Is Parents’ Wealth Leading Children Astray?


A comment made on BBC last week by the United States of America’s Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, struck me as it brought home some of

the social issues that we tend to gloss over because they are seen as private matters.

Sometimes, these same private issues come back to haunt the larger community. I am talking about the effects that a parent’s wealth can have on his or her children, whether it is for good or for bad, and most of the time, it is for bad.

At a “town hall” meeting with the State Department officials where she spoke about the failings of Nigerian leaders for increasing radicalism among young Nigerians, the Secretary of State said she believed that the bombing suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallah was “disturbed by his father’s wealth”.

“The information we have on the Christmas Day bomber so far seems to suggest that he was disturbed by his father’s wealth and the kind of living conditions that he viewed as being non-Islamic enough,” she said.

The statement has many meanings, depending on what interpretation one gives it and from which angle one looks at it. To start with, this young man was not the only child of his father’s; he had 13 or so other siblings. He was not abandoned or neglected by his father.

He had the best of education in the best of institutions in the best of countries. What then did he have to complain about? What anyone can deduce from the story put out by his own father is that he might have been a problem child for he the father even had cause to warn the US Embassy in Nigeria not to grant him a US visa.

When the story of Umar Farouk Abddulmutallah, the young Nigerian accused of plotting to bomb a plane over Detroit in the US broke, his life history was instantly posted up on the Internet and live commentaries on his 23-year life were on all international media for days. He was quickly linked to a wealthy influential banker father with 14 or so children.

The most famous opening description used by many reporters around the globe was “a young Nigerian man from a wealthy family”. The story of his enviable early life, laced with his background as an intelligent unassuming student at a prestigious high school and expensive University in the UK, who followed a high profile undergraduate course of study, was told over and over again.

The inference some made and the conclusion others came to was so why would somebody not in need of money ever think of doing what he did? “After all, he had everything he needed in life,” some said.

That, to me, is where the missing link begins to evolve. Does poverty always feed into evil, while wealth heads for good? The answer may be emphatic no.

As the story of the family background of the Christmas bomber was being recounted, there were those who drew lines between the good, the bad and the ugly effects of the abundance of money in the up-bringing of children and the demoralising or corrupt tinge it could have on them growing up into adulthood. That is the truism.

The reality is that because many of these wealthy parents are absentee fathers and mothers, who most of the time are away from home busy making more wealth elsewhere, they never have the time for their own children. Instead, they leave the care of the children in the hands of others.

They forget that money can never buy the tender loving pair of hands of a true parent, the Godly endowed pair of hands that straightens and shapes up a child’s morality for life. The fact is only realised when it is too late to go back.

The lifestyles of some children and students in boarding schools and university campuses reveal the shocking realities of leaving too much money and other materialistic things in the hands of our children, especially at those critical stages of their lives where they could easily be influenced and led astray.

There have been many stories of young people who get themselves into trouble with drugs and alcohol in early life because they have excesses of pocket money available to indulge in those ills. In other times, these “spoilt” children become cases of indiscipline and lawlessness for the general society to deal with. They leave the university and go into the job market with similar postures to start life.

Since last week’s statement on the failed Christmas Day bomber by the US Secretary of State as reported by the BBC, I have tried to find the real connection between “spoilt” children and their well-to-do parents. I have also tried to make a link between children from wealthy backgrounds and waywardness.

Casting my mind back to some films I have watched, stories I have read and some real life situations I have seen or heard about, it is true that in the homes where there are lots of money at the disposal of the children and where in particular the parents are too busy to make time for the children, the children end up using the money available to them on other things that will fill the vacuum, even if it is a temporary delight.

These children have everything, but they do not have the closeness and exclusive care and guidance of a parent who has the time for them and who they can take into confidence and share their life secrets with. Most of the time, they feel lonely inside and easily sway and move in whatever direction the wind blows them, good or bad, so long as they will experience some respite. The worrying influence on their lives begins to make a mark, usually becoming too late to reverse the tide.

Money is said to be the root of all evil. When therefore, children are exposed to this evil too early in their lives, they get corrupted, sometimes, for good.

Universally, children of high society parents are always in the news for the wrong reasons. Children who are left heirs and heiresses of huge family inheritances hit the headlines for one wrong reason or another. They tend to get intoxicated with their parents or grandparents’ wealth or fame, messing up their own future sometimes.

Yes, indeed, when children get exposed too early to unguided family wealth, where money is substituted for parental love and guidance, the likelihood of them running into the ugly side of life is quite great.

The wealth in a family is not a problem. The problem and therefore, the effect on the children is the extent to which it gets misapplied.