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Is it ok to tell kids how priveleged they are?

(105 Posts)
eggsareoffagain Sun 04-Sep-11 11:08:50

Hi everyone, looking for opinions here.

Me and DH and our 2 dcs have been living as expats for 9 years now, in various crappy locations countries. We are very well compensated financially for being away from our home country and family and for living in places which are often difficult and frustrating. There are many positives to our experiences too - our dcs go to very good schools with small class sizes, we all get to see some amazing parts of the world and life is often exciting and never boring.

Basically, I would say that my dcs have a very priveleged existence. They live in a large house with a pool, as do all of their expat friends. They are often invited to lavish birthday parties with no expense spared. Everyone they know has 2 parents together, has a maid in the house to do everything for them, has money for holidays etc, and can afford to buy their dcs whatever they want to give them. They live in a bubble, and mostly I would say that's a good thing. (Incidentally we make our dcs clean up after themselves and make them save up their pocket money for things they want, but we are in the minority in doing that).

Right. I've noticed more and more that my dcs are taking all of this for granted. Fair enough in a way, it's not their choice to be in this bubble and they don't know any different. But I think they are turning into expat brats. For example, it's very cheap to get local people to teach swimming, sports, horse-riding etc, things which would be seriously expensive if we were at home. I think of it as a great opportunity but my dcs don't want to do anything, and complain and ask why they have to. There's literally nothing to do here like parks, going for walks etc, so you need quite a few organised activities as there's plenty of hanging about the house as it is.

Do you think I should start to gently let them know that they are lucky to have these opportunities and that many do not? Or just accept that this is the way they are because of our choices?

Deesus Sun 04-Sep-11 11:14:35

I think you should tell them how lucky they are! Bit surprised you haven't already really. I didn't have half as privileged upbringing as you're describing but my parents always made sure I knew how much I had and how lucky I was - compared to others and especially themselves at my age (my dad grew up during the war).

exexpat Sun 04-Sep-11 11:24:17

I've been in a similar position - not quite such a bubble, we had non-expat friends including some single parents, people in tiny apartments, friends working freelance and living pretty much hand-to-mouth - but my DCs spent their early years with large houses, lots of foreign travel and many of their friends are or were in the same position. We are now back in the UK, and while I suppose most of our friends are also middle-class, they do not have as much money as most of our expat friends so they are getting a rather broader view of life now.

As they get older, they definitely need to become aware that not everybody has as easy and privileged a life as they do, but if that is all they know, it is rather difficult to see how you can do it without lecturing them - you don't want to be talking about money all the time, and banging on about lucky they are is unlikely to be very helpful.

Do you make regular trips to the UK (or wherever your home country is)? Are all your friends and relatives also very comfortably off? My two have cousins and some friends living much more modest lifestyles.

Have you considered signing up for one of the child-sponsorship charities? Though that would be such an extreme contrast to their lifestyle it probably wouldn't make them realise that most people in developed countries don't have it as easy as they do either.

eggsareoffagain Sun 04-Sep-11 11:25:21

Obviously they are aware that the local people wherever we are do not live like we do, and they sometimes get involved in charity projects at school to help local communities.

So you think it's ok to tell them they have to stop complaining about tennis lessons for example and appreciate that we can afford all these opportunites?

TheMonster Sun 04-Sep-11 11:26:19

My DS is obsessed by the adverts about dirty water killing children in Africa and I think that's pretty much done my job for me as far him being thankful is concerned!

MrsRhettButler Sun 04-Sep-11 11:28:42

Well I live in England and struggle to pay the bills some months but my dd (5) knows how fortunate she is to have food on the table and a roof over her head.
I let her watch things on tv about the way other people live, how some children don't get to go to school etc
She knows she is fortunate so I would say yes, tell them and tbh I'm surprised you haven't already also.

eggsareoffagain Sun 04-Sep-11 11:29:00

Exexpat, that's exactly what I mean, I don't see why they need a lecture about it as they are just kids and this is the life we're chosen for them.

We only go to the UK for a couple of weeks a year, and during that time they get lots of special treat etc from grandparents, who are not particularly well off but understandably want to do special things with them when they see them. So it's not a "normal" time when we're home.

eggsareoffagain Sun 04-Sep-11 11:32:26

MrsRhettButler, they know about children not having food/school etc. But their day to day experience is so far remove from this, I think I would have to lay it on quite thick to stop the slightly bratty behaviour.

SecretSquirrell Sun 04-Sep-11 11:34:31

They sound like spoilt brats, TBH.

exexpat Sun 04-Sep-11 11:34:53

I think you need to mention the fact that they are lucky (when it comes up in the context of unwanted tennis lessons etc) but if you cross the line into lecturing, that just leads to eye-rolling and can be counter-productive.

How old are they? By the pre-teen/teenage years you might expect them to pay a bit more attention to social inequalities.

eggsareoffagain Sun 04-Sep-11 11:37:23

They are 10 and 9.

