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February 01, 2023

Raising Children with Batteries Included

Have you ever opened a highly anticipated gift only to find out that batteries weren’t included? If so, then you can understand how quickly excitement can transform into frustration, so much so that you can’t enjoy what the gift is capable of doing.

Do you have children or grandchildren who are smart and talented, but don’t have the ambition or drive to realize their potential? If you answered “yes,” then I think most parents can commiserate with you. These children grow up with “batteries NOT included,” as Larry J. Rybka, Chairman of the 2ⁿᵈ generation family services company Valmark Financial, would say. Research has shown that raising children “with batteries included” is possible, and being financially successful does not have to mean that your children grow up without the determination and drive to be successful and happy. There are six keys to raising a thriving rising generation with batteries included, and here are the questions we should all consider.

1) Do they know where they are from?
Family history affects a child’s resilience and their ability to create deep emotional bonds. Robyn Fivush, Director of the Family Narratives Lab at Emory University, has studied the importance of family storytelling for years and even developed a list of questions to see how much children know about their family history (“Do You Know?” Scale).[¹] Her research showed that stories about family members who persevered and overcame a difficult situation reassured children that they can also push through. For example, 10- to 12-year-olds coped better during hard times when their families recounted family challenges in a more emotionally expressive and coherent way, compared to children whose families were less emotionally expressive and coherent in their storytelling.[²] What do your children and grandchildren know about their family history and obstacles overcome that brought your family to this point?

Practical Application:
- Invite your child or grandchild to put together a 4-generation chart of the family history that includes things like employment, health conditions, dates and places where people were born. Encourage them to reach out to grandparents and/or other family members to gather information and stories, then call a family meeting to allow the rising generation to share what they learned.

2) Are they grateful?
Intuitively, we all get the sense that a person who is more grateful tends to be happier than someone who is less grateful. People that are grateful also seem to attract others to them, while those that see their world or situation as bleak or comparatively tougher to seemingly everyone around them struggle to find happiness. Professor Y. Joel Wong and colleagues from the University of California, Berkeley conducted a study with nearly 300 adults seeking psychotherapy services. Participants were randomly placed into one of three groups: (1) psychotherapy and writing a gratitude letter about what they were thankful for, (2) psychotherapy and writing about stressful
experiences, and (3) psychotherapy only. Results showed that four weeks and 12 weeks after the study ended, participants who wrote gratitude letters had significantly better mental health than those who wrote about stressful experiences or only received counseling.[³]

Practical Applications:
- Invite your rising generation to join you in keeping a daily gratitude journal, then talk about your experience and what you are learning.
- At dinner time, begin your meal with “new and goods.” Ask your child: “What is something new you learned today?” and “What is one good thing that happened for you or to you today?” You should also be a full participant in this sharing exercise.

3) Do they have goals or an ambitious pursuit?
It is said that without a target or aim, people will wander and wonder about what they should be doing. We should encourage our rising generation to develop and pursue ambitious goals. Those goals will change and evolve over time, but it is the active pursuit of something challenging and worthwhile that is more important than the goal itself. It is very likely that your success came from having a vision for your life or something you wanted and then aggressively chased down. Professor Cecile K. Cho from the University of California, Riverside conducted a study with 134 people to see if lowering expectations would help manage happiness. Results revealed that high goal
setters were generally more satisfied than low goal setters. It was also important to revisit the original goal and compare one’s performance to that goal; participants tended to forget their goal and defaulted to comparing their performance to their peers, rather than to the goal itself.[⁴]

Practical Application:
- Encourage your rising generation to set goals, write them down and then review their progress based on the original goal.

4) Do your children have the grit or resilience to thrive as an adult?
Grit is defined as the ability to overcome obstacles or to confront a setback and keep going. For many successful business owners, grit is one of the key elements to long-term success. The natural tendency of a parent is to want their child to have more or to not have to suffer some of the things they suffered while growing up. While this is a natural tendency and a reasonable desire, robbing your child of the opportunity to develop resilience and grit may be the biggest tragedy of all. Professor Matthias Sutter and his team conducted an experiment with 429 children aged 3-6 years-old and found that grit - or a child’s perseverance in a task that requires real effort and their ability to keep going - was based largely on the parent’s assessment of their child’s grit. Thus, the education of parents actually plays as large a role in a child’s perseverance as the child themself.[⁵] Do you offer words or encouragement and support? Do your children feel like you believe that they can accomplish difficult tasks?

