Sometimes, when I can’t walk through the house without tripping over a Batmobile or stepping on a Lego, I worry that we may be spoiling the kids, but this weekend, I read something in Readers Digest that made me feel better.
It made me feel better because I realized spoiling kids is nothing new.
The essay, by a child psychologist with the city of New York’s Child Adjustment and School Service Division, scolded the parents of 72 years ago for giving into their children’s every whim.
“They surround them with possessions which they themselves were denied in their own youth,” the psychologist wrote:
“One father I know presented his 10-year-old boy with an expensive movie camera before the child had expressed any desire for it or mastered the elements of photography. Another parent gave his 9-year-old son a costly airplane model powered by a miniature gas engine. On its first flight the machine was wrecked.”
It’s like the digital camera my wife’s parents gave Thing 1 for Christmas. It’s a nice camera, better than our 6-year-old camera. Thing 1 took it with her when we went to a Nashville Sounds game last weekend. I carried it for safekeeping, but after I’d taken a few pictures with it, she insisted on holding it herself. It was her camera, and I was wasting pictures, so she’d hold it.
She’d had it maybe 5 minutes before she dropped it onto the hard concrete of the bleachers. Luckily, it wasn’t broken, but if she’d bought it with her own money, I’ll bet she’d hold it tighter.
In the essay, the child psychologist says, “I would say to parents, ‘Give more of your own time and interest to your children’s affairs.’ They are quick to appreciate the difference between lavish gifts — hollow things at best — and your companionship, your comradely concern for their pleasures and work,” which is pretty much why I like taking the kids to Sounds games in the first place. We sit, hang out, talk about whatever and eat ice cream out of little plastic baseball helmets.
Giving kids time and companionship is better than giving them more stuff. That was good advice 72 years ago, and it’s true today.
Of course, I still need to train the kids to pick up their toys, especially the Legos, because when walking in the house barefoot, those things hurt.