Today I saw three separate kids have screaming, meltdown tantrums. From their tormented wails, it was clear that each one revolved around something they “wanted.” A few months ago, I remember seeing a boy going inconsolably ballistic in Target over a toy, saying “I need it.” Now they don’t just want things, they need things.
Maybe it’s my imagination or my low tolerance, but it seems like child tantrums are becoming more frequent in this country. And you can’t blame it on food additives or the other usual contemporary culprits. I grew up in the 60s… anything you ate was 50% additives. And cereal was 80% sugar. And kids didn’t lose their minds because they couldn’t have something.
Despite the sluggish economy, American kids have so much stuff. Too much. Perhaps it’s a function of a consumer-based economy where the government begs us to shop to keep the country afloat. Maybe it’s overworked parents feeling guilty. Maybe it’s the new era of never-say-no-to-your-child parenting… and if you do, it becomes a major scene. My nine-year-old niece just got an iPod Touch. I don’t even have one! My sister was against it at first, but “all the other kids have them.” That “toy” costs more than Mtuseni’s mother earns in a month.
I just wonder if child tantrums are a problem in Mtuseni’s settlement or similar South African communities and townships. If a key driver of a tantrum is “want,” these kids comparatively live in a constant state of want. They probably want something every day… like new shoes or a book or breakfast. And often, this is where the “need” — expressed with such despair by that brat in Target — is authentic. But do settlement kids all scream bloody murder in an attempt to get what they want? I guess you don’t if it never comes.
American politicians talk about government entitlements causing problems for the country in the long term. We should start looking at what generations of entitled kids will mean for our future.
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