Dysgradia Syndrome – Where You Won’t See It

Dysgradia is a syndrome that most often arises in children whose parents are very affluent and in some middle class children who are just plain spoiled. Its definition is, in everyday terms, the disconnect between accomplishing something and enjoying the subsequent reward. It is the opposite of self-sufficiency.

Children suffering from dysgradia enjoy the benefits of comfortable living without understanding the hard work that usually goes with financial success. In their minds, nothing will change if they work hard, or if they do nothing. They will still have money, comfort, privilege, and security.

Obviously, many choose to do nothing, or very little, in terms of challenging and rewarding endeavors. They have trust funds. They lack motivation, and consequently, self esteem. They compensate and cocoon themselves in the trappings of wealth and outward displays of accomplishment: designer clothes, over-the-top jewelry, expensive sports cars, and a congratulatory life of VIP rooms at nightclubs, awash in champagne. They’re famous on the internet, at least among their friends, capturing every other moment of their existence with camera phone self portraits, as if documenting something will give it meaning (It doesn’t.) They celebrate a victory they never won, spending money they never earned. It’s a hollow existence that takes quite a bit of effort to sustain because nothing is ever accomplished.

You won’t find much of this disease with Old Money families. Example is the first and best teacher, and the examples set by OMGs (Old Money Guys and Gals) who are mothers and fathers seldom offer any opportunity for a young child to entertain delusions of grandeur. Old Money homes can be quite comfortable, but the idea that any adolescent is going to languish away the summer poolside doing nothing or binge shop on Rodeo Drive is unheard of.

Life is active, constructive, and purposeful. Feeling entitled is a dangerous game, as one colleague of mine discovered when he ran up a hefty bill at his parents’ country club, trying to impress a young lady friend with expensive dinners. Not only were his charging privileges at the club terminated by his flinty Yankee parents, he was invited to shop for groceries for the entire family and cook for himself for a month, with his own pocket money.  The value of a dollar was promptly and memorably installed into his worldview, and the young lady in question was just as impressed–perhaps more so–when he later invited her over for a meal and cooked the grilled cheese sandwiches himself.

Children need boundaries, routines, activity, and challenges. They have energy: it needs to be channeled constructively and burned up. They need to develop the habit of getting after it, whether its on the baseball field or in math class. They need to develop their own identity, with their own history of successes and failures that are based on their own efforts, not due to who their parents are, or how much money they’ve inherited. They need to count on their teammates or classmates, be dressed down by their teachers, and forge their own sense of what gives their life meaning.

As a New Money parent told me recently, “Yeah, I want to give my kids some of the things I didn’t have, but I try to remember to give them the things I did have. We didn’t have a lot of money, but I could always talk to my dad about anything. I knew they wanted the best for me. I knew I was loved. I don’t let buying my kids things get ahead of that.”

So do you kids a favor: don’t give them everything.



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