Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Parenting Lessons in a Chocolate Factory

Roald Dahl’s books are great fun to a certain type of kid, or adult who hasn’t forgotten what it is like to be one. They are imaginative and fun, yet dark and edgy. Also, one of the main themes running through his books is that most adults are not quite right and can’t be trusted. (In that sense, he was way ahead of his time.) One book in particular, however, presents four kids as villains, although the argument could be made that those kids are the way they are because of their parents.

In Charlie and the Chocolate factory, we have one of the best ever presentations of how lack of parenting will ruin a child. The four children that attend the tour with Charlie all have their flaws, but they all boil down to the same problem: they are spoiled. Veruca is traditionally spoiled—she gets whatever she wants, but all the others are spoiled as well. Augustus simply wants to eat, and his mother lets him. Mike prefers to sit in front of the television all day. Violet’s is the most subtle of all forms of spoiling. Her crass and unpleasant demeanor is indulged and she is never taught how to behave properly.

Charlie is the one good kid in this story and at first it seems like his salvation is that he is poor. He cannot be spoiled because his parents can’t give him anything. The truth is that Charlie is a good, polite and unselfish child because his parents and grandparents teach him to be so. In his case, when one of his family members tries to give him their portion of food, it is not an act of indulgence, but rather an example of selflessness that he learns and imitates.

This is a timeless book that more children (and so-called parents) should be encouraged to read. It is not all about the moral point of the story either. There is a fun imagination at work here as well.

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