Thanks, secretsquirrell, what would you say to them then?

festi Sun 04-Sep-11 11:37:33

I am a single student parent on benifits and im living on the bones of my arse so to speack and my dd does not want for anything, I make sure she knows how much she has, most of it is second hand and I need to budget for every day out etc and go without my self, but I do always need to remind her every day when she is moaning I wont buy a magazine or sweets or a drink at the shops, that, she has nice toys, lovely clothes and hot food every day and many children do not. My dd takes it all for granted aswell and sometimes I think she sounds spoiled and demanding. I think it is a valued lesson for all children who do not go hungry have nice toys and clothes etc to understand there are many people worse off than them. I think also a good way for older children to understand the value of money is to earn thier pocket money for small tasks.

eggsareoffagain Sun 04-Sep-11 11:39:44

Thinking more about my feeling on this, I remember my mum telling me a lot that I was lucky, too much, I felt, whenever I got any kind of treat. She does it with my dcs, e.g. she will get them all a toy or book when we go to the shops with her when we're home, then go on and on all the way home about how lucky they are. I find it really annoying, I mean, they were not even asking and she chose to get them a treat. It's like she's trying to make them feel guilty.

festi Sun 04-Sep-11 11:43:57

I think also it is about general education of the world that possibly your dcs are missing my dd knows a little at 5 about different cultures and countries, she has a fairly good understanding of what countries have war, which countries have a famine, she knows about the evictions of dale farm and understands that places like libya eygpt have had unelected governemts who have not represented the people, I think this is basic geography and current affairs, my dd is 5 and bright but not overly so.

Fatshionista Sun 04-Sep-11 11:45:00

Festi, I am in the same boat and I make sure my girls know how lucky they are. Is it an ideal situation? No, of course not but they have clothes, toys, a family, a house and meals which is more than some other children living not too far away. Second hand is like new to us grin.

festi Sun 04-Sep-11 11:49:12

fats, I explained to dd that once I graduate I will be able to get a better job and earn more money. sitting at the bus stop the other day she was said I wish we had a car, so I said that one day will afford a car, she then said when we are rich and yet all this money after university can we buy a boat aswell grin

ChippingIn Sun 04-Sep-11 12:03:58

Eggs - I think you are right when you say you have chosen this lifestyle for them, it's not their doing. I would just let them enjoy it while they can - at some stage in their life the reality will hit them and they will appreciate what they have had smile

Kids all over the world, living far less extravagant lifestyles are just the same smile they don't want to go to swimming lessons/tennis lessons whatever and it doesn't matter how much it does or doesn't cost their parents. Of course some do and can't afford to - but you making your children do it or appreciate it - isn't going to change that.

You can appreciate your lifestyle because you haven't always had it - they have and to be honest - I'd just let them enjoy it while they can.

They don't sound brattish to me at all - they sound like normal kids.

CornishMade Sun 04-Sep-11 12:14:43

Agree with ChippingIn, loads of kids of whatever background don't want to be 'forced' into various activities, no matter why you think they should go! Maybe just try to find one or two things that they love doing and focus on that rather than trying to load them up with a whole variety.

eggsareoffagain Sun 04-Sep-11 12:25:19

Festi they know a lot about different cultures and the world - that's one of the advantages of this lifestyle and I love that they have travelled so much. In many ways they are extremely flexible in their thinking - when we have to move their life changes literally overnight and they have to live in a new country with little or no idea of how much things are going to be the same of different from where they have been living up to then. Their friends are from many different cultures and they are very accepting of cultural differences. I don't think that's really the issue, it's more that they are not living living the "normal" UK life with its range of family situations and incomes and basically everyone they mix with has plenty of money. They don't know anyone who cannot afford private tennis lessons for example.

ChippingIn, thanks, I don't think they are really bratty, we are strict about behaviour and manners and we make them wait until birthday/Christmas for things they want. Maybe you're right, perhaps I'm making an issue out of nothing and they are just being kids.

bejeezus Sun 04-Sep-11 12:27:22

i agree that alot of kids moan about organised activities regardless of background- I dont necessarily think its because they are spoilt

BUT

I think kids do need to realise how good they've got it, when they start acting 'brattish'. We pretty much live hand to mouth, but like fats and festi, I often remind my girls that they have alotto be grateful for

NotJustKangaskhan Sun 04-Sep-11 12:42:15

I do agree that only doing it when you give treats or when they've pushed your buttons only creates a negative feel to it.

Discussing privilege (as well as gratitude and doing for others which is the main point of discussing privilege to me) should be part of the family discussion and activities rather than a lecture now and then about how 'lucky' they are, which they can't really do anything about and will go in one ear and out the other without action behind it.

If you want it to become part of their mindset, have them discuss - regularly, maybe daily - something they are grateful for. Arrange for them to do something for others. Even better, have them come up with ideas for what they can do to make things better for others. Discuss stories or age appropriate news events, with the aim of getting them to try to put themselves emotionally in other people's places and thinking of ways they can help. Small actions add up to big things and doing it over and over, like their fun activities, will make it a part of how they see and interact the world.

eggsareoffagain Sun 04-Sep-11 12:42:56

I really don't think they are spoilt, they are priveleged. I actually think they get much less in terms of toys as there is nothing to buy here. But they definitely get so many great opportunities and I know they can come across a bit bratty when we go home and they start telling the kids down the road about when they flew to such and such a place just to play a football match against another school. blush

eggsareoffagain Sun 04-Sep-11 12:44:28

NotjustKangaskhan, those are really good suggestions, thanks.

SecretSquirrell Sun 04-Sep-11 12:46:42

It depends on what your definition of priveledge is though.
I don't think I would consider having to upsticks all the time, not putting down roots, having to restart new schools, not having grandparents and family near was priveledged, no matter how many maids, bedrooms , posh parties or tennis lessons they had.

eggsareoffagain Sun 04-Sep-11 12:50:20

Well it's hard at times obviously, but for them it's normal. We are a very close family and I think that's partly due to the moving. We'll see what they say about it when they are older I guess.

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