Spoiled Rotten

New Yorkers have a well-deserved reputation for being unflappable. But the horrific murder of a real estate broker in Central Park recently has unnerved even New Yorkers—and forced the rest of us to wonder what kind of kids we’re raising. On May 23 police pulled the sliced-up body of Michael McMorrow out of a Central Park lake. Almost immediately, suspicion centered on a pair of 15-year-olds: Daphne Abdela and Christopher Vazquez. Abdela and Vazquez told police that they had been drinking with McMorrow the night before. They claimed that McMorrow made sexual overtures to Abdela, and when he persisted, the teenagers stabbed him in self-defense. But police noted that McMorrow’s body had been gutted like a deer, and they didn’t buy the self-defense story. They charged the two with murder. How could this happen? Neither Abdela nor Vazquez fit the profile we associate with juvenile homicide. In fact, Abdela is a rich kid from New York’s Upper West Side who attends an elite private school. Yet she spent her nights in Central Park, hanging out with winos and junkies. The public’s reaction to the crime was remarkably uniform: an instantaneous loathing of the young defendants. Abdela reinforced this reaction at her arraignment. Instead of expressing remorse, she snarled at reporters to "get that [camera] out of my face." Daphne Abdela is the poster child for the child-rearing experiment American society has been conducting for the past 25 years. Many upper- middle-class kids like Daphne have been, to put it simply, spoiled rotten. A few years ago a book came out with that title: Spoiled Rotten. The author argued that today’s kids are overindulged and underdisciplined; they’re showered with toys and amusements by parents who avoid the hard work of setting limits and holding them accountable. The result is a generation of kids with no limits—either material or moral. Kids like Daphne Abdela seem to believe that the world owes them happiness—that the world exists to indulge their whims and give in to their demands. But indulgence doesn’t produce happy and law-abiding children. The fact that many parents think it does illustrates our culture’s estrangement from the biblical tradition. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus made clear that happiness proceeds only from living a life that is right with God. That’s why Proverbs 24 says that he who loves his son is diligent to discipline him. Three hundred years before Christ, Aristotle wrote that self-indulgence is the enemy of happiness—and that virtue alone ensures contentment. And that’s what we’ve got to remind our neighbors of when they shake their heads over those 15-year-old killers. What else can we expect from a generation that has never heard the word no? And we ought to remind ourselves that when it comes to raising godly children, saying no is sometimes the most positive word we can use.


Chuck Colson



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