Why Spoiling Your Children Might Backfire

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This post is inspired by a powerful and poignant Lifehack article on What do Warren Buffett and Bill Gates have in Common?  Their Kids Aren't Rich.  In that article, the author talks about how Warren Buffett and Bill Gates are both billionaires many times over, and yet they are not passing their fortune to their children and are simply providing for their children's basic needs, and no more. I just love Warren Buffett, he is so great, if you're interested in home too, here a post on more reasons on why I heart Warren Buffett .

Here's a wonderful thought-provoking quote from the article:

“Give once and you elicit appreciation;

Give twice and you create anticipation;

Give three times and you create expectation;

Give four times and it becomes entitlement;

Give five times and you establish dependency.”

– Bob Lupton, Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help, And How to Reverse It

The author states that when you provide for your children in excess (for example, when you keep bailing out your children when they are in trouble or when you buy them a Porsche for their 16th birthday because you can afford it and you want to give your children “the very best”) you give them a message that they are not worthy, that you don't trust them to get their stuff together and so you are going to do it for them instead.

As I wrote in an old post, Would You Rather Grow Up Wealthy or Not, growing up with a silver spoon in your mouth doesn't necessarily make you a successful person by default.  When you are given everything you need and want without working for it, you lose the drive to succeed and you become complacent, dependent, and entitled.

Why Spoiling Your Children Might BackfireAs an individual with baby boomer parents and as a individual of Generation Y culture and a “millennial” according to my age category (though I am getting up there, geez!  I can't believe am in my 30's already!) I believe that a lot of us are spoiled.  Many of us are entitled, expect to make $75,000 right out of college, and do not have the patience to stick with the same job, many of us want to climb that ladder, and we want it now.

The Measure of Success is How You Cope and How You Respond to Life

In my perspective, when you provide for your children.  When you pay for their down payment, when you pay for their car, when you pay for their gas or their car insurance (yeah, I know kind of extreme), you are “taking care of” your adult children, sure, and demonstrating your love for them, but unfortunately this can backfire because they are not taught to be independent, to problem solve, and to have the drive and determination to succeed.  They expect you to help them problem solve and bail them out.  Essentially, I think the reason why a lot of Generation X and Baby Boomer colleagues don't get along with Millennials or Generation Y in the workplace is that they probably think we are slightly narcissistic.

What I Plan to Do with My Potential Future Children

If I have any, I plan not to spoil them (I think this is going to be hard, especially when they start to test me).  I don't plan to buy them a nice car when they turn 16.  I plan to encourage them to get a job when they are old enough to get a job and get their first pay cheque.  I don't hope to raise a narcissist.  I hope to instill in them a sense of delayed gratification, a sense of self control.  Have you heard about the Stanford marshmallow test?  It is where children were offered a small reward (a marshmallow) or two small rewards (two marshmallows) if they waited for a short duration of time (15 minutes).  Those who were able to wait had better “life measures” including SAT scores, educational attainment, etc.  I know this is easier said than done, but it's an ideal that I hold that I hope will come to fruition.

Readers, do you feel the children of our generation and generation Y are spoiled?

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Young is a writer and former owner of Young and Thrifty and the main "twitter' behind Young and Thrifty's twitter account. She lives in Vancouver, BC and enjoys long walks on the beach, spending time with her anxious dog, and finding good deals. If you like what you read, consider signing up for email updates.

2 Comments

  1. Jennifer on June 1, 2015 at 11:04 am

    I am also a millennial, and also unbelievably in my 30s now, and I was raised without being spoiled even though my parents were financially secure. I plan to do the same.

    One thing about that marshmallow test I wanted to share. More studies found the success rate was largely related to upbringing and trust – kids from single parent and/or low income families were also the ones without the self control and weren’t typically as successful in the future. This can also be attributed to not trusting adults to follow through with their promise, and instead go with the guaranteed marshmallow when they have the chance.

    Kids with more consistent environments growing up, where promises were kept and there was reason to believe adults, were more likely to pass the test and also do well in the future, but it’s not just because of their self-control but their whole upbringing – and that upbringing would impact SAT scores and future success as those kids with a more stable childhood may have more means, family income, and access to tutors, etc.



  2. Young on June 2, 2015 at 10:21 pm

    @Jennifer- Thanks for the insight Jennifer, good to know for future kids 🙂



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