The economy continues to boom, and a lot of people are making big bucks. But many of those individuals, according to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, are concerned about raising kids who turn out to be brats.
We've all witnessed a little child yelling and screaming in public until he gets what he wants. That's only one manifestation of spoiled kids; unfortunately, there are a lot of other bad behavior problems.
Parents face a paradox, the article notes: "how to raise normal, unspoiled kids embodying America's cherished 'middle class' values--hard work, frugality, sacrifice--when you're floating on the froth of la dolce vita."
According to Kaycee Krysty, who heads Seattle-based wealth-advisory firm Tyee Asset Strategies, parents who are doing well financially "are worried about raising screwed-up kids." And as the article makes clear, it isn't only the super-rich who are worried.
Worrying about spoiled kids isn't new by any means. Many years ago, while on a business trip to New York, I had lunch with two wealthy gentlemen. Much to my surprise, after business was discussed, the two talked about their grown children, making it clear they were not pleased with the way they had turned out. One of my clients said something I've always remembered: "If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't have given my son so much. I ruined him."
The difference today is in the numbers. There simply are more very comfortable households, families that can afford to give their children lots of little extras. From 1990 to 1997, the number of households with incomes between $100,000 and $200,000 more than doubled to 5.4 million, and those with incomes between $200,000 and $500,000 rose to 1.4 million, according to Internal Revenue Service data.
Still, the situation isn't hopeless, and the Journal article had some useful advice for parents who want their kids to turn out OK. Not surprisingly, the buck stops with mom and dad.
Lee Hausner, a Los Angeles psychologist, offers a simple example. "If you overindulge yourself, your children will think overindulgence is important. If you say, 'I want my kids to have good values,' then don't go out and buy 17 leather jackets, and then say, 'I wonder why my child wants so much of everything."'
It's simple, really. Kids watch their parents and copy their habits. If the parents act like self-indulgent adults, then for sure the kids will act like spoiled brats.
The amount of dollars isn't the determinant. I've known kids who come from middle-class homes who are twice as bratty as kids from wealthy homes. The key is the way the parents behave and the values they instill.
As the article notes, there's a tendency to be a little hypocritical--sermonizing about the virtues of sacrifice while living lavishly. As each generation has more, the challenges grow. Depression-era parents had their own concerns about raising middle-class kids in the '50s.
Money can do a lot of funny things to people, destroying lives and reputations virtually overnight. But parents who keep things in perspective and are diligent with their responsibilities will find that nine times out of 10, their kids turn out just fine.
It's a simple formula,
Charles S. Lauer