Practical Application:
- Do a behavioral assessment of yourself when it comes to how you as a parent interact with your kids when they are going through something that requires patience and persistence. Do you get frustrated with them and then complete the task yourself? What words are you using to express your belief in their ability to handle the situation?

5) What is your child’s relationship with money?
Our relationship with money is formed at an early age and in a significant way affects how we will spend, save and share our financial wealth as adults. A study co-authored by Professor Scott Rick from the University of Michigan found that children as young as five already have distinct emotional reactions to spending and saving money. Rick developed and administered the Tightwad-Spendthrift Scale[⁶] to 225 children to determine their emotional response. “The research suggests that parents can help their children understand why they bought something or want to buy something,” said Rick. “Spendthrift children will often buy something even if they are only mildly interested in it. They just don't experience enough pain of paying in the moment. That combination — mild interest and no deterrence — is a recipe for a lot of regrettable purchases."[⁷] What are you doing to influence your child’s relationship with money?

Practical Application:
- Give your child an opportunity to earn money to buy something they really want. After the purchase, ask them how they feel about it. Check in with your child one week later about how they feel about the purchase, then talk about some purchases you’ve made that you were really happy with and others that you regretted.

6) Are you investing enough time with your children?
In this chaotic world we live in, we often underinvest in our most precious assets: our children. It is easy to overlook the fact that what is typically most important and valuable to our children is not a nicer car, a bigger house, or a fancier vacation. What they often want is you; they want your time and undivided attention. Rosanna Snee, a licensed psychologist, listed six reasons why investing time is so important for our children:[⁸]
- Provides an opportunity to bond
- Teaches the value of family
- Enhances mental well-being
- Helps the child feel loved
- Creates a safe environment
- Reduces stress

Practical Applications:
- Choose to make family dinner a priority. Time spent preparing, eating and cleaning up a meal together provides a space for sharing about the day and what is important.
- Dedicate one night a week to experiences, activities, learning and fun. For example, you may set aside one hour every Monday night to invest time with each other. Protect that time and create a pattern for being together. This can be something that your children look forward to and can become a place where deep relationships are formed.

Raising children amid financial prosperity can have its challenges, especially since the world has little empathy for those with financial success. Consider how you can help raise your children with “batteries included.”

About the Author
Dave Specht is the Director of the Global Family Business Institute at The Drucker School of Management. Dave is the author of, "The Family Business Whisperer." Prior to joining the Drucker School Dave helped lead a Family Dynamics team at one of the largest Private Banks in the United States where he trained over 2,500 advisors. Dave is married and he and his wife have 6 children. His personal mission is to, "Preserve Families and Perpetuate Businesses."

To contact Dave Specht for more information, please email him at

[1] Fivush, R. (2016, November 19). The “do you know?” 20 questions about family stories.Psychology Today.

[2] Clark, C. (2020, April 29). How family stories help children weather hard times. Emory
University. measures showed that children,problems, as reported by parents.

[3] Brown, J., & Wong, J. (2017, June 6). How gratitude changes you and your brain. Greater Good Magazine.

[4] Miller, T. (2022, February 22). How to achieve your most ambitious goals. Lifehack. - :~:text=A study conducted at the,those who set conservative goals

[5] Sutter, M., Untertrifaller, A. & Zoller, C. (2022) Grit increases strongly in early childhood and is related to parental background. Scientific Reports, 12, 3561.

[6] Rick, S., Cryder, C., & Loewenstein, G. (2008). Tightwad-spendthrift (TW-ST) scale. Olin Business School.

[7] Michigan Ross (2018, January 10). New research shows children form attitudes about money at young age. Michigan Ross.

[8] Snee, R. (2021, October 7). Why spending time with your family is important (and how to do so). Lifehack.

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