How Do You Raise Productive Children?

JC Project Freedom Journey Towards Financial Freedom

The rags-to-riches story is core to the modern mindset. Hard work, risk-taking, and financial success are what make nations strong. The inspirational success stories are power motivations, they are incomplete. The challenge awaits when you scaled the summit and you ask yourself,” How do I raise children to flourish in this land of wealth?” The question is How do I ensure the money will not mess up their lives?

Many parents with means worry about their children becoming stereotypical trust-fund babies that they become lazy, wasteful, and spoiled. There are also reasonable concerns that inherited wealth can foster isolation, addiction, delayed emotional development, and depression. It is scary that after achieving a dream of providing a better life for your family, the assets could do the opposite and have a negative effect on the family relationships and the development and happiness of your children.

There are no guarantees, no matter what we do as parents. There is no magic solution that ensures you raise your children that are grounded, independent, and responsible. But I have found the following practices that help individuals and families flourish across generations.

Start with a Mirror

Start with yourself. Dig deep to gain self-awareness around your own values, money history, fears, hopes, and biases. You can’t help others grow and develop until you are aware of what you need to work on, so seek out more awareness, be it by feedback from others, coaching, or self-reflection.

It is also helpful to reflect on your habits and behaviours. Do as I say not as I do will not lead to success. What do you want your children to be like? Kid, giving, financially responsible, positive, accountable, full of joy? Consider what you can do to model these traits. If you only fly on private jets, your kids will expect to fly private. If they do not see you engaging in activities that have meaning – like work, volunteering, or active childcare – they may not value these activities either. I am not suggesting you live like a pauper.

Look inward to enhance self-awareness and role-model the behaviours you strive to see in your children.

Foster a Reason to Get off the Couch

Growing up with extraordinarily financially successful parents or grandparents can cast a shadow on the rising generation. It can be paralyzing and is likely impossible for them to be able to live up to that standard. Foster and celebrate your child’s interests and dreams.

When people dream of winning the lottery, often the first thing they say they will do is to quit their job. Receiving an inheritance can reduce the need to work to put food on the table and it can be tempting to quit when a task or job gets hard. In all my years, I have to meet someone who is happy and well adjusted who does not have a reason to get off the couch. We all need purpose and meaning. This can be a commitment to being a stay-at-home dad, giving your time and talents to those in need through volunteering, or working at a traditional job. Positive psychology agrees that the keys to living a fulfilling life include engagement in a project or task, meaningful connections, serving others, focus on gratitude and accomplishment or achievement.

Encourage independence and devote time and resources to helping children uncover what brings them joy.

Talk about the Tough Stuff

There is no substitute for open, honest, and transparent communication, especially when it is hard.

Some parents ask when and how to talk to their kids about their wealth transfer plans – to share the specifics about what they will inherit and when. Some are too uncomfortable even to broach the subject and figure their children will find out once they are gone. I have heard parents in their 70s and 80s say that their 50- to 60-year-old children are still “too young” to be told about what they will inherit.

I do not believe there is one right answer about when and how to talk about your financial wealth. There are many factors that impact the answer including age, life stage, maturity, experience, personality, and learning style. I rarely heard someone say they were told too early, and many inheritors have expressed sadness or disappointment they did not have knowledge or access until it was too late to ask questions, to feel prepared to manage it, or benefit from the resources. The time to tell them is not the day assets are transferred into an account or the day a trust distribution or financial statement is received, because there is no time to become emotionally prepared or financially responsible.

It is important to foster an environment in which it is okay to ask questions, to have and talk about insecurities, and to be afraid. There is no substitute for courage, connection, and compassion. Relationships and true connection and compassion. Create a safe space where vulnerability and authenticity are encouraged early on as this practice will last a lifetime. Being able to talk openly and honestly about achievements, setbacks, money, expectations, and emotions is as great a legacy as you can hope to give your children.

Invest in Learning

In addition to role modeling, create a culture of learning in your family. Consider developing a plan to prepare the rising generation for their roles and responsibilities today and in the future, addressing the qualitative and quantitative implications of being an inheritor, a trust beneficiary, a shareholder in a family business, or a foundation board member. The approach to this preparation will look different for each family member, based on who that individual is and how he or she best learns, while also being grounded in the values of the family. Developmental opportunities could span from learning effective communication and conflict-management techniques to becoming more financially savvy, leadership and character-building to estate planning and philanthropy. In addition, seek out opportunities for inheritors to learn how to navigate being heirs, including the stigma that comes from being perceived as rich or trust-fund babies.

How much do you spend on the custody, management, preservation, and transition of your financial capital? Imagine spending as much or more time and resources on the development of the human, intellectual, social, and spiritual capitals of your family.

Let Go

There are two lasting bequests we can give our children. One is roots and the other is wings. What most deters parents from achieving the objective is the issue of control. Children need to be told no, and they need boundaries, rules, and structure to feel safe during their formative years. Roots are solidified by modeling your values, showing love and compassion, and creating a safe space where children can truly be themselves.

As children develop into young adults, they need to differentiate. They need space and encouragement to chart their own course, to fall down and pick themselves up. Wings. Significant resources can be used to stunt this growth – used as a shelter from consequences, to offer undeserved opportunities, and to foster dependence.

To put it simply – do not parent with your wallet. Pause before having your maid clean up after your child, before asking your financial advisor to remove the overdraft fees from your college student’s bank account, before using your connections or resources to get your child a job, or before putting cash in your child’s purse or wallet when he or she brings your grandchild over to visit. Pause before finalizing a strict incentive trust for generations today and generations you will never know that gives you influence and control from the grave.

There is value in the struggle, lessons in the future, and character forged in the journey, so support and equip them but don’t overprotect or control them. All the money in the world can’t give your children credibility – they need to earn it themselves.


The blessing of abundance that you and your family worked hard to achieve brings a new set of benefits, opportunities, and challenges. Significant resources can remove the stress of ensuring your family’s basic needs are met and often provide children, grandchildren, and future generations the freedom and financial security to explore their passions.

To raise productive, independent, generous, and grounded kids first look inside yourself to gain clarity on your values and goals and role-model the behaviors you hope to see in your children. Support their dreams, recognizing their definition of success may be different than your own. Talk openly and honestly with your children. Be vulnerable. Share your fears and failures in addition to your successes. Do not wait until it is too late to talk about money and prepare your heirs for its impact. Finally, money can be used as a tool to support connection, development, and independence. Be careful not to use it as a carrot or a stick tied to power, control, and dependence.

Questions for Further Reflection

  1. What might help you increase your self-awareness and empathy?
  2. What might be an important discussion to start (that you have been avoiding)?
  3. How can you help your child cultivate their sense of self and purpose?
  4. What people, resources and support can help you?

From Jill Shipley – How Do you Raise Responsible, Independent and Productive Children (versus Entitled Trust Fund Babies)?

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