Why is there so much unrest in America’s inner cities? The experts are quick to point the finger of blame at a variety of causes: low wages, racial discrimination, Police gone wild, America’s shrinking manufacturing base, U.S. companies moving oversees, China stealing our jobs, illegal immigrants stealing our jobs, poor education system, the rich exploiting the poor, insufficient taxation of the rich, etc.
But none of these pundits ever address the real source of this unrest – bad parenting.
America’s growing discontent among the poor of the inner cities and the growing disparity nationwide between the rich and the poor is a reflection of how America’s have’s and have-not’s were raised by their parents.
How do I know? I spent 5 years interviewing 177 self-made millionaires and 128 poor people and documented what I learned in something that I call my Rich Habits Study. And then I detailed many of the habits that separate the rich and the poor in my books Rich Habits, Rich Kids, Change Your Habits, Change Your Life and Rich Habits Poor Habits.
What I learned from my five year study was that habits are contagious. Almost all of these self-made millionaires picked up specific habits from their parents that gave them a leg up and enabled them to build a successful, happy and fulfilled life. And almost all of the poor in my study picked up habits from their parents that contributed to a generational cycle of poverty, misery and discontent.
Nicolas Christakis, a Yale University professor and leading researcher on socially contagious behaviors agrees. In his research, he found that habits are contagious; passed from parents to children, good or bad. Here are some examples of contagious habits:
- If parents eat healthy, their children will eat healthy.
- If parents are overweight, their children will be overweight.
- If parents smoke cigarettes, their children are more likely to smoke cigarettes.
- If parents exercise regularly, their children will exercise regularly. If they don’t exercise, their children will not exercise.
- If parents value education and learning, their children will value education and learning. If they don’t, their children will not.
- If parents are law-abiding, their children will be law-abiding. If parents are lawbreakers, their children will become lawbreakers.
- If parents are violent, they will raise violent children.
- If parents have an optimistic, positive outlook, their children will have an optimistic, positive outlook. If parents are pessimistic and negative, their children will be pessimistic and negative.
Habits spread like a virus. The habits you learn from your parents shapes the life you lead. They will either lift you up or tear you down.
What were some of the habits the successful people in my study picked up from their parents?
- You Create Your Life – The self-made individuals in my study were taught that they were the architects of their lives. You and you alone create the circumstances that make you rich or poor.
- Individual Responsibility – Self-made’s were not allowed to play the victim. They were taught to take personal responsibility for the good and bad in life and were not allowed to blame anyone but themselves when things went wrong. Because things always go wrong in life.
- Respect for the Law – They learned from their parents to respect police and law enforcement officials. If they broke the law, their parents punished them severely.
- Pursue Your Main Purpose – They were exposed to numerous novel activities. The purpose of this was to help their kids discover their in-born talents. Ninety-three percent either liked or loved their jobs. When you find and use your innate talents to make money, that leads to fulfillment and financial success because you will devote more time to anything you love doing. When you can make money doing what you love this leads you to your true calling in life. Most parents don’t do this. Most parents, unfortunately, lock their kids into one or two activities for ten years or more. As a result, kids never have an opportunity to explore different activities. There’s just not enough time to learn something new when you spend most of that time on one or two travel teams.
- Pursue Dreams and Goals – 61% were required to Dream-Set. Dream-Setting is the process of writing out a script of your ideal perfect life. This script then became a blueprint for their lives. Eighty percent were taught to focus on one stretch goal (long-term goal) until they achieved it. Ninety-seven percent were taught a very different definition of a goal, which is: all goals require physical action and all goals must be 100% achievable, meaning you have the knowledge and skills to pursue the goal. Most fail at achieving goals because they were taught the wrong definition of a goal, which is: goals are broad objectives, like making $100,000 a year. That’s a dream, not a goal. Goals and dreams are not the same thing. You create goals around each dream and when you realize all of the goals, you realize your dream.
- Pursuing Wealth is a Good Thing – Ninety-seven percent were taught that wealthy people were good, honest and hardworking. They were not evil or greedy.
- Hard Work Ethic – The self-made’s were not given things by their parents. They were required to work for the things they wanted. At an early age (nine or ten) they had to work to buy the things they wanted. Fifty-five percent were forced to work ten or more hours per month, at a minimum.
- Respect Property of Others – They were taught by their parents to respect the hard earned property of others.
- Daily Self-Improvement – Eighty-eight percent were required to read educational books a minimum of thirty minutes or more every day. Fifty-four percent were required to learn new words to expand their vocabulary. Sixty-eight percent were programmed for college – they were indoctrinated with the idea at an early age that they would be going to college.
- Use Time Productively – They were not allowed to waste their time watching TV. Today, video games, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and other new technologies are rapidly replacing TV watching. Reading books has taken a back seat to these modern day time wasters.
I also studied the poor and found some common habits that poor people picked up from their parents:
- Dependence on Government and Other – They were taught to rely on government benefits and the handouts from others. This created a dependency mindset that stayed with them their entire adult lives.
- Defiance of the Law – They were taught that because the cards were stacked against them, the police and law enforcement were their enemies and were intent to keep them down and out. This mindset puts many of the poor in prison, which only keeps them poor.
- Resenting the Rich – They were taught to despise those who were successful. The rich were evil, greedy and responsible for poverty because they paid low wages.
- Poor Work Ethic – They were taught, by example, to seek out free government benefits in order to help them survive. Dependency results in a poor work ethic. Why work if you can get what you need without working?
- Entitlement Thinking – They instilled in their kids the belief that the poor were unfairly persecuted and taken advantage of by the rich. Therefore, they were entitled to the property of rich people. Eighty-seven percent of the poor believed rich people should be taxed more so that government would have more money to give to poor people.
- Gambling – They learned from their parents that gambling was one of the only ways out of poverty. As a result, 77% of the poor gambled on the lottery every week.
- Drugs – They learned by watching their parents to use drugs to escape their poverty. Sixty percent of the poor admitted to getting drunk frequently.
- Over Eating – They picked up the bad eating habits of their parents. Sixty-six percent of the poor were thirty pounds or more overweight.
- Waste Time – They watched their parents spend hours in front of a TV and that habit became contagious. Seventy-seven percent admitted that they watched more than an hour of TV every night. Seventy-eight percent admitted to watching reality TV. This time wasting habit infected their own kids. The poor in my study said that their own kids spend many hours every day watching TV, playing video games or spending their time on social media, the Internet, etc.
The buck stops with parents. Children mimic the habits of their parents. Parents are the only shot most have at a mentor in life. When parents are poor mentors, their kids suffer and this often leads to poverty; a cycle of poverty that extends to multiple generations and causes discontent, dragging society down along with them.