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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Teach your Children Well

Allen Gorin adds to the discussion velow on teaching children of affluence:

Neal, Mike, and others:

This is a great issue for discussion! I've said many times, to my wife and others, that it is much more challenging raising good kids in a wealthy environment than in a middle-class one. I can't tell you how many times I've heard someone--typically a high-school dropout who became a multi-million dollar entrepreneur--say some version of "I want to give my kids everything I didn't have." The "everything" is usually material benefits, which deprives the kids of learning how to fend for themselves. These kids never develop character, discipline, and the ability to cope with failure. In a manner of speaking, these kids are set up to fail in life, and somewhere in their bones, know that their misguided parents have played a key role in this process. To add insult to injury, the rich parents often pile on with comments like "after all we've done for you.........!" Not to mention family and friends who see the unsuccessful kids as failures AND ingrates.

Neal raises the key question: what can those of us who have attained material success do to avoid the above-mentioned scenario with our own kids? Let me suggest a few guidelines:

1) Even as material wealth is attained, don't define yourself and your family's values according to such material wealth. While I'm neither a Christian nor a New Testament scholar, I recall a great line (I think from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount) which goes something like, "Lay not your treasure where moth and dust corrupt.............for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." This is, in religious lexicon, just another way of saying that it's foolish to make material wealth an important criteria for assessing the true measure of a man or woman.

2) Don't make material wealth your ultimate security, and communicate this value to your kids.

3) Let your kids take risks, and LET THEM FAIL. Hopefully, the failures will be small stuff, which will build character and minimize the chances of kids failing with the big stuff.

4) Don't be so quick to bail kids out when they fail. Let them learn accountability, and the art of picking themselves up off the ground when they've been knocked down.

5) Let kids earn their way to their own material successes, rather than leveraging mom and dad's "connections."

I could go on and on with this important subject, but I'll stop here. Let me end with a quick and recent story. My daughter is very talented in many ways, including web design. She had been working part-time for my partner and me--as web designer and website manager--in a new business venture. I say "had been working" because a short while ago, I convinced my partner that it was best if we fire Anna. She had been taking advantage of the fact that her boss was her Dad, and that she could always make commitments to finish work without actually following through in a timely manner. Many times I told her that she can't do business this way "in the real world," but it never really sank in until I fired her. After recovering from the shock--this was the first time she had ever been fired from anything--she now acknowledges her tendency to procrastinate, preferring to do what she feels like more than fulfilling her commitments. I predict that, one day, she will fondly recall that it was her Dad who fired her from a job for the first time--because I care about her, and the values she lives by.


PS An excellent book on this subject is "Rich Dad, Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Children that the Poor and Middle-Class Don't." The author is Robert Kyosaki.


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