Wise wealthy parents should keep their kids unaware of their fortuitous financial situation.


Dear Adele,

Our grandchildren are being raised in a privileged upper-income home where they have everything they could possibly want. However, despite economic advantages, the adolescents seem to be struggling with a number of issues including substance abuse and mild depression. This seems hard to explain given their fortunate situation. Is parenting just that difficult today for everyone?

Privileged Grandmother


Dear Privileged Grandmother,

Yes, parenting can be that difficult, no matter one’s socio-economic level. You may be surprised to learn that even the wealthy, which includes upper-middle-class groups, face parenting challenges more commonly witnessed in those with affluence.

Tom Corley discusses the pros and cons of being raised in a wealthy home in the “Advantages and Disadvantages of Growing Up Rich.” We know rich children usually live in better neighbourhoods, get better educations, have more resources for extracurricular activities and have more personal time for study, friends and interests, as they do not need to work. At the same time however, they tend to have a lowered work ethic, and possess a fear of failure. They also have less willingness to take risks and experience limited opportunities for sacrifices which are required in life to succeed.

Children raised in wealthy families may also suffer from ‘affluenza’.

Affluenza is a term coined to describe youth who are wealthy but troubled and struggling. Wikipedia defines affluenza as “The psychological malaise supposedly affecting wealthy people. It is a portmanteau of affluence and influenza and is used by critics of consumerism.” According to Suniya Luthar of Arizona State University, affluent kids are becoming “increasingly troubled, reckless and self-destructive”.

Studies done by Luthar revealed that affluent kids are more prone to abusing drugs and alcohol than less affluent ones. They experience a greater likelihood of depression and anxiety than the national average in their age group. Their rule breaking tends to be cheating and stealing from family and friends. While children of the poor and rich have comparable delinquency rates, wealthy parents who have access to greater resources, bail their children out of trouble more frequently, with better lawyers.

Luthar’s studies go on to state that wealthy parents, like all parents, are important role models. These parents can afford to be significant consumers, so children rarely have to delay gratification to obtain anything they want. Hence, they come to feel entitled and learn to be narcissistic.

According to Ashley Wehrli in ‘Why Wealthy Kids Don’t Have It as Easy as We Think’, Columbia University studies in the late 1990s found that rich, white, 15to 16-year-olds, compared to black, low income, 15 to 16-year-olds were more prone to drinking, smoking, substance abuse, depression, anxiety, chronic academic difficulties, psychological distress, and delinquent behaviour.

It seems, says Wehrli, that money is not the answer but good parenting is.

In rich homes the parents may be too busy with their businesses or social commitments to spend a lot of quality time with their offspring. The parents are in essence, absent from the lives of their children. Money and material gifts are used to compensate for the lack of time given to the kids. The rich parents may also be so indulgent with material possessions, that they rob their young of the opportunity to experience delayed gratification and develop good work habits needed to achieve material goals on their own.

According to Psychology Today, rich children also experience a lot of pressure to perform and to be the best in everything they take on. Their parents expect them to go to the elite universities, be excellent at high level extracurricular activities, and have a great social life. This pressure may cause teenagers to act out.

Another Psychology Today article by David Miller entitled ‘The Common Misconceptions About a Wealthy Upbringing’, confirms some of the findings of other studies. Miller says children raised with wealth suffer. They are 20-30 times more likely to experience anxiety than those less affluent. They rarely learn to live on minimal resources and often do not have the “skills, knowledge, discipline, and emotional intelligence to attain long-term financial stability.”

Miller agrees that wealthy children are more prone to chronic depression and low self-esteem because of parental pressure. He says wealthy children are expected to be as successful as their parents. They experience burnout in learning with expensive tutors with an emphasis on outcomes over process.

Miller adds that the children of the rich, have parents who are very busy, with reduced time with their offspring. Hence, the kids tend to live in greater isolation. This results in insecure children who often do not learn good values from their parents.

Finally, it needs to be mentioned that rich kids are subject to negative judgements of society’s members. They are regularly stereotyped as self-centered, negligent and ruthlessly ambitious.

If you have read my columns for some time, Privileged Grandmother, you will probably have noted a repeated theme: time is the most important thing that parents can give children. They are their role models and provide them with their value system for life. Rich parents need to talk with their kids not text. Boundaries and limits need to be set. Right from wrong needs to be taught. Consequences need to be enforced.

If wealthy parents want youngsters to have a strong work ethic, the kids must see it in their parents and be encouraged to work hard in all they do. While in school they can participate in clubs and sports in which they can learn to contribute, cooperate, and prepare for the workforce.

If rich parents desire children to be good money managers, the little ones must learn to delay gratification, be given opportunities to earn their own money and be accountable for it. It has been suggested that wise wealthy parents try to keep their progeny unaware of their fortuitous financial situation.

Finally, it would be helpful if parents, counsellors and teachers encouraged rich youth to pursue their own dreams and goals to the best of their ability, in any educational institution of their choice. They should be helped to formulate goals that will allow them to love what they do in life. High grade point averages, fancy universities and big salaries do not necessarily bring success or happiness.

A few inspiring quotations on this subject follow:

Give kids enough so they feel they could do anything, but not so much that they could do nothing.— Warren Buffett

Money is the wrong currency to pay back lost time. You make up lost time with time.— Frankel Lombardo

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else, is the greatest accomplishment. — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sincerely, Adele

I'm looking forward to your questions! Email me at maryadeleblair@gmail.com and please put Heart to Heart in the subject line. Note that all columns will remain anonymous.

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