Spoil the Child

Let’s say you had fifty billion in the bank. You have a son and you plan to leave everything to him.

What’s the reason not to give him everything he wants?

Of course, I don’t mean that you buy him a company and let him fire or humiliate the employees. Let’s say that you don’t allow him to do anything hurtful, or illegal. And you can’t buy him twenty space stations because you can’t actually afford to do so and maintain your lifestyle. And of course, you can’t buy him clouds, or bring back the dead. But if your six year old wants to buy a Range Rover or two because he likes to blow the horn, why not just get them for him (and let him use them under supervision)?

Here are some possible reasons that I’ve heard when I’ve asked this question:


1. You don’t want to teach him that he can have everything in life. You want to set limits.

My Response: Why? You’re actually setting his expectations correctly by buying it for him. Telling him he can’t have it just because he can’t have everything in life isn’t teaching him a lesson he can use when he’s grown up. You’re already teaching him that he can’t have a unicorn, or things you can’t afford. So he knows he can’t have everything.

But when he’s got that money, he WILL be able to buy practically anything with a price tag. So the lesson about not having everything isn’t valid.

2. You want him to understand the value of a dollar. Shouldn’t be wastefull and get stuff you don’t need.

My Response: Why? Why does that matter? What service are you doing him? He’ll never need to know the value of a dollar, except to make sure he doesn’t run out of them (which is practically impossible). You can definitely have a conversation about not spending more than you can afford, but you can do that while buying him everything in the mall.

We all do that. I buy a toy for my kid on her birthday. She doesn’t NEED it. A lot of kids rarely get toys, birthday or no. My buying it for her might mean that she won’t know exactly how it feels to be without, but why should she? Hell, she doesn’t NEED dinner every night either.

But though I buy her the toy, I can still explain how her situation is different from other kids. She shouldn’t abuse them for not having as much as she does. Etc.

3. You don’t want to raise someone who’s so out of touch in the world that he can’t make friends with regular people.

My Response: Maybe. But I had friends who had a lot more than I did. New fancy cars when they turned 16. Then new cars again when they wrecked the first ones. And I had more than some kids. I had a hand-me-down chevy that I paid nothing for. Other kids had no car at all, of course. And I’m not even talking about really poor kids.

We all got along. Or at least, some people didn’t, but I don’t think they would have anyway. Some rich kids are not nice, but I don’t think that being rich has made them not nice. They would have been jerks if they were poor, too.


I’m sure there are other reasons out there, but I bet they’re all questionable. To be clear: I would set limits. But I think that I’d have to admit that it’s because of some emotion I have, rather than a practical concern for the child or society in general.

Can anyone come up with something more concrete?

11 Responses to Spoil the Child

  1. Kevin September 7, 2007 at 9:38 am #

    When royalty meant something in England, the sons of Kings and Queens were taught their responsibilities to the people long before they had their power. Ostentatious indulgence, waste, and a cavalier disregard toward the plight of others are not useful or proper behaviors, and children need to be taught that. Failure to learn these things will ultimately result in several bad outcomes:

    1) The child will likely not know how to conserve and protect his resources, and so will lose them to waste, sloth, and fraud. A person with 50 billion dollars and no sense of how hard it is to come by will be just as susceptible to dishonest advisors as a person with 50 million, probably more so because of the size of the target.

    2) The child will have countless enemies due to his loutish behavior, and will not find happiness or security.

    3) The child will not know how to deploy his resources productively, and so will fail to achieve personal satisfaction or benefit to society from wise use of the resources.

    You chose a sum so large that you could argue that buying a Range Rover to blow the horn is, percentage-wise, just a minor indulgence, like me buying a book for my child to rip the pages out of. But I wouldn’t buy a book for my child to rip the pages out of, because it’s not the proper use of a book, and my child needs to understand not to be wasteful, even if the cost isn’t a factor.

    Now, if my child wanted to honk the horn of each Range Rover we purchased before it was sent to an employee to be put to some productive use, well, that would be an indulgence I could see.

  2. Hulk September 7, 2007 at 10:15 am #

    I tend to believe that many “rich” people are frugal. This is why they are rich, or at least their frugality is a trait that attributed to their wealth.

    If I had a child, would I give him everything he wanted? No. Doesn’t matter if I had 8 billion or 50 bucks. Why? Because some of the things he would want wouldn’t be appropriate. Quite simply, instead of buying him the Range Rovers, I would let him buy a Range Rover for a single-mother or a family in need or something.

    Don’t get me wrong. I would lavish the kid with age-appropriate gifts. Simple as that. Unless he was an ass.

