Over-indulgent parents aren’t just making kids dumber. They’re also costing themselves money in the process. The latest trend? Shelling out hundreds — or even thousands — of dollars to get books written by their children published.

In recent years, self-publishing companies and print-on-demand technology have given way to a plethora of new authors. No longer do you have to hope a publishing house will agree to release your work — you can do it yourself and call yourself a “published author.”

And while that’s certainly had its share of deserved success stories, scores of children and teenagers are now self-publishing books — with their parents footing the bills. Those moms and dads say it’s no different than buying expensive sporting equipment for a promising young athlete, but detractors worry they’re sending the wrong message to kids about the merits of perseverance.

Jacqueline Hines pays $2,700 every time her daughter Elizabeth, an Annapolis, Md. high school junior, self-publishes a book. While she initially worried Elizabeth would get “a little too much of a sense of self,” Mrs. Hines eventually agreed to open her checkbook because “self-esteem usually is not a bad thing for kids this age.”

But novelist Tom Robbins disagrees.

“What’s next? Kiddie architects, juvenile dentists, 11-year-old rocket scientists?” he asked. “Any parent who thinks that the crafting of engrossing, meaningful, publishable fiction requires less talent and experience than designing a house, extracting a wisdom tooth, or supervising a lunar probe is, frankly, delusional.”

[The New York Times]