Alas, convenient as it might be, we can't blame the children. "There's no such thing as a spoiled gene," says parenting expert Michele Borba, author of Don't Give Me That Attitude! "The brat factor is all learned." Which means that if you're the dad pushing Junior around in a limited-edition Bugaboo stroller by Bas Kosters ($2,000), carrying a Louis Vuitton diaper bag ($1,380), and checking in at a members-only parenting club like Citi-babes in Manhattan (annual membership: $2,000), your offspring are probably developing some serious entitlement issues. Just read the news. The Wall Street Journal recently reported on the rise of sixth-grade "fashion bullies" who terrorize peers who don't wear Junior Dolce & Gabbana. Then there was the New York Times article on youngsters4-year-olds!who fancy themselves collectors of highly coveted works of art.
It's not just about money, though. Since the nineties, a surge in overprotective parenting has promoted discussion over discipline and made leisure activities contingent upon nanny CPR training (have you ever even considered letting your kid play with a pocket knife or a rusty Flexible Flyer, never mind have a paper route?).
In 1999, Katie Allison Granju wrote a book, Attachment Parenting, about the virtues of catering to the needs and emotions of the very young, from breast-feeding-on-demand to co-sleeping. While she still advocates that approach, she also believes that society tries to turn babies into children too fast and then treats older kids much like babies. Her forthcoming book is titled Let Them Run With Scissors: How Over-Parenting Hurts Children, Parents and Society. "We no longer allow children to have personal autonomy, to experience hard knocks, or to take real risks," she says. "The result is a nation of overweight, overindulged, overly neurotic kids who whine and moan and often can't function on their own."
It certainly doesn't help that we 21st- century thirty- and fortysomething parents expect our children to dress, speak, and appreciate Roxy Music just like us. "The Mini-Me phenomenon of kids wearing Sex Pistols T-shirts and sending back foie gras is cute but also gross and dangerous," says Ada Calhoun, the editor-in-chief of Babble, an online bible for hipster parents. "If you've turned your kid into a carbon copy of yourself, that kid loses his voice. He's only trying to please the grown-up, who only wants to live vicariously through the kid."