26th May 2024 – (Hong Kong) As Hong Kong’s economic ascent propelled a burgeoning class of affluent families, an unforeseen conundrum has emerged within the city’s rarified social strata. How does one bestow the advantages of immense wealth upon the next generation, without cultivating an insalubrious sense of entitlement? This delicate equilibrium has vexed the mega riches from Kowloon’s residential redoubts to the Peak’s palatial mansions.

The spectre of the spoiled heir, squandering a familial fortune through profligacy and indolence, has haunted Hong Kong’s self-made tycoons. Disciplining progeny raised in cocoons of opulence to replicate their own bootstrapping narratives presents a formidable challenge. Expose them to insufficient hardship and risk engendering an arrogant disregard for the value of hard-earned riches. Deprive them of life’s finer trappings and one alienates them from the very lifestyle their forebears sacrificed to attain.

This paradox was inadvertently crystallised through an illuminating anecdote. When the scion of one Hong Kong billionaire clan was gifted a month-long sojourn through Europe’s tony destinations, he was utterly nonplussed – dismissing it as “just another trip”. For Hong Kong’s wealthy establishment, this sort of jaded ennui represents a profound parental failing and a source of dismay.

Their discretionary fortunes enable extravagances undreamt of by most, these plutocrats nonetheless remain studiously aware that money is no panacea for engendering virtues like gratitude, humility and drive in their privileged offspring. A self-made real estate magnate summed up their fears — “When you come from nothing and build something huge through grit and determination, the last thing you want is to squander it on entitled, aimless kids.”

This cautionary realisation has spurred an array of strategies deployed by Hong Kong’s wealthy households. At their core is a conscious recalibration of parenting’s first principles — ensuring offspring retain an appreciation for life’s mundane realities and the sheer privilege their circumstances represent.

For some, this has meant a steadfast refusal to capitulate to their child’s every materialistic whim, no matter how trivial the indulgence. Fashion designer Oscar de la Renta once quipped that the roots of poor behaviour were easily traceable – “At a very early age, kids get the idea of negotiating and trying to get more than they’re supposed to get.” Bankers, lawyers and magnates of Hong Kong’s stratospheric elite seem to have internalised his wisdom, imposing judicious restrictions even on life’s simplest luxuries.

a local tycoon Wong offers a pointed illustration – responding to his son’s vociferous 10-year-old pleas for a trendy footwear splurge not with acquiescence, but a challenge. “I told him he’d have to contribute the tuition fees for one of his coding courses to the purchase. He could develop appreciation for what that money represented.” The young scion ultimately opted to save his allowance, forgoing the ostensible ‘need’ in a modest assertion of fiscal restraint.

Fostering robust work ethics has emerged as another priority for Hong Kong’s wealthy. Another private investor, James Lo imparted this ethos early, mandating his three children log hours at the family’s logistics corporation each summer. “They didn’t earn much beyond daily meal stipends, but that taste of manual labour was priceless,” he reflected. “Nothing imbues grit and perspective like struggling through unglamourous toil.”

For families like the Los, the ultimate manifestation of wealth lies not in asset accumulation but self-actualisation – the liberty to pursue one’s calling unencumbered by financial constraints. Instilling these values demands a counterintuitive embrace of productive struggle and even failure, they profess. Tycoon Lam captured this maxim: “Rescuing kids from every misstep, that’s how you raise inert navel-gazers. Let them skin their knees through their own blunders once in a while. That forges self-reliance.”

Lo concurs, “I don’t race to intervene when my teenage daughter misplaces her belongings or oversleeps for an important event. Those experiences shape self-accountability far more powerfully than a paternal bailout ever could.”

A counterweight to material indulgence, the family patriarch reasons, is compelling humanistic exposure through volunteerism and philanthropy. Sensitising young people to life’s harsher contours engenders perspective. Lo annually conscripts his progeny to foreign charity missions, from poverty alleviation projects to refugee settlements.

This immersive approach is favoured by businessman Leung. He recounts interventions like imposing month-long cash budgets on his two teenage sons to negotiate Jakarta’s chaotic informal markets and slum precincts during family holidays. “It’s deeply humanising for them to interact with street vendors subsisting on $2 daily earnings, after inhabiting our sheltered existence. Poverty’s realities impart gratitude and empathy.”

Of course, such grounding tactics are not panaceas that can universally inoculate against privilege’s corrosive effects. Even the most self-aware parenting can falter when clan wealth extends across multiple generations. The insidious “third generation” phenomenon – where disdain for discipline emerges among beneficiaries far-removed from their family’s humble origins – has ensnared many Hong Kong dynasties.

Yet the eternal struggle to cultivate perspective and appreciation in Hong Kong’s pampered elite circles highlights an immutable truth – wealth alone cannot assure progeny’s moral rectitude. If anything, cocooning scions within gilded cloisters is likelier to breed rapacious senses of entitlement that erode dynasty longevity.

The city’s magnates poignantly grasp this reality. Prosperity’s most prudent stewards recognise that vast riches must be complemented by intensely hands-on parenting aimed at nurturing the same virtues of vision, mettle and civic consciousness that originally catalysed their obscure ancestries’ ascents from want.

Fittingly, Hong Kong itself stands as a microcosm of this paradoxical dynamic. The skyscrapers and arteries of opulence that reinforce its status as Asia’s pre-eminent financial nexus arose from the calloused grafting of refugees escaping privation. Its dynasties’ founding patriarchs sacrificed to conjure those gleaming towers from barest subsistence – instilling an ethos of grit and solidarity their scions would be wise to heed.