Wealth can be a blessing and a curse when it comes to equipping children with all that they need to succeed in life. Wealth brings with it a kind of status, but also a responsibility to teach that having money and things does not necessarily result in happiness and fulfillment. Many parents have allowed their homes to become a breeding ground for entitlement and greed. Their wealth has afforded them the opportunity to shield their children from the cruel realities of life, and that is just the opposite of what they should be doing.
In my private practice I see many young adults who have come from families of high socioeconomic status. Often by the time they come in to see me they are feeling depressed and anxious about their lives. Many are just out of college and looking for their first real job. The harsh reality that their income will not buy new cars, electronics, designer clothing, and expensive vacations is like a smack in the face.
All of their lives every need and more has been met by indulgent parents. They often feel that they are failures because they cannot have all that they’ve been used to having. They equate their self esteem with what they can buy. They are often angry, and they cannot even identify what is driving their anger.
Another behavioral component they are lacking is their inability to delay gratification. “If I want it I should get it now!” is their motto. The sad result of this scenario is that they may get a credit card and buy what they want, without having the money to pay the bill when it comes due. They get deeper and deeper into debt and depression without a clue as to how or why it happened.
A Better Way
The sad truth is that what they have learned in their families does not give their lives meaning or fulfillment. Every child wants to feel confident in their ability to contribute, whether it’s in the family, or in a job outside the home. Every child needs to know that they can connect with their parents emotionally. Every child needs to know that lasting peace has nothing to do with money, possessions, or social status. Our job as parents is to model healthy lifestyles and to provide enrichment for our children emotionally and spiritually. So, how do we do that?
We need to give our children responsibilities in the home. Some of these responsibilities may be rewarded in the form of an allowance or privileges, while others should be expected of a good citizen of the household. A few years ago, a survey showed those who felt the greatest sense of contentment had contributed to their families as children.
Do not give your children everything they want. This creates a sense of entitlement. Receiving too much without earning often creates a distorted sense of value. Look for opportunities to model altruism, and help your children plug into groups and activities that seek to serve other’s needs—family charitable projects, church-sponsored mission trips, charitable sporting events, or school-sponsored events.
Grow a Contented Child
- Encourage your teenager to find a job outside the home.
- Reward your child with an allowance and extra privileges.
- Model altruism and help your children plug into those kinds of experiences.
- Spend quality time with your children and model healthy relationships, emotionally, spiritually, and financially.
Sherry Siler is a Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice in Edmond. She works with individuals and families, as well as with couples who are experiencing loss or challenges in the area of relationships. Sherry is married and the mother of two adult sons. Contact her at the Office of Paul Tobin and Ann Benjamin at 405-340-4321.