How Not to Raise a Spoiled Brat — According to Celebrity Parents

image source: David Beckham via Instagram
image source: David Beckham via Instagram

Brooklyn Beckham turned 16 years old this week, which means he received his UK National Insurance number that makes him eligible to work. However, this isn’t that big of a deal for the son of David and Victoria Beckham. Why? Because he’s already been working part-time at a coffee shop for over a year.

Last week the ex-soccer player appeared on the The Graham Norton Show and explained how awhile back, Brooklyn started coming to him and Victoria asking for money to buy new trainers. David said, “I told him that’s not how it works.” Having frequented their local coffee shop most Sundays, David asked the owner if Brooklyn could get a part-time job there working on the weekends. David explained that he felt it was important that his kids know that you have to work hard to earn the money to pay for luxuries. That he and Victoria both worked hard and still do. He wanted his kids to appreciate the value of money.

I swooned. Not because David is the most perfectly coiffed and oiled man to walk the planet, but because he seemed so normal and so RIGHT. It’s refreshing when celebrities refuse to hand everything to their kids on a silver platter. After all, what does that teach them? That life simply gives, and there’s no reason to lift a finger. (Don’t even get me started on the Rich Kids of Instagram. If there ever was a reason to cut off a kid financially, those photos are it.)

Thankfully, Becks isn’t alone in this. Television chef Nigella Lawson has said, “I am determined that my children [will] have no financial security. It ruins people not having to earn money.” Likewise, the late Philip Seymour Hoffman decided not to leave his fortune to his kids, as he didn’t want them to become “trust fund kids.” Meanwhile X-Factor supremo Simon Cowell also said that he wouldn’t spoil his son Eric and that he’d have to earn his own living. Cowell commented, “I never inherited anything in my life, and everything I have I had to earn. But I think that’s what made me enjoy my life more. I want my son to feel like he’s got to prove his own way and I’d like to do what my dad did for me.”

I’ve often wondered what happens when a celebrity’s kid suddenly understands who mom or dad is, or at least the fact that they are famous. Jerry Seinfield crossed this bridge when his kids were in second grade. Talking to Kevin Hart in the series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,  Hart mentioned, “My daughter got right to the point. ‘Dad. Are we rich?’ And I said, ‘Baby, we’re doing well,’ but they need to understand why. I said when you work hard and put your mind to something, anything can happen.” Seinfeld replied, “You know what I said to that question? ‘I am. You’re not.'”

Madonna’s on board with this, too. When Lourdes was younger, she was given an allowance of just £10 ($11) a week, and the Queen of Pop docked the payment if she didn’t complete daily chores of keeping her bedroom clean and making her bed. And a source told the Daily Mail, “Madonna doesn’t want her kids to grow up as spoilt brats, so she goes to great lengths to take them travelling with her so they can witness poverty first hand. That was one of the positive things to come out of her trips to Malawi.”

I took a leaf out of her book and adopted a similar policy. My husband and I began giving our 7-year-old son pocket money if he did his chores: made his bed, kept his room tidy, put his plate in the dishwasher after dinner, etc… Every time my kids ask for a toy or a game, they’re told they can ask for it for their birthday or Christmas. In our house, you don’t just get gifts because it’s a Tuesday. Last summer, my son completed a reading program at our local library, which challenged kids to read six books over eight weeks. We were so proud of his achievement that we bought him an Xbox game he had his heart set on. Even so, I was thankful to see he was just as delighted to hang the key ring he received from the library as proof of his efforts onto his book bag. He realized that hard work and dedication may bring rewards, but more importantly, that setting goals and managing to achieve them was utterly priceless.

According to Dr. Phil, spoiling your kids does them no favors: “Your primary job as a parent is to prepare your child for how the world really works. In the real world, you don’t always get what you want. You will be better able to deal with that as an adult if you’ve experienced it as a child.”

We’ve all seen guilty parents who spend their lives at the office, “making it up” to their kids by buying them gifts galore. My own father was always doing this. I distinctly remember him taking me to the local toy store when I hadn’t seen him in weeks (my parents were divorced) and asking me to choose the toy I wanted. I also remember not seeing him for almost a month when I was 14, and when I complained he said, “But you had your pocket money, so what more did you want?'” In tears, I wanted to say, “Time with you, dad.”

Dr. Phil advises parents, “You need not buy them material goods in order to create a bond. Instead of tangible gifts, how about spending some time together? Be careful that you aren’t teaching them that emotions can be healed by a trip to the mall.” I for one, know that they can’t be. I spent a lot of time in my teens wishing that my parents were more focused on spending time with me rather than simply buying me the latest album or a new pair of boots.

The one good thing my parents did do, however, was letting me get a glass-collecting job at my local tennis club when I was 14. I worked for five hours every Saturday for £20 ($35). By the end of the night I was soaking wet, my fingers were wrinkled, I had several glass cuts, and my feet ached. But boy that £20 felt GREAT! Later, I progressed to working in the bar and waitressing. I learned more skills during those hours than I ever could have imagined: how to deal with difficult customers, the importance of remaining calm, how to do math quickly, how to run a bar, social skills, and the ability to think quickly in a crisis. All these things served me well in my later career.

We are doing more harm than good if we always give our kids everything they want, when they want it. I admire David Beckham for encouraging his son to take pride in his job, to understand that it takes a lot of hard work to make money, and that things he saves up to buy himself will be appreciated all the more. Brooklyn may not be thinking of any of this as he spills coffee down his shirt or cleans the coffee machine, but much later down the line he’ll appreciate what his parents have taught him.

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