The Myth of the Spoiled Child: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom about Children and Parenting

The Myth of the Spoiled Child: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom about Children and Parenting

by Alfie Kohn
     
 

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Somehow, a set of deeply conservative assumptions about children--what they're like and how they should be raised--have congealed into the conventional wisdom in our society. Parents are accused of being both permissive and overprotective, unwilling to set limits and afraid to let their kids fail. Young people, meanwhile, are routinely described as entitled and

Overview

Somehow, a set of deeply conservative assumptions about children--what they're like and how they should be raised--have congealed into the conventional wisdom in our society. Parents are accused of being both permissive and overprotective, unwilling to set limits and afraid to let their kids fail. Young people, meanwhile, are routinely described as entitled and narcissistic...among other unflattering adjectives.

In The Myth of the Spoiled Child, Alfie Kohn systematically debunks these beliefs--not only challenging erroneous factual claims but also exposing the troubling ideology that underlies them. Complaints about pushover parents and coddled kids are hardly new, he shows, and there is no evidence that either phenomenon is especially widespread today--let alone more common than in previous generations. Moreover, new research reveals that helicopter parenting is quite rare and, surprisingly, may do more good than harm when it does occur. The major threat to healthy child development, John argues, is posed by parenting that is too controlling rather than too indulgent.

With the same lively, contrarian style that marked his influential books about rewards, competition, and education, Kohn relies on a vast collection of social science data, as well as on logic and humor, to challenge assertions that appear with numbing regularity in the popular press. These include claims that young people suffer from inflated self-esteem; that they receive trophies, praise, and As too easily; and that they would benefit from more self-discipline and "grit." These conservative beliefs are often accepted without question, even by people who are politically liberal. Kohn's invitation to reexamine our assumptions is particularly timely, then; his book has the potential to change our culture's conversation about kids and the people who raise them.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Kirkus Reviews, 4/1/14
“Kohn attacks the status quo on child-rearing and parenting…Via research and interviews, Kohn closely examines the current media-backed perceptions of permissive and controlling parenting and contrasts them with actual data, deflating popular beliefs that children are now more spoiled and unruly than ever…A thought-provoking, semicontroversial scrutiny of modern parenting practices.”

Spirituality & Practice, 7/31/14
“Kohn succeeds in convincing us to rethink the conventional wisdom about the spoiled child.”

San Francisco Book Review, 8/20/14
“Kohn explains why the belief that modern parents are too permissive (or too overprotective) and that kids are entitled, narcissistic monsters is wrong. He has the research to back it up and creates a convincing argument.”

Education Digest, September 2014
“[Kohn’s] book is an invitation to change our culture’s conversation about kids and the people who raise them.”

Metapsychology, 9/23/14
“All parents and children reading this attention riveting book will very likely be held in thrall by its intellectually absorbing contents…[which] will also very likely be enthralling, professionally, to educators, social scientists, and to mental health professionals.”

Kirkus Reviews
2014-02-19
Kohn (Feel-Bad Education: And Other Contrarian Essays on Children and Schooling, 2011, etc.) attacks the status quo on child-rearing and parenting. Nearly every generation, from Socrates to today, has been convinced that its children are being raised by parents who are too permissive. But as the author expertly analyzes, the definition of "permissiveness" has shifted as society has evolved: "It doesn't signify humane treatment or a willingness to nurse infants when they're hungry; it means coddling kids in a way that's unhealthy by definition." However, as Kohn also points out, there are many who believe children are being raised by overly protective parents who stifle children's natural curiosity and sense of learning. Via research and interviews, Kohn closely examines the current media-backed perceptions of permissive and controlling parenting and contrasts them with actual data, deflating popular beliefs that children are now more spoiled and unruly than ever. He delves into sports and education and inspects the pros and cons of encouraging children via rewards, trophies, honors and grading systems, concluding that "what matters isn't how motivated people are but how people are motivated." Adults and children often lose themselves in projects and endeavors they love due to the joy they bring, not the money, trophies or rewards they afford them. Kohn points out that the child who doesn't complacently follow orders in school might actually be the person who succeeds later in life, as that child has maintained a sense of self and of curiosity and not blindly given over all control to others. Kohn intelligently rationalizes how trusting one's child and supporting him or her with love and nonpunitive guidance builds a sense of safety, allowing the child to venture forth and make cooperative and respectful decisions. A thought-provoking, semicontroversial scrutiny of modern parenting practices.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780738217253
Publisher:
Da Capo Press
Publication date:
03/25/2014
Sold by:
Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
804,469
File size:
535 KB

Meet the Author

Alfie Kohn is the author of twelve previous books--including The Homework Myth, Unconditional Parenting, and Punished by Rewards--and hundreds of articles. His work has helped to shape the thinking of parents, educators, and social scientists throughout the world. A popular lecturer, he lives (actually) in the Boston area and (virtually) at alfiekohn.org.

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