Classic Lit: Naughty children - poor parents

I’m sort of sick of hearing “kids today” followed by someone in the conversation pointing out that it isn’t kids today, its the parents today. I know there are a lot of naughty kids in classic literature - poor parents, too! And if they didn’t ring true when they were written they wouldn’t have been written. So, who are some of the naughty kids and bad parents?

My nominee:

Lydia Bennet (Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen, published 1813).

Lydia starts the book with the manners any contemporary ill behaved sixteen year old would envy. She is self centered, lazy, an apparent spendthrift and a terrible flirt. She has never bothered to pick up any of the talents that mark a young lady of her era “accomplished.” She runs off with Wickham and lives with him unmarried for several weeks until Darcy bribes him to marry her. She never shows an ounce of remorse for this action

Mr. and Mrs. Bennet

Mr. Bennet is one of my favorite characters for his sarcastic wit. But even he admits to having been a poor father. His wife is Lydia grown up, silly and self centered. She is overindulgent to Lydia in particular.

If I recall correctly, Mr. Bennet was described as having married “for looks” and came to regret it all too soon, when he found out that his wife was a total ninny.

I personally think that Amy March, from Little Women, is the most evil character in literature.

Also the grandfather that is the primary care giver for Little Nell in The Old Curiosity Shop is a gamboling addict and he just makes things worse.

In fact, his stupidity pretty much kills her.

The Evil Step-mother in Cinderella and her two bad daughters are some oldie but baddies.

Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn got into a lot of mischief.

Of course, a modern social worker would make the excuse that Tom was in a single-parent family (single-aunt family, actually) and that Huck’s father was drunk and abusive on the rare occasions when he was home at all.
Two of King Lear’s daughters were not models of filial devotion.

In George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, Mr. and Mrs. Parson’s son and daughter are brainwashed little hellions. Bratty kids are also in a few of Orwell’s other novels, including Coming Up for Air.

Tom Gradgrind in Dickens’ Hard Times. I suppose you could argue his sister Louisa was as well, but that’s kind of iffy. Their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Gradgrind are definitely bad parents by today’s standards, though.

Josie Pye from Anne of Green Gables seems like the classic high school spoiled cheerleader bitch. I don’t remember meeting her parents too much - I do remember Marilla saying “can’t expect different from a Pye.”

Austen is filled with them - from the relatively good (Emma and Mr. Woodhouse, Marianne Dashwood and Mrs. Dashwood), to the naughty (Sir Walter Elliot and his oldest daughter, most of the characters in Mansfield Park, and I wouldn’t want to be close to Lady Middleton’s children when those spoiled brats reach adulthood.) No one truly evil…just naughty children and over indulgent parents - the sorts of things I hear over and over again when I hear about “kids these days.”

I have to say the parents in Peter Pan were largely responsible for their children’s kidnapping by some kind of mutant child-fairy by leaving their children’s care to a St. Bernard.

What about the Weasley Family in Harry Potter. Fred and George always in trouble. Wizards today!

I’m stealing from Bill Cosby here…

The original naughty children: Adam and Eve. There’s only one thing they’re not allowed to do…what do they do?

And the inevitable sequel: Cain and Abel

The Bible is just full of dreadful children and piss poor parenting.

True. The problems King David had with his children rival anything you’ll find in Greek tragedy (which pretty much established the model for dysfunctional families in drama and literature).