Spoilt kids who have all the toys they want are more likely to grow up to want money, not happiness, new research shows.
A new Roy Morgan survey has found kids aged between six and 13 years old who always get the toys they want are considerably more likely than those who don’t to say they would rather be rich than happy when they grow up.
It found 28 per cent of kids who get all the toys wanted to be rich, compared to just 13 per cent who didn’t.
The happy kid
Hayden Davis, 8, lives in Birdwood in the Adelaide Hills and is one of the majority of kids who wants to be happy when he grows up – he also wants to work in operations like his dad.
Hayden’s mother, Bernadette Davis, doesn’t want him to be spoiled.
“Hayden doesn’t get all the toys that he wants because quite regularly he asks me for toys and I would say is it your birthday or Christmas, no, so there is no reason for you to get more toys.
“I need him to know, because even when he’s a grown-up it’s important to know he can’t always have what he wants.”
From Hayden’s view he feels “a little bit sad” when he doesn’t get toys, but it’s worth the wait – he is really happy on his birthday and Christmas. While he waits he likes playing outside and looking after his one-year-old brother.
Kids with all the toys
Kids with all the toys who wanted to be rich were thought by experts to be in part of the cult of instant gratification and possibly be likely to flaunt their possessions.
The internet is full of young, cashed up examples. A classic is the Spoiled Rich Kids of Instagram. Wealthy kids posting about their life including their #privatejetbirthdays.
Or a light bit of Christmas shopping.
What it means
While it might be expected to be only the domain of the rich, spoilt kids exist across all sections of society.
This was a result that surprised even Kimberley O’Brien Principal Child Psychologist at The Quirky Kid Clinic.
“I guess kids are placing a high importance on material values,” Ms O’Brien told The New Daily.
“We have referrals for kids because they want a lot, they are very impacted by advertising and catalogues and circle lots of things they want and are constantly wanting more.
“That’s a newer issue that we’ve seen more of in 2013 than my last say 15 years of working.”
Ms O’Brien said she also had clients, some who had intellectual disabilities, who had a “big focus on money, like young kids who are not wanting to do chores without being paid”.
She said in her experience children at richer private and independent schools tended to be more complacent about their material belongings – sometimes tending to show them off.
“Kids that have gone from public schools and then on to private schools are finding the students leave their lockers open because they are showing off their material wealth like this is my iPad and leaving it on display.
“I think that [money] becomes a topic or interest in their peer group around who has what and what things are worth.”
Monash University child psychology senior lecturer John Gardiner said the reason why kids who got all the toys were more likely to want to be rich related to previous studies which looked at will power.
The famous “marshmallow” study, which tested whether kids would eat one marshmallow straight away or two after waiting, found kids that needed instant gratification were more likely to have low will power as an adult.
“Kids don’t talk about money they talk about toys – it’s only as you get older that money has value in itself, so they want money straight away, richness straight away whereas people who want to be happy put aside money for longer term.”
Mr Gardiner said it was related to the “cult of instant gratification” and the separation of wealth and happiness in this coming generation’s mind.
“Happiness is not taking out a mortgage and working hard to pay it off, it is lifestyle and going to the Gold Coast and going to theme parks.
“There’s a shift in our way of thinking about things and it’s a generational shift most evident in lower incomes.”
Ms O’Brien said amazing but expensive life experiences, which in some cases included overseas holidays over summer or spending a semester of school in Europe, could mean children were more likely to want to be rich to sustain that lifestyle.
Likewise, lower income children could see what they were missing out on and aspire to wealth.
But when the spoilt brats turn into adults it can be a different story.
Ms O’Brien said wanting wealth could lead to a number of traits. One could be choosing a career based on income potential such as a doctor or lawyer rather than interest or skills.
What parents can do
The good news is that kids can change. Mr Gardiner said children can be taught to improve their will power, and delay gratification.
“The good news is that parents can encourage children to develop will power and resist the temptation of instant gratification by modeling these skills – for example talking about saving for long term goals that will bring greater happiness than settling for short term pleasures.”