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Do rich people make bad parents? Print
mustang yellow.jpg
It’s your son’s sixteenth birthday and he is expecting a car.

Why is he expecting a car? Because, as he has told you now since his fifteenth birthday, there is only one kid in his grade who didn’t get a brand new car and his father is making license plates for the federal authorities.
So let’s examine the choices in front of you:

Option a) Buy him the brand new Mustang – bright yellow – that he’s been hinting at for the last year.

Option b) Buy him a 10 year old Ford Taurus in faded blue with roll-up windows, no a/c and rusted windshield wipers. Tell him if he wants the Mustang, he needs to work over the summer and you will match him $-for-$.

Option c) Get him the same thing your father got you, a pat on the back and the number of the car wash to get a Sunday job so he can save up for the 10 year old Taurus.

For those who don’t have the finances to avail yourself of these choices you will probably fail to appreciate how difficult it really is. So let me spell out for you what goes through the mind of a rich dad as he thinks about each of those options:

Option a)  New Yellow Mustang:
I’ll be lucky if the only thing in two pieces by his 17th birthday is the car. Do you want me to tell you about all the rich kids who are now paraplegics because they got a car like this?

Option b)  10 Year Old Ford Taurus:
My son is going to get very depressed. He’ll be incredibly embarrassed that all his friends have fancy cars. His friends will make fun of him to no end. He’s going to think I hate him and he’s going to start hanging with the kid and his friends who drive this kind of car (that's the one I mentioned whose father is busy with arts-and-crafts for the State of Florida). Those kids don’t take school seriously, many are taking drugs and most drop out of school. And if you think I am exaggerating, that’s what his school counselor told me!

Option c)  Car Wash:
My neighbor did that with his kid three years ago. On the way home from work his son was mugged. He’s now blind in one eye and has a phobia about leaving the house, which he can only do if he’s seriously medicated.

Of course, any one of them could be the choice that makes the boy into a man, but which one? It’s so easy to pick, but if you pick the wrong one you will never forget it. Never! 

Having met a significant number of these parents who now live with the knowledge that they picked the wrong option, I can attest to the fact you will never forget making the wrong choice.

Alternatively, the poor parent has an easy choice. In fact he or she doesn’t really have any choice at all. It’s the son who has the choice, and it’s real simple and real clear: grow up or be bitter.

Ok, so what’s a rich father or mother to do?

I can tell you what they will invariably choose.

The one that’s most likely to cause the least damage.

That’s a good strategy for buying a private jet or even a pet dog, but when it comes to children, it’s a disaster recipe.

Children are not hedge funds. Your job as a parent is to help them become the best they can be -- that won’t happen when your guiding focus is avoiding the worst they can be.

The reason why the Army uses the slogan, “Be all you can be” is because it resonates with so many children whose world revolves around: “don’t be the worst you can be.” Those two goals are not the same thing, and by focusing on the latter you are excluding the former.

Of course the Army’s slogan, as noble as it is, is just that, and going off to war is not necessarily an expression of self-fulfillment. However, parents often don’t do more than give lip service to the same goal. Children constrained by these parental worries don’t find themselves, but they probably will find a heap of frustration and self doubt.

So do rich people make bad parents? 

Rich parents care just as much as poor parents. It’s just that rich parents need more than caring.

If you were raised in a life style very different and of lesser financial means than the one you are raising your children in, then there are very different rules in play that don’t usually portend well for those who don’t know what they are.
Parenting is about giving your children the right stuff inside to help them succeed in life. The fact that your parents were able to give it to you, does not mean that their message will work with your children. Because, as you probably tell your children, they just don't realize how good they have it. Which is true, and is also the problem.

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