Does Money Buy Happiness?

I heard the old saying, “Money can’t buy happiness” the other day and it reminded me of a very interesting Blog Talk Radio show that we hosted a while back on “Advantaged Children.” Our guests were Dr. Karen Rancourt (from ask our Ask Dr. Gramma Karen column) and Dr. Christine Fernandez. Here is an overview of this very interesting – and at times shocking – show.

 1) Why the focus on parents of advantaged children?

Karen: You would think that in homes with financial comfort, this would accelerate the path to happiness and well-being. Counter intuitively, these kids are less happy, less resilient, and less capable of bouncing back from life’s disappointments.

2) What would you say to parents about these findings?

Christine: Very important to take into account at a young age. Building your relationship with your child starts right away. When kids are young, you are their idols. What parents teach and model to their kids when they are younger really sticks.

3) Fact: “In spite of their economic and social advantages, ‘children of affluence’ experience among the highest rates of depression, substance abuse, anxiety disorders, somatic complaints, and unhappiness of any group of children in this country.”

Karen: The first time you process this, it is absolutely shocking. Many affluent, happy parents only want happiness for their children. When we press that, what they are really saying is, “I don’t want my child to have to deal with disappointments and things not going right.” So happiness in many families becomes a protection from life’s problems. So in some respects, we deprive our kids of falling flat on their faces and are too ready to pick them up instead of letting them pick themselves up.

4) What do you mean by ‘advantaged children’?

Karen: People who fall into the upper 5% economically are considered advantaged. People who fall into the upper 1% economically are considered wealthy. ‘Advantaged’ also means having opportunities that other children don’t have.

5) Can you address the global over-praising that desensitizes our children?

Karen: We do our kids a disservice when we are always saying ‘good job.’ It comes from a good place, but we make it hard to make a distinction between mediocrity and excellence. It’s OK to tell your child that he/she needs more practice in a certain skill. We need to acknowledge the effort but not the quality of the work.

6) Fact: “Because money and material objects are plentiful in comfortable homes, they often become the default motivator when parents want to change their children’s behavior.”

Christine: It takes a lot more emotional effort to sit down with your child and talk about the problem. It’s MUCH easier to buy something, but it’s not good to do.

7) Fact:  “Many children from affluent homes have not had enough opportunity to work on their self-management skills because parents are quick to limit their child’s frustration and distress.” (Self-management skills = set of skills that allow children to regulate their internal states as well as their relationships with others.)

Karen: We can teach them to control their impulsivity by actually saying ‘no’ to things. Parents also need to constantly weave into their vocabulary the following words: budget, sharing, saving, and earning. They can say, “Even though money is not an issue for us, we did not budget for that” (whatever that may be). You can also introduce your financial planner to your children. You can tell them that this person helps make decisions about budgeting.

10) How do we raise children to be happy and confident and not spoiled?

Christine: Teaching kids coping skills is one way to teach them to be happy in life. If we can guide them on how to handle disappointment, that will help them later in life. We also need to teach kids self-control and self-soothing. Most importantly, we need to model the values we want them to have.

11) You’re a parent in a toy store and your kid starts with “But I WANT it!” What should you do?

Karen: First of all, before you even go into the store you need to set ground rules. That can save everyone a lot of aggravation. Kids need boundaries. Kids LIKE boundaries. If we can help reign in their impulses, it helps in this type of situation. Vocabulary should include the difference between ‘wants’ and ‘needs’.

12) A lot of parents are finding themselves in a different economic position than they were a few years ago (due to the bad economy). How do we tell our kids?

Christine: I believe in honesty when dealing with kids. If you can’t afford something, you basically have to tell them. As kids get older (5+), you can tell them that things have changed a little bit and we may have to cut back on after school activities, or vacations, etc. Explain to them that the family will be fine, but things will just have to change a bit.

14) How can our listeners get in touch with you?

Christine: and people can call me to schedule an appointment.

Karen: and I invite people to please visit the site.

To learn more, check out the rest of the highlights and listen to the show!

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