These days, in Japan at least, there is a great hoo-hah over the issue of Monster Parents, on the heels of an earlier debate over the overindulged, selfish and adrift youngsters.

These issues are of course not confined to Japan. A quick google on the internet and you will see that the Monster Parents in India, in the USA, and the issue of overindulged kids surfaces often in China where the one-child government policy has resulted in children so precious, and thus overindulged by society at large. If you ever manage to catch Super Nanny the British (virtual TV of sorts) series, it’s good for a jolting confrontation with screaming brats and yelling dads, etc.

Nor is the issue as many experts say it is, a phenomenon of our times. Catching up on a Jane Austen fest on cable TV, and rereading many Victorian (Regency) classics in the past two weeks, I realized that “monster parents” and spoilt brats were very much shown up in nearly every book and often caricatured in ways totally recognizable to us.

The Victorian classics were written by young women like Jane Austen or Charlotte Bronte, who were, being from slightly reduced financial circumstances, forced to be sensible and to move in the circles of the clergyhood or governnesses. As such they were highly attuned to the idiosyncracies, selfish behavioral displays, highhandedness, snobbishness, vulgarity even, of privileged parents of Victorian high society…as opposed to the necessary humility, down-to-earthness of the working or servant classes.

The Victorian authors’ constant theme was one of the less privileged female triumphing over the privileged gentry-parent’s attempts to secure upward mobility and guard their fortune for their offspring. These “parents” are often painted by the authors as imposing, loud, demanding their own way and showing no consideration for members of society … not unlike the Monster Parents of Japan under spotlight today.

Returning to the modern day … two centuries … most of us are now part of the society that constitutes the middle class masses of people who live in relative comfort and affluence, so that we can arguably say the majority of us middle class people actually enjoy as a good a quality of life, with even more amenities, conveniences and leisure, than available to the privileged gentry of the Victorian society. So perhaps it shouldn’t surprise us that the bad “Monster Parent” attitudes, previously associated solely with the wealthy and privileged, are becoming commonplace today.

I have posted below an article “Indulging our kids, ourselves spoiled” from the weekend edition of the Daily Yomiuri, tells us where this generation of parents has gone wrong. In my opinion it is truly worth reading as it nails the problem where “Monster Parenting” is concerned.

Indulging our kids, ourselves spoiled
By Richard Bromfield

It had to happen didn’t it? All those whiny, demanding, entitled children finally whined and demanded loud enough to catch everyone’s attention.

Overindulged and overprotected kids are going to be the next psychiatric vogue. Kind of ironic given that we, mental health professionals, were the ones who got it going in the first place.

Feed their esteem was our advice. Reward their every step forward, or even backward. It wasn’t enough that we joyously answered their 17th question on why the sky is blue. We needed to also reward and celebrate their curiosity.

We told parents to make their children to feel good about themselves. They did just as we instructed.

“What a great job you did getting dressed.”

“What a great job you did getting ready for school.”

“What a great job you did chewing and swallowing your three candy bars!”

The only problem is that our advice did not make children feel better about themselves. If anything, we robbed our children of some of the opportunities to grow that we had as kids.

How did we learn to wait? We learned patience because our parents kept us waiting.

How did we learn to appreciate what we got? We learned to have thanks because we did get so much.

We learned to handle life and its certain challenges and hardship by just that, by having to handle life and the consequences of our actions.

Just because I am a psychologist. Can’t you help him?”

“I help other people’s dogs,” I replied.

My neighbor laughed, but I wasn’t kidding. We all love our kids, and we all try our best. But it’s hard for most of us.

I worry even more about this current generation of parents. Consider what they and their children are up against : the relentness assault of corporate advertising keeping up with a Jones family that keeps going further and higher; a society that like technology, fast-forwards at an ever accelerating speed.

Sure, we all know this stuff is to be resisted, but that’s easier said than done.

And this current generation of parents is showing a new wrinkle. Not only are they sorely tempted to overindulge their children. They are equally tempted to overindulge themselves.

