How Not to Raise Paris Hilton

Are we raising a generation of Paris Hiltons?

One of the things that jumped out at me during the latest chapter in the Life of Paris was the image of this 26-year-old woman in court screaming for her mommy, as if she were being led off to the electric chair instead of 45 days of carbs, cell phone bans, Not-Hot uniforms, and bushy eyebrows.

There's a little Paris Hilton in all of us. There are days we all want to throw a tantrum and cry for mommy, but part of being an adult is taking what life throws at you without reacting like an eight-year-old. Oh, how I miss the jail-days of Martha Stewart, who donned her stripes like a grown-up and marched off to prison to teach her fellow felons how to make macramé owls or whatever. (Crafts are not my strong suit.) I love that she "foraged for dandelions and other wild greens" and "concocted recipes in a microwave." Even someone as talentless as Paris could make herself useful on the inside. Imagine if she gave everyone makeovers? (Actually… I'm reminded by a lawyer who represents teenage hookers in the juvenile justice system that makeup is verboten in jail, so I guess makeovers are out.)

But let's circle back to Mama-San Hilton for a second. What was she doing during all of this? Bitching about how unfair it is to punish her grown daughter for driving drunk, driving with a suspended license, and violating the terms of her probation. Just as Mama Lohan defended Lindsay when her boss complained about her horrible work ethic and job performance. (How telling when a movie producer is the only grown-up around.)

I see that same attitude in lots of helicopter parents, who think their Gen Y progeny can do no wrong. Nor should their babies endure any hardships, like, say, having to take a class at 8:30 in the morning or show up for a job interview. Part of growing up means realizing that actions have consequences, and that life doesn't always let you sleep in. Gen Y's parents try to delay those a-ha moments for as long as possible.

I also see a little bit of Paris in that sense of entitlement for which Gen Y has become famous. There's been a lot in the media recently about the gratuitous praise Gen Y expects after years of trophies for the entire soccer team and A's for attendance. Who better epitomizes that phenomenon than someone who has become famous for doing absolutely nothing? (Even before the sex tape, I mean.) I don't think it's possible to find someone who ranks so high on the fame axis and yet so low on the accomplishment axis. At least Lindsay has been out there working for a living, when she's not blowing it all up her nose in the bathroom at Teddy's with mom's blessings.

I can't really fault the Paris-Lindsay-Britney crowd. They were raised a certain way, and their parents tell them day in and day out that they deserve a free pass. The outcome can't be a big surprise given the parental malpractice involved. What's troubling to me is that these aren't just mega-celebrities run amok. I see that kind of parenting outside of the celebrity set on a daily basis, and I wonder what the consequences are when it happens on such a large scale. We're raising a generation of Paris Hiltons, and the results won't be pretty.

More thoughts here.