Spoiled is not a description you would like people to use when referring to your children, it is a term used to describe not only privileged kids, but also children that have not been disciplined. As a mother myself, I would be disappointed if someone said my child is spoiled; but what exactly is a spoiled child?
Before getting my hands on “The Opposite of Spoiled” by Ron Lieber, I always tried to build a neutral relationship between money and my children, as for me a spoiled child is one that has had all his wishes granted in the form of buying. I wanted them to know that money is an important asset, but it’s something that they use, and not let it use them.
What Ron Lieber added to my knowledge is that a spoiled child has 4 common traits, which are:
“They have few chores or other responsibilities, there aren’t many rules that govern their behavior or schedules, parents and others lavish them with time and assistance, and they have a lot of material possessions.”
He also went on to explain what the opposite traits of spoiled are, since the term spoiled in this context doesn’t have an antonym. Reading through the list, “generosity and curiosity, to patience and perseverance” I find that children are actually born with all these traits, but somewhere in those first few years they have lost them.
The book has a lot of great insights, maybe not all are applicable to my situation in Kuwait, but the underlying message is still the same. Some of the things that stuck with me are these following excerpts:
“Every kid loves a good project, and so do I. I see him slowly turning into an entrepreneurial thinker. And no matter what he does in life, that type of thinking will help him excel.”
“And once in a while, often during Lent or Advent, they’ll give up something for a bit as a family. Its not because the parents disapprove of material objects or don’t want their kids craving things and saving up for them; its just to reinforce the idea that its also possible to take a break from them and acknowledge that so many of these things are merely wants and not needs. “It teaches the kids, as it does me, that these goods are here to serve us, and it’s not us who serve them.” he said.”
“Often, people who grow up in an environment that makes them feel insecure tend to default towards materialistic values.”
“Research on happiness shows that the amount we give away is a great predictor of how happy we are. In fact, its as strong a predictor of happiness as our income is.”
“We’ve gone, as Princeton sociologist Viviana A. Zelizer wrote, from celebrating the birth of a child as the “arrival of a future laborer” to a society where “a child is simply not expected to be useful.”
After reading this book I feel stronger about my own convictions to raise children that don’t define themselves by what or how much they own, even in a world that created platforms for people to do exactly that. We have all fallen, once in a while, in the trap of believing that someone is living a better life than us, and we are adults. Imagine what a child thinks when they see kids on YouTube videos opening a new toy everyday, you were once a child, how did it feel when your friends had something you didn’t?