Interview with Eileen and Jon Gallo
by Pamela Gerloff
do you keep money from ruining your kids? To answer that
question, Eileen and Jon Gallo, authors of
Kids: How Successful Parents Raise Responsible Children
affluent parents who had raised children to handle money
responsibly and well. How did they do it and how can you
do it too? Pamela Gerloff, editor of
More Than Money
, talked with the Gallos to find out.
What do you mean by "silver spoon kids"? Who are they?
We think of affluence
as a state of mind, not as a monetary amount. Because we
live in such a successful country, which has had a strong
economy, we have huge numbers of children who, from the
rest of the world's perspective, "have a silver spoon in
talking about today's affluent environment. We wanted a
title that signified parental concern about children and
money on a broad spectrum-and in a positive way, because
so many things are written from a negative point of view.
We wanted to address the questions:
What do people do
that works? How do people raise kids who are responsible?
The book grew
out of Eileen's doctoral dissertation, which studied the
psychological impact of sudden wealth.
I interviewed people who were blindsided by sudden wealth-people
who had won the lottery or received a surprise inheritance,
or some other money that was not expected. I asked a lot
of questions. I was trying to figure out the impact childhood
has had on the way we approach money. But at the end of
the interviews, my interviewees would ask
this money going to ruin my kids?"
When Eileen first told me that, I said, "There must be a
lot of literature out there on children and money." It turned
out there was, but all of it began from the assumption that
money was going to harm the kids.
Much of what we read said, "This is what you do
money has ruined your kids."
You decided to look at it differently?
We decided that we would look at what people do that works.
Both of us have worked with families with substantial wealth
who have well grounded, responsible children. We wanted
What were those people doing right?
We spent three years interviewing people and reading research.
And what did you find?
Education emerged as a major theme. That's a big part of
what works: talking to kids and helping them understand
money. Philanthropy also turned out to be big. Giving children
the experience of sharing their resources with others helps
them learn about the responsibilities and joys of money.
on our research, we also advise parents to give allowances,
and to keep the allowances separate from chores. That way,
the allowance becomes a tool to learn about money and how
to make choices. And we suggest that parents help their
children develop a work ethic. Other parents have done all
these things to raise responsible kids.
I would add that we think people need to deal with money
as an inanimate thing-as a tool. It's like a drill. You
can use a drill to help make beautiful furniture or you
can drill a hole through your hand if you use it carelessly.
Money by itself is completely neutral.
Yes. By itself, it's neutral. It's your choice how you use
You also talk about what
to do or say when you're
talking to children about money.
wrote in the book about the ten worst things you can say
about money. (See sidebar) The worst is to avoid talking
about money by telling your children you can't afford it
when you really can. We have a friend whose son wanted to
buy a very expensive pair of sunglasses. He said, "No, I
don't believe in that." That's better than trying to avoid
the subject by saying you can't afford it.
Because it's the
. You have to think about what
message the child is getting. What message are you sending
when you tell them you can't afford a pair of sunglasses
for them, yet you turn around and buy an expensive lens
for your camera? You can use the situation as an opportunity
to discuss your values. We all have values, but we don't
always take the time to think about and communicate them
to our children.
Another "worst" thing to say to your children is, "We'll
pay you x number of dollars for an
." We run into
that one a lot. When we give workshops, people in the audience
almost come to blows when they discuss allowance, chores,
and grades. They feel so strongly about these topics.
reason for recommending not tying grades to monetary rewards
is based on a 60-year study done by two Harvard psychiatrists,
George and Charles Valliant, who examined the factors in
children's lives that help predict mental illness or mental
health. The study found that it's very important to develop
a good self-image when you're young, and to do that, it's
important to become a self-starter. By helping your children
internalize the concept, "I am doing things because it makes
me feel good," rather than "I am doing this so I get paid,"
you're giving your children a good start in life. If children
are paid to do well, then when they are adults, they might
have trouble with motivation if they get into situations
where they're not being paid to be excellent. We always
say to business owners, "You pay your employees, but can
you pay them to be excellent?" Many people who are excellent
in the way they approach life are self-motivated. Part of
excellence is internalizing the concept that "doing a good
job is something important to me as an individual."
