Being “rich“. Is that really the best we can hope for our children?
Recently, my husband emailed me a link to an article, “Will Your Child be Rich or Poor? 15 Poverty Habits Parents Teach Their Children” by Tom Corley. It’s uncommon for him to send me whole articles, as he usually prefers to text me inappropriate pictures or screen shots of Tweets he considers gut-busting, but he’s not alone in his enthusiasm. The article boasts 398k likes on Facebook. The title was somewhat off-putting to me; I figured it might be a case of click-bating and dove in with eagerness.
But the article left me feeling fairly queasy. I don’t really care about the writing style, or the heavy reliance on the statistics from the self-conducted study. What was so unpleasant was the tone. The simplistic and childish assumption that all rich people are happy and classy, and all poor people are miserable and gross.
I can only assume that this article is a very brief summary of the kinds of things Mr. Corley discusses in his two books: “Rich Kids – How to Raise Our Children to be Happy and Successful in Life” and “Rich Habits – The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals.” The books were written using data from a study that Mr. Corley’s website (richhabits.net) says he culled by the following method: “For five years, Tom observed and documented the daily activities of 233 wealthy people and 128 people living in poverty. During his research he identified over 200 daily activities that separated the ‘haves’ from the ‘have nots.’ ”
After a brief introduction, the article lists some depressing statistics from Mr. Corley’s study. Things like, “72% of the wealthy know their credit score vs. 5% of the poor”, “62% of the wealthy floss their teeth every day vs. 16% of the poor”, “79% of the wealthy believe they are responsible for their financial condition vs. 18% of the poor”, etc.
Mr. Corley then goes on to explain to parents how to structure children’s lives so that they can avoid falling into the heinous and irreversible trap of becoming poor. To prevent such ruination, Mr. Corley provides us with 15 bullet points.
I readily acknowledge that I agree with a lot of the suggestions. In my opinion, many of the things he says are just good common sense ways to help your kids develop into nice and healthy grown-ups. Mr. Corely urges us to limit screen time and junk food, let our kids know that it’s ok to make mistakes, set aside one hour a day just to chat, have them exercise daily, help your child open up a bank account, and have kids write thank-you notes.
But much of the list seems stifling and wrong-footed. I’m not sure if Mr. Corley has any children of his own, but it seems as if he hasn’t ever met an actual child. Also, I’m not sure what age group he’s suggesting these tactics be unleashed on. The list doesn’t seem appropriate for younger kids, but it doesn’t seem right for teenagers either.
Mr. Corely wants our kids to set monthly, annual, and five-year goals, work or volunteer 10 hours a week, save 25 percent of their earnings and gifts, read two “educational” books a month, create daily to-do lists that must be monitored by parents, require kids to participate in two non-sports related activities, have parents punish children when they lose their tempers, and have parents teach their children that wealth is good and it’s important to pursue the “American Dream”.
My husband and I have two boys. I like to think we’re raising them to be kind, polite, empathetic, hard-working, and happy. Does anyone really think that being rich automatically makes them happy? As long as we’re somewhat responsible, shouldn’t we focus on being fulfilled, rather than wealthy? It surprised me that my partner would want to enforce this money-hungry, Gestapo-like regime on any person, much less our own children.
And I can’t imagine a more perfect breeding ground for intense resentment and rebellion than the schedule prescribed by Mr. Corley.
A Day in the Life
- 5:30 am: Wake up. Write up daily to-do list and submit it to Mom for approval.
- 6:30-7:30: Have breakfast, and get ready for school. Make sure khaki pants have perfect pleats.
- 8:00-3:00: School (think he’s allowed to have fun or just, you know, suffer?)
- 3:30-4:30: Homework (which Mom has to help with)
- 4:30-5:30: Non-sports related activity, pottery making. Mom will drive him, of course.
- 5:50-6:30: Soccer practice, because we need to squeeze in that daily exercise. Mom continues to chauffeur.
- 6:30-7:30 It’s time to volunteer. Mom carts the little guy over to the local nursing home where he empties bed pans for an hour.
- 7:30-8:30: Dinner. Mom still has to make a healthful meal.
- 8:30-9:30: Chatting. Not sure what there is to discuss since kid had spent most of the day driving around with Mom.
- 9:30-10:45: To-do list. Oh, man! He didn’t take out the garbage, write a thank you note to grandma, balance his check book, or read a chapter in his educational tome, “The Youngest Millionaire in the World.”
- 11:00 pm: Floss the crap out of his teeth and go to bed. Hopefully, this little man is so worn out he falls asleep quickly, because 5:30 comes awful early.
And I sincerely hope Mom doesn’t mind having zero time for a life, job, partner, or other children.
Like I said above, I’m not in favor of letting kids do whatever they want or fostering a completely self-centered existence. But when you force a kid to do anything, it sucks. They hate it and a ton of your parental interaction time is spent on tedious nagging. As a parent sometimes you have to insist. But this is an ENTIRE DAY of forced labor and boring busy work. Whether they end up rich, poor, or something in-between, how can such a parent involved, over-scheduled childhood make a happy, self-sufficent adult?
Instead of teaching kids how to become wealthy, a specious goal at best, how about we give them some room. Sometimes, kids and teens need to be alone, or do nothing, or go lay in the grass and daydream. Sometimes they need to be selfish, go play, stare in the mirror, or waste time. More than sometimes, really more like a lot of times. How about they read books because it’s fun, or we talk when we feel like it? Why not take the that twenty dollars from Grandma and blow the whole thing on bulk candy and a video game? Why not enjoy being young? It’s such a short and precious time.
And what happens when you release this carefully controlled animal into the wild? Will he be able to navigate college without you and your incessant nagging? Will he call you every night crying to come home? Or will he dive headfirst into the fun he’s so long been denied and never call you again?
If kids never have a chance to stop and let their minds wander, how will we they discover who they are and who they want to become? If they’re always working, how will they ever know that yucky feeling that comes from too much lolling around? How can a child or teenager so tightly harnessed ever make the mistakes that we’re supposed to teach them are ok?
Here’s a fantastic essay from Motherlode, the parenting blog on the New York Times site. It’s called, “What’s Your Teenager Doing This Summer? In Defense of ‘Nothing’ “by Julie Lythcott-Haims. Mrs. Lythcott-Haims spent a decade as the dean of freshman at Stanford University and saw first-hand how crippling over-scheduling and over-parenting can be. I suggest that you give it a read. It’s very well-written and definitely something that’s actually worthy of being shared on Facebook. I plan on sharing it with my husband tonight.
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