The Advancing Leadership Blog

Why Rich Kids Hate their Parents

“Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one that gets burned.”

Buddha

As a successful small business owner, it can be hard to balance your busy working life with what can be an equally busy family life. Failure to achieve that balance can cause long-term issues in your relationships, especially when it comes to your kids. In my opinion and experience in working with some of the world’s wealthiest families, there are three main reasons that contribute to children hating or resenting their parents and the wealth they have been blessed with (but don’t see it as a blessing).

  1. Parents’ general inability to say “no” to their children’s requests.
  2. Parents trying to make up for lost time or their own feelings of guilt with money. They try to buy their children’s love.
  3. Parents’ messaging about what it means to be wealthy and have money.

In an interview with Daniella, a 35-year-old urban designer we discussed what it was like for her to attend a private school and the impact her family wealth had on her classmates at that time. Daniella attended a posh private school in North Carolina, when her family moved from Europe to the US. She shared how her peers were disconnected from the realities of life as a result of their parent’s wealth, and how, in some cases, they were not challenged by the teachers in school because of who they were, i.e. the power attributed to being the offspring of a wealthy family.

There were lots of instances of peer exclusion, all based on the level of wealth ones family had. In addition there were the inevitable cliques that formed in school and for Daniella, these divisions were dependent upon whether one came from a family of old money or you were one of the nouveau-riche, or an affluent immigrant family. There were constant comparisons being made between children as a result of the wealth that was flaunted at the school.

A common feeling held by the majority of these “rich kids” was one of frustration, resentment, and anger towards their parents; they also had feelings of neglect, and of not feeling loved by their parents, because their parents were never really around. These kids had nice material possessions, which their parents had bought for them, but most kids didn’t really value these things because they knew they were bought as a substitute for attention or affection. As a result these children would show a remarkable lack of appreciation for their material possessions, most or all of which had been purchased for them by their parents. Lots of kids also behaved in an irresponsible or reckless fashion, either to seek attention or as a cry for help from largely emotionally absent parents.

Daniella recalled that many of her peers would spend weekends or holidays at home alone with all of their new gadgets and toys, feeling abandoned and angry. Lots of valuables, few values and a dearth of the glue that holds it together—love.

One of the most common reasons why some rich kids end up hating their parents is because the parents made life too easy for them when they were growing up. It‘s a double-edged sword. Parents typically accumulate wealth by working hard and following their work ethic. The values of a hard work ethic clearly have a bearing on the accumulation of wealth but when it comes time to plan for the transition of that wealth, one must look at a different set of values. As I often say, it’s the values that create the valuables; but it is not necessarily the same values that facilitate the wealth transition.

Working hard, and putting in the time in to build a successful business, usually means long hours away from family that always and only ever comes at a price. The price is typically time away from family events and activities…missing out on so many important milestones; sometime missing out on seeing your children grow up. Parents who do this are making a deal with themselves—at least at a subconscious level. The deal is that once they have accumulated wealth and have attained a certain level or quality of lifestyle and they are providing for their family in the way they have long, or always envisioned, they will make it (time away) up to their family. I call this guilt.

Once the parents are in a position to begin to pay off the debt of guilt—one that they have been carrying for years, perhaps decades—they do so in the only way they can, which is financially, and some of them soon realize that money is not the same currency as time, guilt, or shame. One cannot make up for lost time by writing a check. The parents want to make up for lost time or assuage their guilt so, in most cases, they make life easy for their children and do this without every realizing this is what they are perpetuating. The rational most parents use is that they don’t want their children to suffer in the same way they did themselves. In doing so, the parent unintentionally and without realizing it, undermines the natural ambition and initiative for their own space, power and autonomy that all children posses – which ironically, are the very same human attributes that helped the parents generate (or accumulate) the valuables and wealth in the first place. 

Franco Lombardo is renowned as a speaker and advisor who has coached some of North America’s wealthiest families and their family offices for almost twenty years. He is considered a leading expert on the issues of psychology of money and its interaction within family’s legacy for wealth and transition. He is the author of three books: Life After Wealth: When is Enough, Enough?, Money Motto, The Path to Authentic Wealth, and Great White Elephant, Why Rich Kids Hate Their Parents!. You can find out more and contact Franco at www.veritage.ca.

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