Even as young mothers and fathers lament their chldren’s entitled attitudes, wondering perhaps where it comes from, they wait inlines for exotic coffees to be steamed with 1.4 percent milk and 1 1/2 teaspoons of natural brown sugar served in double cups. They buy cars as equipped and luxurious as their homes, whaever the gas mileage and cost.

Instant gratification is the mantra — whether browsing, downloading or cell phoning. Computers cannot go fast enough. Overnight delivery cannot get here soon enough.

But lest I sound critical, I know this is hardly parents’ fault. I also know just how I like my coffee and my music.

Understandably, parents have fallen victime to a world that is just too seductive, too full of choice, too abundant. That, if anything, should remind and caution us as to what our children are up against.

Grandparents who think that today’s parents have it made are wrong. All of my personal and clinical experience tells me that parenting a child has never been more difficult. Our own parents, I am certain, would have fared no better than we have.

What can parents do? Moving to an island or setting their time machines back would be the first choice. Most of us, however, cannot do either. Instead, we’re left to plod along as best we can.

We’ll look in the parenting mirror and reassess our home life. It is never too late to grow less indulgent. If we are motivated, we’ll give our children fewer things, expect more of them and maybe even take back our rightful authority in the house.
We’ll take care not to overprotect them from life’s inevitable frustrations and limitations. After all, only by facing and mastering such experience do children grow confident and resilient. And, of course, we’ll watch the examples that we set.

Maybe we’ll watch a little “Animal Planet” too, It’s easy to forget that we are animals whose supreme mission is to raise offsrping who have the skills and resources to survive apart from and without us. Don’t we owe our own human children at least as much?

Richard Bromfield, a Harvard Medical School psychologist, is author of the books “How to Unspoil Your Child Fast” and “Teens in Therapy”.

If the above article interested you, you might also like to read “Spoil-proof your kids” available at this URL link.

Related story: “Japan’s ‘monster’ parents take centre stageThe Times June 7, 2008

“Across Japan teachers are reporting an astonishing change in the character of parents, who, after decades of respectful silence, have become a super-aggressive army of complainers. The problem is that nobody can decide whether this is a good thing or not. Japan’s mass media has opted to demonise them: a lavish television drama starting next month will present the monster parents as a vile symptom of a society that has lost all respect for its traditions and decorum. ..

The parents believe that they are champions of basic consumer rights, rights that Japanese society has supposedly long trampled over in the name of conformity and order. Either way, few deny that mothers and fathers have shifted from being staunch supporters of Japan’s rigid education system to its most ardent assailants. Previously, when a child was in trouble the parents apologised profusely to the teacher; nowadays, they try to have the teacher sacked.

Where previously schools were trusted and respected, they are now the targets of concerted activism. Dozens of educators have been forced to resign in the face of the blazing fury of parents who no longer tolerate anything that appears to disadvantage their offspring.

In a new book on the phenomenon, Yoshihiko Morotomi, of Meiji University, lists hundreds of incidents that illustrate it. There are parents who have secretly placed recording devices in their children’s classrooms, and others who have demanded that the results of sports events be changed to reflect expectations rather than the reality on the field.

In one case the mother of a child who was injured in the playground demanded that the child who accidentally caused the injury be suspended from school for as long as it took her son to recuperate – so that he would not benefit from the lessons her boy was missing.

Within the category of monster parent Professor Morotomi identifies the most potent strain: the “teacher hunters”, who conspire in small groups to ensure that a particular teacher is dismissed. Occasionally, he said, this involves physically mobbing their victim at the school gates and screaming abuse until a letter of resignation is signed on the spot.

“The monsters are created in family restaurants and coffee shops — places where the mothers meet each other to talk and relax,” said Professor Morotomi. “Simple chats spiral into ‘emergency meetings’… the conversation becomes more emotional and radical and suddenly what began as a simple complaint becomes a monsterised army of parents.” The sudden switch marks what many believe is the symptom of deeper social troubles at the heart of Japan, a transformation that took root during Japan’s long economic downturn of the 1990s and whose effects have only now erupted.” Read the whole story here.