Why is the youngest generation plagued by a pervasive sense of entitlement? I have discovered at least one source – diaper rewards programs. For those who may be less familiar with babies’ backsides, allow me to clue you in to one of the many guerilla marketing tactics used to overwhelm the sleep-deprived, addled brains of parents with young children, particularly those who still demand assistance with their bowels. Diaper manufacturers incentivize parents to purchase their wares by providing said parents with super secret codes hidden inside diaper packages that can be redeemed for various “rewards” – prizes in the form of trinkets and toys. It’s sort of like the hidden prizes in Cracker Jacks…with an emphasis on the “crack.” In effect, dear parents, this means your child is being rewarded for the very act of defecation itself. (For the sake of full disclosure, my own daughter spent the last year pooping her way to a stuffed, talking poopy…er, puppy.) Why, then, should we be surprised when our children end up physically grown and still thinking the world owes them – big time – for that big dump they just took? And let’s be honest – it was magnificent. How about a round of applause – or at least a moment of silence, which should come as no problem since we’ll all be holding our breath and noses, and donning hazmat suits.
This crappy conundrum is then further compounded by the various prizes that are used to bribe our children to divert their excrement into a flushable device. In my youth, I was rewarded with a shiny gold star sticker on the calendar for adequately crappy days – innocuous enough. Yet juvenile demands have since escalated, and expectations include promises of Disneyland, puppies, and personal unicorn footmen to attend them if only they will squat in a predetermined location and not just wherever the urge happens to strike. In my day (and yes, if read aloud, that would be pronounced with a harsh, aged rasp), it was reward enough not to have crap in one’s pants – although the occasional gold star was a nice bonus.
Child psychologists, you may keep your refrains of “positive reinforcement” and “self esteem.” Parenting isn’t about being a child’s best friend so much as engaging in psychological warfare. Over the centuries, children have gained the evolutionary advantage in this arena, equipping themselves as consummate manipulators – with their pudgy cheeks, itsy-bitsy fingers, diminutive skeletal structures, and intentional mispronunciation of basic words, the breed has never been deadlier. We are programmed to respond to their every iddle-widdle command – and to do so with enthusiasm…and candy.
“Thank you, Mother and Father, for teaching me self-sufficiency. In return for your great and wondrous deeds, you may now bring me a lollipop. And something cuddly. And tickets to ‘Sesame Street on Ice.’ You may go now.”
Yes, child, we shall. But be forewarned – your day of reckoning is coming. One day, we will be old, feeble, and – yes – possibly even incontinent. On that most glorious day, one that shall live in infamy, we’ll have but one thing to say:
“We’re moving into your house.”