.

I found it fascinating to read about other cultures that instill responsibility at an early age, such as the subsistence farmers of the Peruvian Amazon, where toddlers heat their own food, three-year-olds practice cutting wood and grass with machetes and knives, and children of six help their fathers with hunting and fishing and mothers with cooking.  By the time, they reach puberty, these Matsigenka children have mastered most of the skills necessary for survival.We all know of spoiled American children but Kolbert cites case incidents from a study by Elinor Ochs and Carolina Izquierdo of middle-class families in Los Angeles.

In another representative encounter, an eight-year-old girl sat down at the dining table. Finding that no silverware had been laid out for her, she demanded, “How am I supposed to eat?” Although the girl clearly knew where the silverware was kept, her father got up to get it for her.

It later mentions that when American youth go off to college, they’re less worried about the academics than the “logistics of everyday life.”   Gave me much food for thought in wondering whether I’ve prepared my children for life in the 21st century.

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