By Amanda Griffin Jacob
As a third culture kid raised in Asia, I had all the “perks” of privilege such as extensive travel, international schools, and helpers to name a few. As a mixed race child, I had exposure to a different POV on this privilege than some of my other friends. My British father made sure that we knew just how lucky we were so that we did not take anything for granted. My dad’s philosophy was always to be happy, to spend what he made, and to always be appreciative of his position in life. I have to say that some of my classmates who did not have a similar background viewed their advantage in life as a given rather than a blessing. Of course as a child, growing up in this lifestyle I wasn’t always able to adhere to my Dad’s ideals, which would lead to him pulling me (and my siblings) back into line when he felt we were becoming the typical expat brats.
Now, as I raise my own children in Singapore, I find myself struggling with the same dilemmas as my father. In fact, I might venture to say that currently it is much worse than the ’90s when my father was trying to hammer a sense of decency into his progeny. In this age of consumerism, instant gratification, and social media, it is a much more intense and hedonistic time to be a child developing into an adult. I have previously discussed how I think my children have too much materially. They want for nothing. Toys have overtaken our homes in Singapore and Manila. When they want something they usually demand for it, which has turned me into a nagging mother about expectation and appreciation. You might remember that I instituted a three-gift maximum on all occasions for my children throughout the year with a mandatory charitable donation per event. I have seen much improvement in the expectations of my children. Although there is still a long way to go before they really come to realize that they cannot get everything they want simply by asking for it.
Within the last few months I have been dealing with my seven-year-old and his treatment to our helpers. I’m not sure where his attitude has been coming from but it has been evincing in his interactions with our helpers. Again, I feel like I’m endlessly reiterating that it is essential to treat everyone with respect and love rather than demands and disparagement. This kind of outlook needs to be eradicated early on otherwise it can become an ingrained pattern. Growing up with helpers makes you much less independent than your global peers. Someone is always doing something for you. Every day I have to remind our helpers to let the children do things on their own. Simple things like feeding themselves, changing their clothes, and clearing up the table for example. This year, we are instituting a chores list so that my kids learn how to fend for themselves instead of relying on their nanny to do it for them.
In my opinion traveling is one of life’s greatest tools for education. As they say there’s no better classroom than the world. But there are two sides to a coin. Extensive travel indeed makes my kids globally savvy because it is so prevalent it becomes almost routine. Here, I want to try to emulate and disseminate my father’s outlook on appreciation.
I guess it basically comes down to expectation. I don’t ever want my children to EXPECT things from this world without putting in the hard work. And that’s the problem with privilege. It lends itself to expectation without the work. My fear has always been that I would churn out over privileged adults into this world because of the silver spoon they were born with. This is why I actively work to combat this kind of countenance in my children. I want them to grow up into good people. I want them to know the value of treating everyone with respect, working hard, and appreciating all the blessings they have in life. This is part of our job as parents. And one of the most important roles at that!
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