This week in the Child Development class I teach I was showing my students a wonderful documentary by Psychiatrist Robert Coles on Developing a Moral Life in Children. One of the teens the movie followed, was a 13 yr old girl from a well-educated and financially comfortable family. She described herself as being pretty spoiled saying "whatever I want, I usually get". When Coles asked whether or not that made her happy her response was a surprise to all of us. She said:" If you already have everything, then there is nothing left to wish for." The wishing and the hoping, the anticipating, the working for, and finally the getting of anything can be a powerful process. Just "ask and you shall receive", not so much.
It made me wonder about many of the families I work with who are so generous with their kids. Laptops, IPHONES, IPADS, ITOUCH, nice cars, expensive clothes, and the list goes on. I think it does start to create a culture of entitlement. Talking with the head of a middle school the other day, she told me about the negotiations they were engaging in with their students about cell phone use during the school day. It sounded like they needed to hire Hillary Rodham Clinton to mediate this agreement it was so complex. Most of the students in this school have the best of the best in phone technology, and argued that they "had" to have access to their e-mails, texting and calendars during the school day. So what are these important messages that they must have access to....texts and e-mails from mom and dad about carpool pickup, dinner menus, dentist appointments, and chitchat like "Hows your day going."
I read an article recently that said kids and parents text an average of 6 times during the school day. So under the guise of I need to stay in touch with my kid, or it will make him/her a better student, we indulge them with the latest gadget. Here is the headline!!! KIDS DO NOT NEED THE LATEST GADGET to succeed in life. In fact less is more might be a healthier option. Giving kids more than they are developmentally ready for can be hazardous to their health. They don't have the experience and ability yet to set limits on themselves, and are prone to impulsive behavior and the need for instant gratification, like focusing on texts during class time, using facebook on their phone while looking like they are on the computer doing homework, and staying up till all hours playing with their phones and laptop depriving them of sleep. When we feed them to much junk food, we know they will feel sick, if we feed them to many gadgets, we don't give them the opportunity to develop those skills of delaying gratification, and developing frustration tolerance that are essential in the adult world.
Parents often lament that they never see their kids anymore. Why not? because they are holed up in their room as soon as they get home, ordering takeout from the on-site kitchen, and feeling snug as a bug in a rug watching a movie on their laptop or IPHONE, connecting with friends on facebook, listening to their music on their IPOD, oh yeah and doing their homework. The more gadgets you give them, the more time they spend with them and not you, the less influence you have in promoting the values and morals you want your kids to have. If your kids are talking to you about upgrades as in I need a newer, better phone and computer, instead of up grades as in I need to do better in school its time to downgrade!