The next year is going to cause a major dislocation in many households and on one level it’s not going to be pretty. Jan Hoffman relates the tale of Wendy Postle, a middle class mom with two entitled teenagers.
This year her husband’s 401(k) savings are evaporating. Medical bills are nipping at the couple’s heels. Gas prices are still taking a toll. Mrs. Postle recently decided that although she and her husband had always sacrificed their own luxuries for Zach, 13, and Kaitlyn, 15, the teenagers would now have to cut back as well.
“No” could no longer be the starting gun of family fights. It would have to be an absolute.
“I tried to tell Kaitlyn, ‘We’ll get the Hollister jeans at a thrift store,’ ” Mrs. Postle recalled. “She got angry and said: ‘That’s gross! Other people wore them!’ ”
Indulged. Entitled. Those labels have become hot-glued to middle-class and affluent teenagers born after the last major economic downturn, in the late 1980s. They were raised in comparatively flush times by parents who believed that keeping children happy, stimulated and successful, no matter the cost, was an unassailable virtue. A 2007 study by the Harrison Group, a market research firm in Waterbury, Conn., found that nearly 75 percent of parents caved in to their children’s nagging for new video games, half within two weeks.
A generation of consuming kids are getting confronted with a word they never heard–“No”. This sense of getting back to the basics will involve a cultural shift. But if life does get simpler, research shows that it also might get healthier.
Economic studies suggest that people tend not to take care of themselves in boom times — drinking too much (especially before driving), dining on fat-laden restaurant meals and skipping exercise and doctors’ appointments because of work-related time commitments.
“The value of time is higher during good economic times,” said Grant Miller, an assistant professor of medicine at Stanford. “So people work more and do less of the things that are good for them, like cooking at home and exercising; and people experience more stress due to the rigors of hard work during booms.”