A few months ago one of my blog readers sent me the link to the widely-circulated article entitled, “Spoiled Rotten” and asked me my thoughts on it.
The article looks at how parents in different cultures train young people to assume adult responsibilities. The article compared the self-reliant behaviors of American children living in Los Angeles to the children of the Matsigenka, a tribe in the Peruvian Amazon.
The American children in the study did not perform household chores without being instructed. In contrast, a six-year-old child in the Matsigenka tribe cooked, cleaned, and assisted in other important tribe duties without being asked. Furthermore, some American children in the study had to be begged to attempt the simplest tasks and often still refused.
After reading the article several times, I responded to the reader by briefly describing how my children are given responsibilities at home and how I encourage them to think outside of themselves. But for some reason, that was not the end of it. Certain sections of the article kept popping into my head—particularly two questions mentioned in the piece: “Why do Matsigenka children help their families at home more than L.A. children? And ‘Why do L.A. adult family members help their children at home more than do Matsigenka?’ ”
For days, my children’s autonomous behavior went under a microscope. Whenever there was a complaint over a request to do a household task, I became panic-stricken. Was I raising spoiled children? Whenever I found myself bending over to pick up shoes left in the hallway and dirty clothes scattered across bedroom floors, I wondered where was this leading. I envisioned my children as grown adults sitting in side-by-side La-Z-Boy recliners watching “Wheel of Fortune” with dirty dishes and soiled clothes piled up around them—and not a stitch of clean underwear in sight.