To give or not to give

(Part 1)

We are not on the Fortune 500 list, but we are doing well,” says Tony (not his real name), 45-year-old second-generation leader of a manufacturing family business in Metro Manila.


“My parents started the business, and we siblings worked hard. With God’s grace, the business grew beyond our biggest dreams. Now we have more than enough for our children, even their kids. We have enough for retirement and emergencies.

“Which leads me to this question.


“I cannot believe that polio and diphtheria are back! Our public health system is broken.  The government keeps on blaming everyone, and in the meantime, people and kids are dying. I want to help.

“I told my wife that I want to donate to health causes. To my shock, she said that the money is for the children, that it is not fair to give away their inheritance. We had a huge fight.

“I read your article on Warren Buffett and Bill Gates giving away much of their wealth to good causes, rather than to their kids (see “World’s fourth richest does not spoil children,” March 14, 2014). I think what they are doing makes a lot of sense. I don’t want my kids to just depend on their inheritance and not work hard—or not work at all!

“But my wife accused me of not loving my kids. She asked why strangers mattered to me more than my own flesh and blood. I feel so guilty, but I still want to help.”

“Is your wife involved in the family business?” I ask.

“No, in-laws are banned from working in our business,” Tony says. “My siblings and I agreed on that years ago. We don’t want added conflict. My wife is a homemaker. She takes care of the kids.”

“Being a homemaker is an indispensable task,” I say. “But I need to ask you this: Does your wife spoil your kids?


Tony is silent for a while. He takes a deep breath.

“This is hard, because I don’t want to say anything bad about her. I mean, she’s my wife. But the answer is yes. She spoils them. She does everything for them, including the eldest who is already in high school. I tell her to let them be more independent, but it’s so tiring to argue that I have learned to just let her be.”

“Once your kids are grown, do you think they can make their own living?” I ask. “Or will they rely on your family business and their inheritance?”

“I keep on telling them now that they have to work hard,” Tony says. “Just because they are my kids does not mean that they should get special treatment in the business. I hope they can stand on their own. I really hope so.”

“You are in a difficult position,” I say. “Your wife dotes on your kids, which might lead to lack of grit and drive on their part. The wisest course of action would be for you to talk candidly with your wife and explain why spoiling children is not an act of love. Talk to her.”

“It’s so hard,” Tony says. “I just bite my tongue. I know my wife loves our kids, but…”

“It’s how your wife, and many parents—most likely those she meets in school—view love,” I say.

“Many parents cannot bear to see their kids tolerate discomfort, so they do everything for them,” I say.

I explain: There are the helicopter parents—they hover over their children, sparing them from pain. And there are the lawn mower parents—they prepare the path for kids, instead of preparing their kids to set out on their own. And the third kind, the submarine/periscope parents—you think they are beneath the surface but their kids are always on the radar.

Today, drone parents, possibly the worst of all, are a toxic combination of all the other types. They are constantly monitoring their kids, not just in grade school, but also in high school, college and at work.

“She’s a drone!” Tony says. “I also don’t know why she has to give them everything: trips, gadgets, etc.”

“Many parents fear that if they say ‘no’ to their kids, their kids will not love them. Talk to your wife. You love your kids, so you have to help them grow.

“Let’s go back to your main concern. To give or not to give?  It’s not just Buffett and Gates. Let me tell you about the man who used to be the wealthiest in Australia.”

(To be continued)

Queena N. Lee-Chua is on the Board of Directors of Ateneo’s Family Business Center. Get her book “All in the Family Business” at or call National’s Jennie Garcia at 0915-421-2276. Contact the author at [email protected]

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