By Franziska Garner
Sarah, three years old, walked up to the driver who was cleaning out the car and demanded pizza. The driver immediately stopped what he was doing and got into the car.
Samuel, five years, broke another boy’s car in the park. Without a word he ran over to his nanny and demanded that she gave him some money to reimburse the boy.
These are just two examples of children growing up in a privileged environment. Their behavior is not necessarily rude and inappropriate. Sometimes, they really just don’t know better. But how can caregivers like nannies, mannies and teachers help such children to see beyond their diamond-covered little boxes?
Team up with the parents
Always (and especially in a high net worth / high profile setting) make very sure to communicate as much as possible with the parents, or other legal guardian. Some questions I like to clarify include:
– How is staff addressed? First name, last name, Miss, Mister?
– Do the children have chores?
– How much influence do the children have on outings, food, screen time, etc?
– Are the children’s needs always first?
– Are they allowed to meet children outside their social circle?
These questions aim as much on finding out the status quo when entering a new position as finding out what the parents expect from their children. Make sure you know how the parents want their children treated and how they want their children to treat others. If possible, make such conversations a recurring event to take the children’s development into account.
Have a conversation with the staff
After you talked to the parents, have a conversation with all staff that are contact with the children. That can include housekeepers, drivers, bodyguards, tutors, cooks, etc. By now you know what is expected of the children so you can speak with authority. Explain what kind of behavior is accepted and what is not.
It does take a village to raise a child. Assure staff that they play a role in that raising process, however limited their interaction with the children might be.
Convince them that denying or redirecting an impolite child when necessary does not make them bad employees, it makes them great role models.
Manners are a social norm
Using manners demonstrates respect for the other person. It is crucial to teach the child as early as possible that manners are not a matter of status but rather a social norm that applies equally to everyone. When someone is higher in status (or in the world of a child, stronger, taller, richer, older, etc), this doesn’t mean that they don’t have to use the same manners as someone who is of a lower status (weaker, smaller, less privileged, younger etc). In a staffed house it is crucial to involve the employees in the teaching of manners by asking them to expect the same politeness and courtesy from their employer’s children as they do from their own.
“Fancy” outings vs. “normal” outings
Hands down, it is great fun to rent an entire movie theater for a birthday party. But even if outings like this are considered normal and nothing special, it can help tremendously to purposefully take the children on low budget outings. Some good examples are the park, a library, a public swimming pool, the zoo, the museum, etc.
Why are such “normal” outings helpful? Low budget outings are exactly that. Low budget. Children learn that it is possible to have a great and fun day without spending a ton of money. It will also give the children an opportunity to be around other young ones who are not in the same social group. If the parents are okay with it, I would always recommend to make sure that the children have friends who live less privileged lives. Meeting and playing with such children can help your charges tremendously when it comes to figuring out their own place in the world.
Random acts of kindness
Every child needs to learn that sharing is something positive and beneficial for both sides. Especially children who never lack anything and immediately have every need fulfilled, tend to be seen as self-centered and egoistical. That is however not the child’s fault. They can only learn what is taught.
In my experience, random acts of kindness help children to expand and deepen their contact with the world. They can also support your charge in discovering themselves as a contributing member of society. I do however always recommend, that the child either gives something up that is theirs (toys, clothes, even time), or money they have made themselves.
Let me give you two examples:
– Why not go through the children’s toys, collect what they don’t want anymore and give them to children’s homes, churches, food banks, etc? Depending on the age and the maturity of the children, they can accompany you there so they see that their toys are really needed elsewhere.
– Children can do lemonade (cookie,…) stands. They need to go shopping, prepare the lemonade and actually sell it. The money they make can then go to someone who needs it, like charities, animal shelters, school drives etc. This can be beneficial in two ways: 1. The child works for his/her money and learns to give it up to do something good. 2. The child learns that making money can be hard work.
Whatever you do to teach your privileged children kindness and manners, always make sure that at the end of the day they are allowed to be what they really are: Children who need to be loved no matter how much money their parents make.
About the author:
Franziska Garner was born in Germany and has been living in the USA since 2015. She holds a Masters in Education and is a certified teacher. Franziska has long term experience as a nanny and governess for high profile and high net worth families and as public school teacher. Her professional website can be found here. Franziska currently she lives in Lubbock, Texas.