Understanding Our Children: The Price of Privilege by Madeline Levine, Ph.D

price of privilege

From the desk of Tammy Hayes, Middle School Principal:

Doesn’t it seem a little weird as your kids get older that no one can think of what they want for Christmas? Is it possibly the answer that we need the most? They really don’t need anything; nor can anything be added to them that will really enhance or add value to their charmed lives. Yes, they are kids of privilege. I don’t think they are spoiled as some accuse. But, something has spoiled their fun, their sense of happiness and their understanding of what really matters in life!

Author of The Price of Privilege, Madeline Levine, Ph.D explores how in recent years, numerous studies showed that bright, charming, seemingly confident and socially skilled teenagers from affluent, loving families experienced epidemic rates of depression, substance abuse, and anxiety disorders-rates higher than in any other socioeconomic group of American adolescents. In her book, Levine provides an in-depth look at how materialism, pressure to achieve, perfectionism, and disconnection are combining to create a perfect storm that is devastating children of privilege and their parents alike.This book is a must-read recommend for this season, just before the holidays hit.

So, what’s really happening? Levine opens up a very needed study on affluent teens and proposes that there is a deadly combo of “parental pressure and material advantage creating a generation of disconnected and unhappy kids.” This is a book that could potentially lead to lots of good conversation about how difficult it is to raise our kids in this iCulture, so I really wish we had a discussion board set up that would allow us to interact back and forth as we read it. Why? Because it is good to be in community as parents and live life together in such a way that we try to be of encouragement for one another. Well, I still highly recommend reading it and starting up some good discussion with your kids, spouse, or extended family if nothing else. It’s good stuff! Here are just a few quotes to entice you to read it.

1st Quotable to Consider:

“Kids can present as models of competence and still lack a fundamental sense of who they are. What looks like healthy assimilation in the family and community-getting high grades, conforming to parents’ and community standards, and being receptive to the interests and activities valued by others-can be deceptive. Psychologists call this the “false self” and it is highly correlated with a number of emotional problems, most notably depression.”

Levine proposes that teens learn very quickly to present an alternate self depending upon their audience. She ties this to their desire to please parents, either one or both. She contends that taking the time to do this takes time and energy away from the time they should be spending figuring out their “authentic talents, skills, and interests.” She notes that teens in counseling often report feeling happy and playful with their friends, but unhappy with their parents and caught in confusion as they try to reckon their two identities into one true self. She depicts a type of list that teens often have to live up to.. like stellar student, outstanding athlete, and perfect kid.

2nd Quotable to Consider:

“Adolescents need tremendous support as they go about the task of figuring out their identities, their future selves. Too often what they get is intrusion. Intrusion and support are two fundamentally different processes: support is about the needs of the child, intrusion is about the needs of the parent.”

Levine sets this quote as the thesis of the book. She sets out to help parents understand the difference in these two and the damaging effects that intrusion can have as it masks itself in our parental mind as support. Levine closes out the first chapter making a case for evaluating our parenting paradigm and contends that we have become overly concerned with how our children “do” rather than who our children “are.” She gives a hearty argument that our priorities have become inverted and proposes that we have traded attendance at activities for quality attention, and once again, we think we are supportive because we showed up at the game.

Now all of that is just the introduction. It’s not at all a parent-basher! Just about the time you read a difficult reality and begin to despair, Levine offers loads of encouragement, connects it to our culture, and brings you back to the appreciation of having been told the truth. I’m finding it one of those books that has a little gold nugget about every four sentences, and one so timely that I must read it and reread it again! It’s good stuff and worth the read!

I’d love to see your thoughts as you read, so comment below and maybe we can be of support to one another!