Dr. Peter Marshall
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Dr. Marshall has written for scientific journals, magazines such as Canadian Living and Parent-to-Parent, and newspapers. A list of journal papers is contained in his Curriculum Vitae.
If you would like to read one of his recent articles, please select from the left:



Spoiled Rotten?


A World of Their Own

Cooking for Kids

Work - Does It Build Character?

The Barbeque


Spoiled Rotten?

  Here comes the annual battle! Hallowe'en is over and the kids are about to be bombarded with those slick, seductive ads the toy companies have been busy preparing all year. Christmas may be two months away, but the battle for the number one spot on the wish list has begun. Each ad outdoes the one before. No child's life will be complete without the doll that performs all manner of bodily functions batteries not included. And don't forget the remote control star fighter that launches missiles; what better way to terrorize that pesky little brother.

  Each toy in turn becomes their absolute favourite. By mid-November those lists to Santa would force his entire staff of elves into overtime. But my wife and I are not defenceless. Every year we pull out our copy of Little House on the Prairie and turn to chapter nineteen. It tells of the pioneer children, Laura and Mary, who were besides themselves with joy when they woke up on Christmas morning. Forget the bulging stockings and piles of gifts under the tree. The source of their joy was the discovery that instead of just receiving the customary red and white striped candy cane, Santa had left a shiny tin mug for each of them.

  We read and re-read this chapter, hoping to convince them that Christmas can be enjoyed without remortgaging the house. They love the story, and by the time they begin hinting that perhaps we could move on to chapter twenty, each could recite the key passages word for word. But all is in vain. Their enthusiasm for filling their toy boxes to the point of overflowing grows stronger by the day. Laura and Mary may be interesting characters in a fascinating tale of long ago, but role models? Never!

  I suspect that many parents share our concern that we have allowed our children to become materialistic and self-centred. Do they think only of themselves? Have they learned to expect too much and has the true spirit of the season been lost? I used to believe that the answer to these questions was a resounding "Yes." All I had to do was think back to my own childhood. We may not have been a pioneer family, but what would have been a major gift in my day would now qualify as no more than a stocking stuffer. Perhaps I should have listened to my in-laws. They were brought up in the Depression and never pass up an opportunity to tell us how much we spoil their grandchildren.

  But have things really changed? Are children today spoiled rotten or are they much the same as their predecessors? After all, we do like to glorify the past "when I was a child....." is the standard introduction used by each generation of parents to convince themselves of the merits of the Good Old Days. Not long ago I came across the child care book written by Charles Goss, "Husband, Wife and Home." You may not have seen it in the bookstores it was published a century ago. As I was browsing through the chapters I found it interesting to learn that Victorian parents were just as concerned about overdoing Christmas gift-giving as my wife and I. We longed for simpler times when children's loving thanks could be purchased with a modest toy well, so did Goss.



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