There’s little doubt rich kids get all the goodies: the cell phones by age four; spa treatments at six, private schools, BMW’s for turning sixteen, ski trips to Aspen, cushy jobs with the family company even though you have the math skills of a cocker spaniel. It’s enough to make you want Bill Gates to adopt you right now, even if you’re forty.
And research has revealed that being not a poor kid gives you a head start in life by giving you a head start in language development. An article in Time Magazine you can read here http://ti.me/errdyr discusses the research of Betty Hart and Todd Risley who found that poor kids entered preschool knowing only fifty percent of the words as kids raised by college educated professionals. This was because these kids heard only half as many unique words spoken to them at home, meaning they spent the next twelve years playing catch-up to their wealthier classmates. When people talk about poverty being a self-sustaining cycle, this is what they’re taking about. If you can’t compete in first grade then you won’t be able to compete in seventh grade and by the time you’re sixteen you’re either pregnant or a dropout or planning on a career where limited language skills only require you to know the words “crack”, “police,” and “bail.”
But all is not rosy for Buffy and Heath either. The same research reveals that rich kids can suffer the same effects of inept parenting as kids from the projects, only they can talk better. Because often, the rich are too rich to pay attention to their kids, or they plow through a succession nannies subjecting their children over and over again to the stresses of abandonment. My wife has seen the same thing in twenty years of teaching. She has taught at some of the most exclusive schools in the country as well as inner city schools where police patrolled the halls. She told me about the time a limo pulled up at a private school and out tumbled the scion of a world class real estate mogul . . . barefooted. No one noticed at the mansion the child had no shoes. Teachers would frequently have to give this child lunch money because neither his mother or his father or his nanny or his governess or his driver really gave a damn. She saw the same neglect at the inner city school: kids with no coats, no lunch money, no books, no parents around, no hope. Rich kids, poor kids, if parents aren’t around or disinterested the result is the same: a young child who grows up to be bitter, angry, self-absorbed and well, just like his parents.
The bottom line is this: high quality child care is more important than the quantity of goodies we rush to supply our children. Spending time with them is more important than spending money on them. Parents who know this raise ready to face the world, no matter how big their home.