Sunday, January 11, 2015

Life Without Adversity or Struggle Makes For Weak Children and Worse Adults

Stumbled across this article this week:

Murderous Son, Who Killed His Hedge Fund Father Over $200 Allowance, Was A Mentally-Disturbed Princeton Economics Grad

"The most bizarre story from the past weekend was the shocking murder of Tom Gilbert, 70, founder of the Wainscott biotech-focused hedge fund, who was shot dead in his Sutton Place apartment on Sunday Afternoon: shocking because the alleged shooter was none other than his Millennial, hence unemployed, 30-year-old son. What was certainly unclear at the time was what would be the motivation of a son to kill his successful and wealthy father, especially in such dramatic cold blood.

We now know not only the motivation, thanks to AP:

    "The son of a millionaire Manhattan hedge fund founder who allegedly gunned down his dad over his allowance has been arraigned on a second-degree murder charge, authorities said.

    A law enforcement source told the New York Post that Thomas Gilbert Jr. had just been told by his father that he would only receive $400 for spending money per month from that point on in addition to $2,400 per month for rent. The younger Gilbert had previously received $600 per month."

... but also the alleged psychopath's background:

    "Gilbert Jr. attended Princeton, graduating in 2009 with a degree in economics. Authorities said he had no recent work history."

And then it gets really bizarre. As the Mail reports, Junior was also charged with 21 counts of criminal possession of forgery devices after skimming device and 21 blank credit cards found at his home, and may have also burned down a rival's Hamptons mansion"

(Read the rest of the article and the associated links here)

The article later makes mention that he was "jobless and seemed to have few prospects, and little interest, for finding serious work.... instead, he spent most of his time in the Hamptons, going to the gym, doing yoga and surfing.  It also said his "one professional aspiration was starting his own hedge fund but his father wouldn't give him seed money to start it".

Now I take this, like with anything in the mainstream OR alternative media, with a grain of salt so I expect that some details might be off.  But if even half of what's said about his background is correct, it paints the picture of a man who didn't want for anything and had every reasonable advantage while growing up, and still expected life to give him what he wanted as an adult.  Even after finishing college at Princeton for gods sakes, his father gave him a monthly allowance that amounted to $3000 a month for housing and basic expenses.  Taking the story at face value for now, IMO the problem wasn't necessarily that he was given these things, but that he'd grown to expect these things (and more) as his due. 

Now the article does mention that there were reports of possible mental illness involved and that he may have been off his medication.  And his ex-girlfriend supposedly said he deeply resented his father and was obsessed about never being good enough for him, so it's possible that his father was an emotionally distant or maybe even abusive prick.  But given how he allegedly tried to stage it as a suicide (a sign that he was lucid enough to think logically in how to cover his tracks), I'd say mental illness and/or daddy issues didn't play the biggest part in this.  While several factors were probably at play, I suspect that it would never have progressed as far as murder if it weren't for a massive sense of misplaced entitlement.  Most of the people who have crappy parents simply settle for moving far far away, not killing them.

Given what is reported I'd say he's probably a good example of a failure in parenting.  The murder is on him and him alone, but I'd say his upbringing and his parents played a prominent role in his aimless existence and lack of ambition as an adult.  And that brings me to a pet peeve of mine in the U.S., and that's the parents who spoil their kids by buying their love, giving into every demand, and insulating them from every challenge, hardship, and tough situation.

Looking back at my childhood, I have to admit I usually didn't want for much.  As middle class kids growing up in southcentral Alaska, my brother and I weren't rich but we didn't live hand-to-mouth either.  We were pretty much like most kids growing up today, with one important difference... our parents didn't try buying our love with material possessions, they didn't give us everything we asked for, and most importantly they allowed and encouraged us to be independent and solve problems or tough situations for ourselves.  Help was provided if asked for, but they didn't go overboard trying to solve all our problems for us like the 'helicopter parents' that started becoming prevalent sometime in the 90's or 2000's.  My parents tried their best to provide help, yet still tried to make sure effort was required on our part.  I think a good example was with our first cars... our parents said they were willing to pay for half of whatever car we wanted to buy, with the other half (as well as insurance, gas, and maintenance costs) being our responsibility.  In hindsight I think that was a very balanced approach... it made it possible for us to have something more than a total rusted-out piece of crap for our first cars, yet the onus was still on us to keep a job in order to have a car at all.  And it made us appreciate our cars more, even if they were on the cheap side.  Personally, at the time I was thrilled they were willing to throw in even half of the price of my new car (earlier I was expecting to be paying for all of my first car myself), which probably says something good about the way they raised us.  In contrast, some other kids in our high school had parents buy them a car outright on their 16th birthday, sometimes brand new cars or trucks (there were some pretty well-off neighborhoods in the area).  Some of those kids bothered me a bit... not so much because they had much nicer cars than I did, but mostly because they didn't seem to really appreciate them as much as they should have (evidenced by their lack of care and the reckless things they did in them).

There is a lot of flack that Millenials receive, most typically called out for being spoiled, entitled, or lacking the 'grit' needed to tackle many of life's challenges and obstacles (often turning to their parents for help with every problem they have).  While there's some truth to this description for many Millenials (thankfully not all of them), it's their parents that are primarily responsible for their kids being this way.  I get more thankful every year that my parents didn't do this to me and my brother.  It was tough enough to shake off all the counterproductive programming from schools & media and find a purpose and direction in life that was right for me... that initial journey would have been so much harder if I didn't have some measure of resilience and ability to survive on my own.  Sadly, many of the parents responsible for these entitlement behaviors are from my Gen-X generation.  With myself being at the younger or tail end of that generation and having kids later in life, my kids are much younger (6 and 1 year-old) than most kids parented by my generation.  But I still see this kind of behavior in the kindergarteners and early grade-school kids that my son and his cousin plays with, so it's clear this "killing with kindness" parenting is still going on.  The roughest part is that despite all our efforts in encouraging self-reliance and putting in extra effort, I still see bits of that entitlement and materialist mentality being expressed by my son and his cousin at times.  Not a lot, but enough to where it gets me examining the other influences on them, like television and interactions with the other kids at school and during play.  It's one more argument for pulling our children out of the public school system and limiting TV time.

Ultimately, children need to be exposed to a little hardship or struggle in order to be prepared for the bigger challenges they'll face as adults.  It's a little late for much of the Millenial generation (those born from 1982-2004 according to Strauss-Howe Generational Theory); those who are already adults will just have to grow up fast and make up for the lessons their parents failed to teach them as they try to find their way in the adult world.  Some will fail (or fail spectacularly, like this Thomas Gilbert Jr. at the point he killed his father), while others will toughen up in the face of adversity and find ways to persevere.  But for those Millenials that are not yet adults and those in my kids' "Homeland Generation" (2005-present), their parents still have the opportunity to instill a sense of self-reliance and toughness that they'll need as adults.

But hey, if that sounds like too much work don't worry.... you can always try again when they're 35 years old, unemployed, and living with you while they do nothing but mooch off of you and play video games 24/7.

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