They're internally motivated.
Giving your children money for what they accomplish is externalizing
the motivation. Eventually, it doesn't work.
What do you suggest instead?
You can tell them it's wonderful. You can ask them how it
feels. Are they proud of how hard they worked? Or you can
do something to celebrate, like have a nice meal or go on
a trip together. The important thing is that you don't set
up a situation where children are doing excellent work in
order to be rewarded for it. You want them to be motivated
by the internal satisfaction that comes from doing good
Among affluent parents, we find many who are quite surprised
by some of our recommendations-like the idea of giving their
children an allowance. They say, "Why should we give them
an allowance? We buy them what they need." We say, "If you
don't give them an allowance, you're missing an opportunity
to help them learn money management."
Effects of Affluence
of Motivation to
Things to Do
Finer Things in Life
with Other Bright,
Rewards of Hard Work
Silver Spoon Kids: How Successful Parents
Raise Responsible Children
, by Eileen Gallo, Ph.D.,
and Jon Gallo, J.D., Contemporary Books, 2002, p.
It's not that you're going to produce kids who are serial
killers if you don't give them an allowance, but if kids get
used to dealing with discretionary spending, they become able
to think in terms of limits and choices. Studies suggest that
people who learn to think in those terms are less impulsive
and have more self-control, and they become more stable as
adults. Teaching kids to think in terms of limits and choices
has long-term effects.
What would you say is the most important thing parents should
know about raising children with affluence?
The most important thing is for parents to be aware of what
their own relationship with money is. How do
with money? If a parent is extremely materialistic, guess
what the children are likely to be. Parents have to become
We believe that everyone needs to be aware of how they were
Because if they can be aware, they can change if they need
It's like the studies that have shown that many people who
abuse their children were abused themselves. I know it's
a terrible analogy, but the money messages you get as a
child can color the way you approach money for the rest
of your life.
dissertation research studied childhood messages and money
behavior. How did the messages people received from their
parents influence them? She found that childhood money behavior
was not predictive of adult money behavior; what was predictive
messages about money
that people had received
as children. So parents need to ask themselves, "What messages
are we sending our kids by our own money behavior?"
In your book you include a chart of positive, as well as
potentially negative, aspects of affluence. (See sidebar.)
Would you talk more about how you can accentuate the positives?
The main ingredient is time. You need to spend time with
in a world of
. We go to fast food restaurants,
we go to pharmacies, banks, grocery stores-and we expect
our transactions to be done conveniently and quickly. But
it's not that way with children. Children are high maintenance.
supposed to be
high maintenance. You
to spend time with children.
Affluence has many benefits. For example, being affluent
means that you have the ability to help your children find
their passions-if you'll take the time. There are some parents
who do take that time. It's a question of your priorities.
someone whose son has a friend who came down with Multiple
Sclerosis (MS) at an early age. Our friend's son has had
a strong interest in MS for years and his parents have fostered
his passion. They have raised money for it. The mother recently
went on a fundraising walk with their son.
Parents who don't spend time helping their children find
and develop their own interests are missing an opportunity.
The parents who went on the fundraising walk made a deliberate
choice. They didn't make other plans for the day of the
walk because they were going on the walk with their son.
Another way to foster your child's interests is through
family philanthropy. We believe it's important to make it
concrete and get the kids involved.
How do you do that?
Parents can help a child find a particular organization
that the child can resonate with. Lots of kids go to private
schools and do community service, but they may or may not
find something there that they really connect with; they
could be just marking time and fulfilling a requirement.
If parents take the time, they can help their child find
something the child can really believe in. Sometimes parents
relinquish that role. They think the school has covered
practice, I see people who have adult children to whom they
have given too much money and things instead of time. They
haven't spent the connecting time.
It's not just "quality time," it's focused time-it's turning
off the television, the pager, the cell phone, and just
being with the child.
Stanley Greenspan talks about the concept of "floor time."
It is time that is not organized. It's just being on the
floor with your child, doing what he or she wants to do.
Even parents who are working can take a half-hour every
day just to be with the child, without an agenda.
