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  • Writer's pictureYPR

A Parenting Curriculum for the Affluent: 10 Key Points

Updated: Feb 26

Those who are fortunate enough to be considered financially affluent in our society are sometimes embarrassed to admit that they have parenting challenges. They may feel ashamed to admit to what might look like parenting failures, because they consider themselves to be so successful in other areas of their lives. Because of their busy careers, they may have inadvertently neglected the art of purposeful parenting, and simply hoped that with a good heart, the right private school, and the latest iPhone their kids would turn out fine.

The very existence of financial wealth in a household introduces a host of unique challenges, particularly when it comes to parenting. Children of the wealthy are fortunate in so many ways, yet when compared to less affluent children, they are disproportionately burdened by depression, anger, drug and alcohol addiction, disenfranchisement, anxiety, and a host of other emotional challenges.

“Studies reflect that wealthy children experience depressive symptoms at rates three-times as high as non-affluent children.  Rates of anxiety and substance use were also higher.  Studies have found that children of affluence are two to three times as likely as non-affluent children to engage in substance use and abuse.  There are many studies that reflect this data.[1]”

I am not a doctor or licensed therapist, but as a personal advisor who specializes in the subject of parenting, a father of three, and student of mindfulness practices, I have studied, coached, and written about the delicate art of raising children to be happy, mindful, unspoiled, motivated, grateful, kind, humble, and ethical human beings. It is important to note that when depression or addiction reaches a critical level, professional medical care should be sought. But even in such cases, good parenting should be practiced in parallel, so these suggestions remain applicable.

Too often, the children of well-off parents grow into spoiled, entitled, and unhappy young adults—almost inversely proportional to the amount of money spent on their upbringing, gifts, and education. Here are some of the ideas that I frequently discuss with my clients who are seeking parenting advice. Keep in mind that each of these is worthy of a longer conversation, consideration for individual family circumstances (such as the age of the children and the marital status of the parents), and the creation of a customized program of practical, step-by-step techniques:

1)     Teach your children boundaries. The real world is full of boundaries. The laws of society have boundaries. The laws of physics have boundaries. If you don’t teach your children about boundaries, you are not preparing them for the real world, and are doing them a terrible disservice. That means saying “No” frequently. You need not be mean or angry in your enforcement of boundaries, but you must be firm, and understand that doing so (correctly) is to be a good parent. In creating healthy rules, you are teaching your children about real life as a human being in this world. However, the true artform is to enforce boundaries with grace and positivity—as if they are simply a fact of life rather than the dictates of a punitive or adversarial parent.

2)     Teach your children gratitude. Your children should be reminded regularly of how fortunate they are, how others less fortunate in the world live today, and what challenges people throughout history have endured. Even without material wealth, they are still more fortunate than most: to be healthy, to have caring parents, to live in a free society—teach your children not to take these treasures for granted. When they are old enough, teach them about the violent history of mankind, and how very fortunate they are to have been born when they were born, where they were born, and to whom they were born. They ought to be humbled by these lottery winnings. They ought not feel guilty but feel grateful. Mind you, this does not mean complaining, “When I was a kid we had to walk to school barefoot in a blizzard uphill both ways…” rather it means integrating into your lives gratefulness habits (like teaching them to say “thank you” often and with sincerity), gratefulness rituals (like beginning and ending each day with a private statement of thanks), and practicing gratitude meditations. Teaching gratitude can profoundly improve a child’s (and any human’s) perspective and attitude.

3)     Lead by example. If your children see you treating others with sincere respect regardless of their position, it will teach them how they should act—far more effectively than any lecture or book you can give them. That means if you go to a restaurant, be kind to the waiter. If your kids observe you at the grocery store or at your office, let them see that you recognize and treat everyone, regardless of position, as a valuable human soul. Likewise, let them see you work hard. Let them see you bravely apologize when you screw up. Let them see you admit when you are wrong. Let them see you roll up your sleeves and take out the trash. If your children witness your noble behavior day after day throughout their upbringing, it will make them better people. As a bonus, when you make a good example of yourself, it will make you a better person.

4)     Teach your children how to lose, and how to fail. As Dr. Richard Feinman once said, “Don't just teach your children how to be successful, teach them how to respond when they are not successful, teach them how to handle failures and learn from their mistakes.” Winning is easy but losing gracefully is an amazing skill to teach and master. Teach your children to view a so-called failure as a precious learning opportunity. Without failure, there can be no growth, therefore valuable life lesson should not be squandered by unproductive feelings like shame or regret. In our home, we have banished the word “mistake,” and replaced it with “lesson.” Likewise, we have replaced the word “problem” with the word “puzzle.” Problems are approached with heaviness and dread, while puzzles invite focus and creative solutions.

