MEDIA CRITICISM:

Susan Reimer Tells How Rich Parents Ruin Society

by Alice Cherbonnier

On October 21, Baltimore Sun columnist Susan Reimer did a story about an upcoming talk in Baltimore by Harvard psychologist Dan Kindlon, author of the book Too Much of a Good Thing: Raising Children of Character in an Indulgent Age.

Reimer’s quick summary of Kindlon’s findings: “In seeking to give our children a life free of want, he says, we also try to make sure their lives are free of pain. We too easily cave in to their demands, and we too quickly bail them out of trouble of their own making.

“As a result, Kindlon found in his research, our children are not just self-centered and spoiled, they are prone to alcohol and drug abuse. And they grow up to become unhappy adults, ill-equipped to handle the challenges from which we are no longer able to protect them....”

Well, okay, we’ll agree that stupid vapid consumerist parents engender stupid vapid consumerist children. Duh.

But surely the good professor did not conclude what Ms. Reimer does. Tearing through a punitive recital of admonitions to affluent parents, she rolls to a stop with the following:

....”The truth is, these decisions do not affect just your family life and just your children. The decisions you make to indulge and pamper your kids have a trickle-down effect:

“• On the lower-middle-class kids who need to work long hours at a part-time job—neglecting their schoolwork—to have a car like the one you have given your child to drive.

“• On the children of the truly poor, who resort to crime to get the money for the clothes and jewelry like the ones your child charges to your MasterCard.”

Amazing, isn’t it? Indulgent rich parents are causing “lower-middle-class” kids to neglect their studies so they can have what rich kids have, and causing “truly poor” kids to steal to have what rich kids have.

Why, it’s all clear to us now. If we just take away the wealth of the rich (or at least take away all outward evidence of teens’ having rich parents), all our “lower-middle-class” kids will succeed in school and all our “truly poor” lower class kids will stay out of the criminal justice system. Simple as that.

Thanks, Ms. Reimer. Thanks, Baltimore Sun. Until this column appeared, we thought solutions to the social ills of our society were far more complex.


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This story was published on November 27, 2003.