In my earlier post I described how you and I as parents of today could be raising spoiled kids and not even know it, all in the name of being nice, loving, and desiring to give our children better life than we ever had. It had been the general belief that children born to affluent parents are usually spoiled, but with the emergence of the middle class there seems to be a rise in spoiled and fiscally irresponsible children. Many have suggested that it’s impossible to not raise spoiled kids in a family where there is so much money to throw around for obvious reasons.
You might know a few affluent families (and those who aspire to be) who absolutely spoiled their children rotten and the children of course are the worse for it. At the same time, we also know other families of means who have raised children who are polite, courteous, respectful, responsible, and compassionate, and are making real contributions to the society.
The difference between these two groups is not so much about how much they have in the bank, what properties they own in exotic places around the world or how highly connected they are; both have it all. What makes the difference is the values underlying the wealth, and how they relate with money and influence. For the first group, the accumulation of wealth is an end in itself. The riches are used largely to satisfy selfish purposes, mostly for mind boggling consumption, status, and power. For the latter, wealth is a byproduct of passion and hard work, and their relationship with wealth is based on their most deeply held values; the desire to use that wealth to enrich their lives and for the good of others and the society. That is why you find the likes of young and super-rich Facebook founder using his wealth to make this world a better place.
Clearly, the messages children from each of these types of families receive about money are hugely different and they will have very different experiences with money and develop very different values, relationships, and practices with money. However, that does not only apply to wealthy families but to those with less means alike.
Most often we have an uneasy feeling accepting that our children are spoiled. I have seen some parents try to make a distinction between being ‘spoiled’ and being a ‘spoiled brat’ but any which way, spoiled is spoiled. What is a better definition of spoiled brats than children who, whether they do good, bad, or nothing, they get what they want. Someone once attempted to differentiate the two: the first group is called “fortunate,” where the children actually see themselves as being recipients of good fortune and are gratitude for what they are given. In contrast, the second group is “entitled” because they expect what they have been given and feel that it is their right. Two children can be given the same thing while Child X says “Thank you so much!” Child Y says “Is this all?” These divergent attitudes will undoubtedly express themselves in all aspects of their lives throughout childhood and into adulthood.
So, the question is: how can we avoid raising spoiled children and instead raise fiscally responsible children who have healthy relationships with money? Perhaps the most basic value about money we should teach our children is that it should not define them. Children need to learn that money, like most things of value in life, is earned rather than a right or entitlement. Other values and skills such as delayed gratification, respect, discipline, and decision making should be taught early as they have a powerful influence on the attitudes and relationships that children develop around money.
We can communicate these values through discussions, spontaneous teachable moments, and even more by living it out for them to see and emulate, actions speak far louder than words and we must live those values we want our children to adopt. The school system should not be left out too. Children can also learn by associating with peers who have positive values and perspectives on money than they do.
Teaching children responsibility is vital. Children must learn that their actions have consequences and they should be held accountable for their actions, both good and bad. Ironically, many parents today seem to avoid this even when they learned the lesson of responsibility early in their lives and knowing how that has contributed to their success. Yet they shy away from it and would even fight class teachers or anyone who does that.
In this fast paced and hugely changing world we live in today, it is natural for us to worry about our children’s futures, particularly in the area of finance. Teaching children healthy values, attitudes, and skills related to money and fiscal responsibility are some of the best things we can do to ensure that our children are prepared for whatever lies ahead. Raising children who are responsible, hard working, honest and considerate, rather than spoiled brats, is the best service any parent can render to the society.
All the best!
Images courtesy: theepochtimes.com, 3ChicsPolitico.