5)     Teach your children how to handle stressful situations. It is inevitable that in life, your children will face stressful events. Rather than forcing them to figure out what to do on the spot during a crisis, prepare them in advance. What do you do when someone is mean to you? What do you do when you see someone being bullied? What do you do when you are caught doing something you know you shouldn’t be doing—how do you admit you were wrong? What do you do when you take on a task that you find out you just can’t accomplish, and people are counting on you? If they just got their driver’s license, what should they do during a traffic stop or car accident? What should they do if, while partying with their friends, they get too high or too drunk and are ashamed to tell you about it? These are wonderful discussions to have with your children as they grow up to prepare them for the messiness of the real world.

6)     Keep your children physically active. This is not just for their physical health, but also for their psychological health. A regular form of exercise releases endorphins and other neural chemicals, making them feel strong and capable. If you want to create happy humans, keep them physically healthy. Come up with ways to exercise together such as a hiking or walking ritual (this can be combined with daily heart-to-heart talks with you, or silent walking meditations.) This is also a sneaky but effective way to get them away from their phones or game consoles. If they are busy participating in a team sport, or they develop a passion for a physical hobby (such as surfing or rock climbing), it reminds them of the treasures that non-virtual reality has to offer. 

7)     Limit or avoid screen time and other bad influences. If you value your ability to teach and influence your children (which you obviously do since we are working on this together), keep in mind that the total time you interact with your children each day is only a few hours at best. Imagine if they spend 5 or 10 times that amount of time being influenced by who-knows-who else, teaching them who-knows-what life lessons. If your young children are able to view the unrestricted internet, you have no idea what lessons they are being taught. Treat their young minds as something precious. If you owned an original Leonardo Da Vinci painting, would you keep it outside nailed to the garage door? Of course, you would treat it with tremendous care. Your child’s developing mind is far more valuable than the Mona Lisa, so while they are still young enough and while you have some influence, teach them their life lessons purposefully. That means being aware of who is teaching them what at school, who their friends are and making sure they are positive influences, and of course, restricting what and how much they can see online. There are many creative ways to limit screen-time (even for older teens) that I will write about in future articles.

8)     Put your children to work. Teach your children, from an early age, that things don’t happen without work. A garden needs tending-to before it can produce food. A dog needs to be cleaned up after. Clean clothes and bed sheets don’t magically appear in their closet or on their mattress. Dinner must be shopped for and prepared. Even if you are wealthy enough to hire others to assist with these things, don’t be so quick to squander these priceless opportunities to teach life lessons. Have your kids buy their own toys with what they earn from chores. With chores comes a work ethic, and an understanding that good things in life are the result of effort. When they are old enough, they should get a job in the real world during the summertime. Doing so will give them an understanding of how the world works, a respect for others who do these jobs, and a feeling of self-sufficiency.

9)     Teach your children how to focus. In our technology-rich culture, things happen far too quickly. Teach your children how to slow down and focus on things. Expose them to puzzles, books, or a musical instrument. Teach them to play chess—not just for the intellectual benefits—but for the lessons in patience and methodical thinking. Teach them to meditate daily. Teach them how to quiet their mind. Do this together with them each day because you could also use a quieter mind, couldn’t you?

10)    Have lots of positive, simple, family time. This doesn’t mean going on expensive vacations, it means having meals at home together. It means having daily conversations about the day's events (even the small ones). It means having family time in front of the fireplace in the winter playing cards or silly board games. It means spending time with cousins, aunts and uncles, and grandparents. Teach them that the love in a family doesn’t cost any money, and yet at the same time is absolutely priceless.

I’ve only scratched the surface of some of the areas that parents of younger kids can reflect and improve upon. Things can be more challenging for older kids who are often more deeply entrenched in their bad habits and attitudes.

If you want to talk about strategies for working with your kids on their life direction, feel free to reach out. In parallel with my other entrepreneurial endeavors, I work with clients one-on-one to build custom programs for them and their children to follow, and we make adjustments along the way to ensure positive results. In our career-centric society, we spend so much time and effort on other parts of our lives, often to the inadvertent neglect of our role as parents, not realizing it until there is a problem. By investing some energy into purposefully improving our parenting skills, we can avoid challenges down the road, and better achieve our goal of raising healthy, happy, noble human beings.

-YPR is a business and personal advisor to clients around the world. He is the author of the two book series, Happiness and Heroism: The School of Being, The School of Doing.

[1] Aaron Sternlicht, LMHC, MS, CASAC

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