Avoiding entitlement

Tamara Ecclestone, daughter of Bernie who is inline to inherit her father’s Formula One fortune, was forced to defend her parenting after she was shown taking her pre-school daughter on the family’s private jet.

Ecclestone was criticised for ‘spoiling’ her daughter and ‘losing touch’ after her reality documentary revealed ‘a glamourous lifestyle’ including a lavish birthday party for the three-year old.

Ecclestone claims that despite her riches, daughter Fifi ‘loves Sainsbury’s, uses the bus and is polite to everyone from cleaner to CEO’.

Without spending time with the Ecclestone family it is unclear whether the child is spoilt, but her mother is right in the importance of ensuring children understand there is a world outside great wealth.

Whether Fifi loves Sainsbury’s or not, is not the issue. What matters is she has been to shops other than Harrods, and that she has been taught to speak politely to everyone irrespective of pay grade and social class.

At SBC, we have identified the importance of raising children to understand their privilege. Preventing a sense of entitlement is critical if young people are to grow into happy adults, and it is also vital in the successful transition of the family business through the generations.

It is widely accepted across the world that family businesses rarely make it past the second generation. However, it is possible to avoid this trap. In his book Passing the Buck: How to Avoid the Third Generation Wealth Trap, Simon Bloom discusses highlights the difference in personality traits of each generation. How we are brought up and by whom, and the circumstances in which we develop will determine how we behave. Bloom notes that the first generation experience is very different to the second and third. Consequently, successive generations need to be coached in the skills necessary to make a success of a privileged upbringing, particularly if they are to take on the family business.

Our expert consultants have also developed an education programme that provides age appropriate courses for children to help them manage their specific challenges. We also run courses for parents to help them raise well rounded children growing up in extreme wealth.

Developmental stages

It is well recognised that children have different physical requirements dependent on their stage of life. We also understand that there are certain physical milestones that children should reach as they grow up. However, what may be less well understood are the psychological needs children have at different stages in their life.

In the same way children need a safe environment, enough sleep and the right nutrients to develop physically, so they need the right mental inputs to develop psychologically. Providing the right psychological support can be difficult for all parents but in cases of extreme wealth, bringing up balanced children can be extremely challenging.

It is widely accepted that one should not spoil one’s children. Most of us, too, can agree on what represents extreme behaviour: gifting a Ferrari as a teenager’s first car, for example. Yet it becomes much harder to recognise when spoiling has gone too far when considering the day to day experiences of a wealthy family.

A very wealthy family could quite reasonably own a private jet. Should the child travel separately? Certainly, the Ecclestones came in for criticism for taking their three-year-old on the family plane, yet how else would the child travel? And if the family are staying in a luxury hotel, should the child stay in cheaper accommodation?

There are many areas where from the outside where it may appear a child is being spoilt, yet they are simply participating in the family’s way of life. It is not practical to split children from parents in so many facets of life and so, by default, the child experiences the trappings of a wealthy lifestyle.

All about context

The key is to contextualise experiences and give children the emotional intelligence to understand they are privileged (see previous article).

It helps to understand the different needs that children have at the changing stages of their lives.

We categorise children into the following stages F1 is from 0-3 years old; F2 are infants from 4-7; F3 from 8-12; F4 are pre-teens; and from age 13-19 children are classified as teenagers.

F1s require straightforward physiological support: love, affection and physical presence.

From four to seven children start to form interpersonal relationships. They need to begin developing emotional intelligence by recognising and processing their feelings.

The F3 stage is when social hierarchies start to form and emotional intelligence becomes really important. Pre-teens need to be able to express their emotions effectively and deal with day to day situations. Extreme wealth may hamper this development unless there is a clear recognition of wealth and privilege. For example, if the family has staff the child must understand that not everyone can afford the same and that any one working for them is to be treated with due respect. Equally children should still be expected to contribute and take responsibility for their own belongings.  In the absence of this contextualising, a sense of superiority and entitlement may develop.

As teenagers the F4 group need to have learnt how to control their emotions. At this age they will form deeper relationships and start to emerge sexuality. Clearly, they need to be alble to process emotions and at appropriately; a difficult skill and few adults, never mind teenagers, manage it. It is here that parents must be present and supportive.

Act at every stage

Once parents understand their children need different support at varying stages of life it becomes easier to prevent them becoming entitled.

For example, at the F2 stage setting expectations about the child’s contribution around the house. Explaining that the family is lucky enough to have a housekeeper, but the children must clear their own dishes and tidy up after themselves.

At the F3 stage, parents need to talk to their children about money and agree an allowance. Set strict boundaries about additional requests for finance and make clear that wealth is only there because the family has worked for it. It is here that parents need to be resolute in explaining that the family wealth is theirs and that it is only passed down to future generations if they prove they have earned it.

F4s need to understand that the money is there to support them as they move into adult life. Parents should be willing to pay for education, any physical or psychological treatments that are needed and to ensure their children are self-sufficient.

As we explored in the article money should be seen as a tool. It is there to help make life easier, but it is hard work and emotional intelligence that are the real keys to success long-term happiness.

Children must struggle and occasionally fail, if they are to feel true satisfaction. These are critical experiences to help build self-esteem and ensure children turn into emotionally stable adults.

There is no single, ‘correct’ way to bring up children but there are essential ingredients on which to build a foundation for happiness and stability; the most importance of which is emotional support.

If you feel that you and your family can benefit from a SBC education programme, please get in touch.


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