Business Managers Can Teach Their Rich Clients Not to Spoil Their Kids

Children of the wealthy watch the Kardashians and want to be just like them

Richard Watts Entitlemania
Courtesy of Richard Watts

From Hollywood to New York, an epidemic of entitlement is sweeping across the country. I call it “Entitlemania.”

Children of a “me” generation have grown up watching the Kardashians make millions by lounging at the pool, and 16-year-old influencers fly private at vendors’ expense.

Although entitlemania existed long before today, social media may have helped it spread more rapidly. These kids expect everything from Instagram fame, to cushy jobs and unending funds, yet fail to recognize the effort it takes to attain it all. Remarkably, well-intentioned parents are typically unaware that their actions are the single cause of the expectation of entitlement in their children. And no one is willing to tell them!

At some point, parents rationalize that it’s more important and perhaps less stressful to prevent their child’s failure than to take the time to navigate that failure and permit children to learn the positive lessons that attend every struggle. An eaglet learns to fly only because a knowing parent pushes it out of the nest and sends it plunging toward the rocks below.

One of the most pervasive symptoms of entitlemania is being your child’s best friend. Big mistake! Parents should encourage their kids to find best friends their own age! A parent is only one of two people on the planet who qualifies for a unique role. It takes practice and stamina to administer tough love. The results are worth it. Kids are not a hobby and were not intended to be trophies to enhance the branding of their parents.

Hiring a nanny is a necessity for many parents with busy schedules, and the further separation between them and their kids requires the parents to be even more vigilant. And single parents? That duty is probably the most arduous scenario to foist upon a parent … and a child.

So, who is going to speak up? The mothers of bear cubs, Secret Service agents, and Hollywood business managers all seek to prevent intrusion upon those they protect. All are capable of dispensing punishing measures to predators attempting to violate the boundaries of those they protect.

Where does the responsibility of the dedicated business manager begin and end? As the person most trusted, the fiduciary, are you trusting your client’s reaction to constructive criticism as much as they are trusting you with their careers?

Is your primary directive only their financial success, or are you willing to risk pushback after warning your client of the struggles, challenges, and even the dangers that their very uniquely positioned children face?
Have you heard your client complain, “I don’t understand why my kids are so unappreciative. We have given them everything we ever wanted.”

Have you said nothing, and thought to yourself, “why put my job at risk? I’m not their shrink.”

You can rationalize, and say, “At least I’ve arranged for the entire family to participate in therapy.” It’s a start, but it’s like fixing the leak in a dam by putting your thumb in the crack.

And no matter if you are the business manager, wealth manager, or the family office attorney, few psychologists can boast the amount of practical experience you have witnessed repeatedly throughout your own career. You not only recognize the problem, but have practical, targeted solutions. You, the confidante, are a walking Wikipedia of child-rearing. You already know many of the answers. Most of them revolve around tough love — something you don’t see utilized often enough by your client parents on their own kids!

Well-intentioned parents often weaken their children by overindulging them and over-managing their lives. Moreover, when parents give their children too much, it often prevents those children from recognizing their true dreams and aspirations.

Consider this simple truth: For everything you give your child, you take something away. It is the responsibility of a good parent to consider and discuss what the cost is of giving their child a fast-pass to move ahead in the line.

I am the family office attorney to some of the wealthiest families in America. I’m not a psychologist. However, my book, “Entitlemania: How Not to Spoil Your Kids, and What to Do If You Have,” offers warnings and solutions to families who have kids aboard a train of entitlement barreling down a track toward heartbreak and disappointment.

As the business manager, instead of imagining yourself as the brutish Goliath pacing tirelessly at the family’s castle gate, be your clients’ immune system. Help them prevent a future of codependency and frustration with their children. Be willing to share the simple truths that your professional career has taught you about the entitlemania that ever presses inward, metastasizing from one child to the next. You may gain immense gratitude for having saved a client’s family in addition to making their career.

Richard Watts is author of “Entitlemania: How Not to Spoil Your Kids, and What to Do If You Have” and “Fables of Fortune: What Rich People Have That You Don’t Want.” For more information, go to entitlemania.com.