Any successful family will tell you that the kids play a critical role. Parents often invest heavily in them, hopeful that their success will move the family forward. Especially in the case of old money, what makes the money stay old is that those children in spite of the career choices often don’t squander the family resources.
There is pressure on the kids to be successful in any family, but it is often magnified at both ends of the societal spectrum – in the demurely rich and the decadently poor. In the case of the uber-rich it is obvious: the family’s prestige must be maintained at all costs and family capital cannot be wasted (neither financially nor socially).
Poor folks have it just as tough too. For some, the child is also seen a vehicle to move the family forward. As the child becomes successful, s/he will turn around and honor parents by looking after them in their old age. In building some wealth and prestige along the way, the tradition of moving the family forward takes on an added significance. It’s why some folks will ride their kids hard to do so well in school and to scrape whatever dollars up needed to get them into access activities where they can excel. Football, acting, music, science, it doesn’t matter – if the kid has talent they will try to push the kid to develop it.
Now it’s not necessarily exploitation of the kids on one hand. After all, parents work hard typically and want the best for their children. It would be nice to be able to have the kids turn around and look after their parents in a similar way. Still, sometimes parents may use the kids as a way to fulfill their own dreams and expectations that went unrealized in their own lives. That is always an issue – no matter how much wealth is involved in the family. That always leaves the following question: how fair is it to the child at the end of the day?
The trouble becomes apparent though when the child is unable to meet parental expectations, whether real or perceived. Kids often have to find their own way and dealing with pleasing their parents comes a big part of that personal growth.
Sometimes when the kids doesn’t reach the stars and pull the family forward some parents get bitter. That can often have a harmful impact on the relationship – especially since the parent will always have the “I’m the parent card” and be unwilling to address the source of their bitterness or adverse feelings.
So what do we do in a situation like this? Perhaps the goals of the family need to be readjusted. Maybe it is an incremental build that is needed to secure the family’s future instead of hoping that the kid is the next big thing. Perhaps in promoting healthier relationships it is easier to provide a base where a child can go into the world and find their passion. Whatever the ultimate choice is, parents often reap what they sow in their kids when they too become adults.