Recently, a 16-year-old Texan, named Ethan Couch, was sentenced to just 10 months probation and a year-long treatment program for driving drunk, killing four people and injuring nine. His parents are paying $450,000 a year for the addiction center, which sounds more like a resort.
The reason he got off easy?
His attorney convinced the judge that the young man was suffering from “affluenza.”
Couch’s psychologist defined “affluenza disorder” as a disease of the rich that makes people incapable of understanding that there are consequences to bad behavior. He stated that Couch: “never learned that sometimes you don’t get your way. He had the cars and he had the money. He had freedoms that no boy would be able to handle.”
He explained how Couch was allowed to drive at 13. Then at 15 he was discovered in a car with an unconscious, undressed 14-year-old girl. There were no consequences.
We would all prefer to believe that this young man’s behavior is an anomaly. But, several studies have proven that overindulged children have narcissistic behavior. They fail to learn empathy and compassion. They believe that rules do not apply to them. They develop a sense of entitlement. They don’t understand how to be responsible for themselves or their environment. Their world revolves only around “their needs.” They fail to acquire developmental skills; therefore, they depend on others to take care of them.
Overindulging children creates harmful, long-term consequences. These kids have trouble delaying gratification, often taking what isn’t theirs. They don’t feel good about who they are because they look outside of themselves for their self-worth. They believe, “if I buy this it will make me happy or this does not make me happy, now what?”
Without effort people fail. In nature, baby birds will survive only if they struggle to hatch from their eggs. Caterpillars won’t become butterflies unless they emerge unaided from their cocoons. Even though children don’t have to struggle for life, life is full of struggles and learning how to overcome challenges is imperative for success.
“Affuenza” is obviously not a real disease, but parents who overindulge their children are emotionally neglecting them and setting them up for potential failure. Parents need to protect their children and prepare them for real life, teaching them as many life lessons as possible, before they spread their wings and fly away.
• Kristina Welker has her doctorate in psychology, is a licensed professional counselor, and a member of the Ahwatukee Behavior Health Network. She lives and works in Ahwatukee. Reach her at (480) 893-6767 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Her website is drkristinawelker.com.