Moms

American kids aren't spoiled, they're awesome

July 15, 2012 at 10:23 AM ET

Spoiled rotten American children are in the news. Again. In her New Yorker piece on American children, Elizabeth Kolbert points out their undisciplined ways and arrested development, stating:

“With the exception of the imperial offspring of the Ming dynasty and the dauphins of pre-Revolutionary France, contemporary American kids may represent the most indulged young people in the history of the world.”

It's all a matter of perspective.

It’s easy to complain that kids are lazy and entitled. In my most cynical hell-in-a-handbasket moments, I too worry that we’re raising a bunch of pampered incompetents. But then I realize I don’t actually know any of these spoiled children. (At least, they don’t hang out at my house.) Instead of grumbling about some mythical privileged American child, how about we celebrate the ones who do embody our ideals?

Look around, at your children and their friends. In my own community, children are raising money for disaster relief, organizing benefits for accident victims, and making homemade goodies for nursing home residents. Others routinely give up birthday or holiday gifts in favor of helping others. These small gestures add up.

More dramatic examples make the news. Here are eight reasons why we shouldn't give up on the current generation. (And hey, the parents of these kids certainly did something right.)

1. A true Facebook friend: After conducting an online trading campaign that culminated in an all-expense-paid trip to Disney World, 9-year-old Brendan Haas gave the trip to the family of a soldier killed in Afghanistan. According to his Soldier to Soldier Facebook page, he’s begun another project trading for residential land to give to a veteran or fallen soldier’s family. 

2. School bus heroes: From a spoiled-rotten world view, the stereotypical teenager moves zombie-like through the day, forever fixated on one or another digital reality. However, in a show of quick thinking heroics, two teenagers prevented their school bus from crashing by jumping in when their bus driver had a heart attack at the wheel.

3. Worth cheering for: There's an epidemic of bullying in schools, but someone forgot to tell that to these children at an Ohio elementary school. They spontaneously rallied behind Matt Woodrum, a fifth grader with cerebral palsy who successfully ran the 400-meter race.

4.  Quick thinking rescue: While cooling off in a California canal, four boys, ages 8-17, rescued an unconscious toddler from drowning when she wandered away from home and ended up in swiftly moving water. 

5. True champion: In a show of selfless athletics, Megan Vogel demonstrated that winning isn’t everything at her high school state track meet. When another runner fell — unable to complete the race on her own — Vogel helped her to the finish line, propelling the injured competitor over the line before coming in last herself.

6. Hoping and helping: In Bartlesville, Oklahoma, 16-year-old Laci Lynn organized a variety show to benefit a family struggling with overwhelming financial issues after a crippling motorcycle accident.

7. A different kind of "Teen Mom": When an armed intruder was trying to break into her apartment, a 911 operator told Sarah McKinley, "Do what you have to do." The 18-year-old, newly widowed mom gave her baby a bottle and picked up her shotgun. She shot and killed the intruder when he burst through her door. Something tells me she won't be raising any spoiled kids, either.

8. Good news bears: When no parents stepped forward to coach a San Clemente, Calif., Little League team, two high-schoolers stepped up to the plate, and led the team from the bottom of their league to the district championship.

Spoiled? Hardly. These kids are industrious, generous, kind and brave -- and I bet your kids are, too. Next time you lament the state of American children, look for the ones doing great things, large and small. Encourage them to keep it up.

Do you know some examples of kids being awesome? Add to our list in the comments and join the conversation on our Facebook page

Lela Davidson is the author of Blacklisted from the PTA. Her writing is featured regularly in family and parenting magazines throughout the United States and Canada. She blogs about marriage, motherhood, and life-after-40 at After the Bubbly.

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