I’ve just read about an American couple who got so fed up of providing for their unemployed 30-year-old son that they sued to evict him, and won. The son, called Michael, had moved back with his parents ‘temporarily’ eight years ago — and never left. In between, he got married and divorced, lost custody of his child and all his jobs. (Last year, he sued an ex-employer for firing him for refusing to work on Saturdays. That case is still pending.)
Exasperated by his refusal to grow up and take charge of his life, Michael’s parents first gave him money to set up his own home and offered to help him identify the right place. They wrote him notes with tips on where to find a house and a job, and implored him to start earning a living. They even offered to fix his car. The son took the moving money and used it to pay his bills, and ignored all the other messages. Fed up, the mother finally filed a case demanding that he take charge of his life and move out. In court, the judge—exasperated by Michael’s limpet living—ruled in favour of the parents and told the son, who will be 31 next month, to accept adulthood.
This is, no doubt, an extreme case. But the way we are pampering our kids and turning them into entitled creatures who know exactly what the world owes them but have not the faintest clue about what they owe society, I won’t be surprised if cases like this become commonplace in the India of tomorrow.Yes, we have always been big on attachment parenting, on breast-feeding our babies and letting them sleep and hang out with us, but only until they were ready to go it alone. Yes, there have always been spoilt children around but they have been more the exception than the rule.
Never before have children held so much sway over adult energy, time and attention, and never before have parents been so ready to sacrifice their all—jobs, money, free time, holidays—for their offspring. This has resulted in a world packed with demanding, entitled children who know neither empathy nor gratitude, and anxious, exhausted parents. The latter are confused by their children’s attitude because they feel they’ve done their best and given the kids everything they could’ve ever wanted. What they don’t realise is therein lies the problem. Too much of anything is bad.
Having aspirations for our children is good. So is giving them every opportunity for growth. It’s when those opportunities don’t go hand-in-hand with boundaries and rules; when the kids are not held accountable for their actions and choices, or taught to understand and value the views of others, that we court trouble. As parents, it’s our job to teach our children that happiness doesn’t come just from weekly horse riding classes or eating out when and where they want. We need to stop being afraid to say no to our children. We have to be ready to let them fail, and fall. Don’t do that job and we will be raising Michaels of our own.