Spoiling your children, and the decline of civil society

It turns out that spoiling kids, as our grandmothers told us, is actually bad for them. It’s also bad for civil society. It’s one thing financially to assist your children as they move through the stages of life, all the while training them in their work ethic, responsibility, and healthy ambition. It’s a whole other thing to teach them that they are the center of the world, the deserving beneficiaries of their parents (and their society’s) largesse.

Here are two bits of evidence (HT: Via Meadia). First, researchers have reported in Science that China’s one child policy has not been good for the character of the country’s youth.

We document that China’s One-Child Policy, one of the most radical approaches to limiting population growth, has produced significantly less trusting, less trustworthy, more risk-averse, less competitive, more pessimistic, and less conscientious individuals.

Walter Russell Mead writes,

It’s been pointed out many times before that the ranks of only children are large and growing, and that they are outnumbered by, and thus hard pressed to care for, parents and grandparents. Now we find that they are also less inclined to follow the Confucian tradition’s dictates of respect and responsibility for one’s elders. Indeed, this is why the leadership has already enacted laws forcing selfish children to visit their parents regularly or face legal consequences.

The Second bit of evidence? The New York Times reports that students whose parents pay for their college education perform much less well academically.

Dr. [Laura] Hamilton suggested that students who get a blank check from their parents may not take their education as seriously as others.

“Oddly, a lot of the parents who contributed the most money didn’t get the best returns on their investment,” she said. “Their students were more likely to stay and graduate, but their G.P.A.’s were mediocre at best, and some I didn’t see study even once. I wondered if that was nationally true, which led me to this quantitative study, which found that it is.”

Again, Mead comments,

It’s hardly a surprise that 18-year-olds will take advantage of a fully subsidized four-year adventure through parties, booze, and whatever other joys college brings. Keeping young people in a bubble where they don’t have to work for their own money (and by work we don’t mean cushy internships) is a form of child abuse, depriving kids of the character and capability-building experiences they need to become responsible and effective adults.

Of course, by analogy we might draw some national and social implications from this. I’ll leave that to you wise readers.


About Matthew J. Tuininga

Matthew J. Tuininga is the Assistant Professor of Moral Theology at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Posted on January 17, 2013, in Children, Education, Welfare State and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Spoiling your children, and the decline of civil society.

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