    What is rich? Are you rich if you have 12 million in the bank, but live in a mobile in Dover, PA? What if you have 4 Ferraris on lease and live rent free in a German Castle?

    Let’s face it. We love money. Why? Because money gets you what others have. Or more importantly, what they don’t have. For example, a modest house with an Atari 2600 and a Microwave Oven would make one a King in 1650. Do I want an iPhone? Yeah! No one else in my office has one.

  3. JB September 7, 2007 at 11:20 am #

    Well, my thoughts would be more along the lines of “what do I want this child to be like when they grow up.” After all, it’s my child– mine. My job/privilege to help him or her grow up and become a productive member of society. People do this all the time, of course, by buying their babies ball gloves or art supplies, putting their kids in Suzuki violin classes when they’re 3.

    If I had billions and was going to leave them to the kid, I’d consider it part of my responsibility to teach the child how to deal with that money and accomplish worthy things– worthy according to the child’s desires, not necessarily mine. So the lessons would be along the lines of maximizing effectiveness, pushing cash where it would do the most good, using resources wisely to accomplish the most with the least so you can do something with the rest.

    All kids should learn that stuff, but if you’re rich you’d probably do it in a different way.

    Not to mention that the kid will grow up and eventually be less my child than an adult I must deal with– hopefully in a loving, friendly way, with mutual respect. I wouldn’t respect a spoiled brat, and wouldn’t want to be around one either. So no Range Rover for the kiddo, for now.

  4. weeklyrob September 7, 2007 at 12:48 pm #

    I guess my point here is that you can teach you child to be a good citizen, to give to charity, to treat people kindly, to have noblesse oblige, to learn about finances, and still give him lots of crap!

    Of course, there’s no one to look at as an example, so I guess we’re all just guessing and I’m guessing differently from all of you. 🙂

  5. JB September 7, 2007 at 2:21 pm #

    I guess I’m thinking that maybe I’d give my kid a budget for something he wants to do… yes, he could buy an Escalade. But he could instead by four small cars and let his friends have the same mobility he does. Or buy a vehicle that enables something he wants to do– like a van to carry his band’s equipment.

  6. BruceS September 10, 2007 at 6:43 pm #

    Rob, you had me until “She should abuse them for not having as much as she does.” I hope you never really teach such lessons.

    I mostly agree with you. In the same vein, the level of waste some people practice bothers me, but it may be reasonable in context of their wealth. While some struggle to put meat on the table (and wouldn’t waste a potato), others throw away more than they eat. We just came back from a vacation, during which we spent more on a tip for lunch than we used to spend on dinner. Meanwhile, we ignored the bums wanting spare change. Our money, our choice.

    We haven’t bought a lot of extras for our daughter, because we want her to be self-sufficient. If we intended to dump a huge settlement on her, we might have spoiled her a lot more.

  7. weeklyrob September 10, 2007 at 8:44 pm #

    Bruce, I can always count on you to point out the typos! Hope you had a good vacation. 🙂

  8. BruceS September 12, 2007 at 2:38 pm #

    Snipped comparisons that could offend others, but suffice it to say the Yellow folks (other than the driver) were rude, unreliable, and untrustworthy.

    I try to only flame typos that I find amusing, just as I try to only make spelling or grammatical errors I find amusing. I see that you’ve fixed yours, and can now agree with you more.
    I’ve been considering having a “Pedant’s Club” sign made, to put at my cubicle.

  9. BruceS September 14, 2007 at 5:28 pm #

    Hey, it looks like more got snipped than I intended! I don’t recall all I’d said before that. We had a great vacation, and will return to the Bay area. We enjoyed most of what we encountered. The worst thing we found was the service from Oakland’s Yellow Cab company, and I urge one and all to boycott them and their related companies, and to use independent cabs instead. I hope that makes the rest of my post make more sense.

  10. weeklyrob September 14, 2007 at 6:50 pm #

    Ha ha! It certainly does make more sense now. That’s pretty funny. I thought we were talking about WWII paranoia about the yellow menace or something.

  11. BruceS September 24, 2007 at 5:06 pm #

    I wasn’t around for WWII, and try to judge by the content of character (as exposed by behavior).
    I got nothing but the runaround when I tried to tell the Yellow manager of my problems, and he was exceedingly rude. Apparently, if your hotel isn’t swanky enough, Yellow doesn’t dispatch to it—they say a cab is on the way, but don’t send it. Oh well, at least I succeeded in snipping the bit about New Yorkers…

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