137. The “Spoiled” Child

I don’t like the term “spoiled child,” and I don’t use it. The term implies that the child has a life that is too easy – maybe there’s “too much” attention, material wealth, companionship, whatever other people don’t have enough of. I’ve known and I know many children, and I can easily apply many descriptive terms to them, but I can’t think of a “spoiled” child.
As a teacher, and as an occasional political activist, I do what I can to help make things fair, but I don’t believe that the unfairness I encounter spoils children. Many children in Wellesley have things other children wish they had – their own home, a parent who stays home, chances to travel. But I don’t think these children are “spoiled.” Perhaps the reason I think this way is that I’m “spoiled.” I don’t have a lot of material wealth, but I don’t want a lot. I have a lot of the things I want most in life – friendship, solitude, and the freedom to do what’s important to me. People who want what I have and see me seeming to take it all for granted may think I’m “spoiled,” just as people who focus more on my health problems may pity me. We try to make life as easy as possible for our children. Some of us are good at letting children know we love them. Such children won’t learn, firsthand, what being unloved is all about. Some of us can afford to take our children to warm, exciting places in the winter, or to our private beaches in the summer. Those children won’t get a sense of what it feels like to be poor. But whatever we manage to provide for our children, I think every child knows about adversity. The poor little rich child may envy the child who has lots of free time, lots of attention. The child whose parents are always accessible may envy the one who seems to be popular. The popular child may envy the one who gets to go to Disney World every year. I’m not saying the world is fair. It isn’t. Children don’t get what’s due them. Neither do adults. But if parents, teachers, children, society, and fate cooperate to make it so that some children do get some of the good things they deserve, I don’t think it’s useful to say they’re “spoiled.”

Comments are closed.