It's giving your children their own time and space. We find
that even our adult kids want to hang out with us, and vice
versa. We like just being with them, finding out what's
on their minds.
a friend who took her daughter, who is about ten, to England
and Scotland. They went to a wonderful museum. The daughter
had a sketch pad and they just stayed there for two or three
hours while the daughter sketched. The mother had no agenda;
she was just being with the daughter. The daughter was in
heaven, and so was the mother watching her. What kind of
an imprint is that making on that child? It's wonderful.
This is an example of what affluence can help parents do,
if they'll just take the time.
Ten Worst Things You Can Say
We can't afford it.
We'll talk about it later.
We'll pay you $100 for every A
on your report card.
Money is the root of all evil.
Time is money.
That's not an appropriate question.
They're disgustingly rich.
Don't ever let anyone know how
much money we have.
Why don't you have your friends
come over here; we have a _______, after all (with
the blank filled in with
swimming pool, tennis
, or any number of expensive toys that
might be attractive to kids).
Be thankful you don't live there.
Excerpted and abridged from
Spoon Kids: How Successful Parents Raise Responsible
by Eileen Gallo, Ph.D. and Jon Gallo,
According to Eileen Gallo, Ph.D., and Jon Gallo, J.D.,
the worst things parents can say when talking to their
children about money are:
(For the authors' explanations of each point, see
pp. 90-94 of the book.)
Did you do all these things with your own children?
did some of these things, not all.
Silver Spoon Kids
is the book we wished we had read when our kids were growing
up. When our youngest child read the book he said, "I don't
understand. Why are you telling people to do things you
didn't do? Why aren't you telling them to do the things
We told him we had to experiment with somebody!
Knowing what we now know about children and money, we would
do a lot of things differently than we did when raising
our own children. We would give them an allowance, get them
into checking accounts, all the things we say in the book.
In your book, you talk about the fast pace of change in
our culture and how it affects parenting. Are you concerned
that any of the advice you give parents now won't be relevant
later, as parenting conditions change?
We believe that the fundamentals we talk about will always
be relevant-spending time with your children, educating
them about money and values, and being aware of the messages
you're sending and what you are teaching by your own behavior
and attitudes toward money. We have a chapter in
entitled, "Parenting in an Age of Change."
Its focus is basically the concept that we live in a world
of vast amounts of impermanence
As soon as you buy a computer or a car, it's out of date.
The old models have already been superceded by the latest
in technological developments.
One thing that's different now is that the media are getting
more and more powerful, and it's having an impact on young
children. Children today are exposed to 20-30 hours a week
of TV by the time they're two years old. They will see hundreds
and hundreds of commercials in a week. When the media take
so much of children's time, parents need to spend more time
with their children to counteract that. They need to be
aware of what is going on and they need to be educating
their kids. For instance, you may be watching TV with your
4-, 5-, or 6-year-old, and you see an advertisement for
$150 Nike Air Jordan sneakers. You can talk to your child
about that. You can say, "Do you really think they will
make you play basketball like Michael Jordan?"
world changes faster and faster, it's important to remember
that it's the people who are with your children on a 24/7
basis who will teach them how to cope with the world as
it is today. Who is that going to be? The media will teach
them how to spend money; the parents need to teach them
how to make wise choices.
What is the reward for parents who give their children the
kind of time and attention you advocate?
The reward for parents is their children. For any parent,
the feeling of special connection with their child is priceless.
The reward is also the sense of a job well done. We are
entrusted with our kids; we need to help educate them. There
is a great sense of satisfaction out of having well balanced,
responsible children who feel loved and valued.
Gallo, Ph.D., and Jon Gallo, J.D., are the co-authors of
Spoon Kids: How Successful Parents Raise Responsible Children
(Contemporary Books, 2002). Eileen is a psychotherapist specializing
in psychological issues related to money and family wealth.
She writes a regular column for the Journal of Financial Planning
Jon is an estate-planning attorney and the author of numerous
professional articles. Both are founders of the American Bar
Association Committee on the Emotional and Psychological Issues
of Estate and Financial Planning. They are the parents of
three adult children.
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