DR MAX PEMBERTON: Cutting off your children is kind not cruel

DR MAX PEMBERTON: Cutting off your children is kind not cruel

  • Daniel Craig doesn’t want his kids to inherit his estimated £117 million fortune
  • Dr Max Pemberton explains why it seems a very sensible parenting decision
  • NHS psychiatrist says children can feel pressured to replicate parents’ success 

The view has been expressed that inherited wealth is like a medicine — give too much and, rather than the benefits you had hoped for, it can kill the patient.

This is something Daniel Craig appears to have taken on board. He made headlines last week for saying he didn’t want his children to inherit his estimated £117 million fortune when he dies.

‘I don’t want to leave great sums to the next generation,’ Craig said. ‘I think inheritance is quite distasteful. My philosophy is get rid of it or give it away before you go.’

While some people might think this mean, I consider it a very sensible parenting decision.

Daniel Craig has revealed that he doesn’t want his children to inherit his estimated £117 million fortune when he dies. Pictured: Daniel Craig with his wife Rachel Weisz

You might imagine that coming from wealth and privilege would guarantee someone a happy life. Yet time and again I have seen the children of rich people weighed down by their parents’ wealth and success.

Far from being a passport to adult bliss, it means they spend their teenage years and early adulthood trying to find direction and meaning.

They have nothing to strive for, nothing to work towards. They flail around, lost and confused. While some eventually settle down and find a purpose, many don’t. They spiral into drink and drugs or battle depression and anxiety. They are bowed down by feelings of inadequacy or lack of fulfilment.

When I worked privately in drug addiction, a good number of my patients were the children of very wealthy families. They felt overwhelmed by the pressure to replicate their parents’ success — and so just didn’t bother.

And when their parents do eventually die and they inherit a vast sum, it is like a millstone around their neck.

It is not just Daniel Craig who worries about this. Others agree. The investment billionaire Warren Buffett has said he will give his children ‘enough money to do anything but not enough to do nothing’. Similarly, Bill Gates has said that ‘leaving kids massive amounts of money is not a favour to them’.

Dr Max Pemberton said Daniel Craig has made a very sensible parenting decision. Pictured: Daniel Craig with daughter Ella

Gordon Ramsay, Elton John and Andrew Lloyd Webber have also expressed concern that their wealth might spoil their children if they are not careful.

The counter-argument is that if you are wealthy and don’t give your children money, they will resent you. But I think a child who has been brought up to know you have their best interests at heart will understand that you are making them fend for themself.

While this might seem harsh, the sense of achievement they obtain when they make their own way in life is the greatest gift a parent can bestow on a child. Instilling a work ethic in your children is a fundamental role of any parent.

My parents weren’t rich at all — quite the opposite — but the best thing they gave me when I departed for medical school was nothing. When I went to university, it was on the understanding that they wouldn’t be able to give me any money, so I would have to support myself entirely.

I saved, worked during the holidays and got a job as a journalist writing news in the early mornings to fund my way through the six-year course. I never took a penny from them.

I sometimes wonder what would have happened if my parents had been wealthy enough to give me money to get through medical school. I certainly wouldn’t be writing this column.

Dr Max (pictured) said cutting down your child’s inheritance is doing them a kindness by making them stand on their own two feet

Of course, I’m not saying you should leave your children destitute. Notice that Craig was careful in his choice of words — he didn’t say ‘no sums’, he said he wouldn’t leave his children ‘great sums’. This seems fair.

We shouldn’t imagine this is a consideration only for the elite uber-rich. We are entering a process economists have dubbed ‘the great wealth transfer’, as the older generation who have benefited from such things as rising house prices, deregulation and globalisation start to die off and the younger generation inherit. A report by the financial management company Brooks Macdonald estimated that in the UK alone, younger people will inherit £327 billion in the next decade.

How will those generations behave, I wonder, knowing they stand to inherit so much?

Perhaps it will be positive. Maybe some will take on worthy but low-paid jobs such as teaching, safe in the knowledge that eventually they will be financially secure when Mum and Dad’s house can at last be sold. But I wonder how many will instead drift in and out of work, unfulfilled and unmotivated.

People forget that your job as a parent is not to make friends with your children. It’s tough cutting down their inheritance, but in the long term you are doing them a kindness by making them stand on their own two feet. They’ll thank you when they have made it themselves.

Make all schools no phone zones

Dr Max said not having phones in schools will improve their attention and focus, while also having a positive impact on their mental health (file image)

Unions have criticised the government plan to ban school pupils from having phones because, they claim, it will cause ‘anxiety’.

Please. What utter rubbish. Have unions completely lost their minds? I sometimes think they just object to things for the sake of it.

Far from causing children anxiety, not having phones in the classroom will have a tremendously positive impact on their mental health. Not only will it get them away from social media for a while, but it will help improve their attention and focus.

I’m convinced that at least part of the reason for the epidemic of ADHD and attention disorders we are seeing in children is that they are not developing the skills they need to focus and sustain attention — thanks, in no small part, to having their phones always by their sides.

  • I’ve been interested to read about a phenomenon called ‘hygiene theatre’. This describes the rituals many of us have adopted around Covid that are, in fact, largely useless in preventing infection but simply make us feel better.

Things like wearing surgical gloves while out shopping, wiping seats before customers sit on them, and using see-through face shields. In my gym, for example, the benches are wiped down between each person, yet the dumbbells never are. It makes no sense. In fact, it’s far better to open a window, get vaccinated and test regularly than any of this other nonsense we’ve been doing.

Dr Max prescribes…

clary sage

Also known as Salvia sclarea, this plant is native to the northern Mediterranean and its oils are known to be mood- enhancing. If you wake up feeling a bit flat or feel you’ve lost your get-up-and-go, reach for Ilapothecary Beat The Blues Room Spray (£29, feelunique.com, also available in a handy pulse point or bath and shower gel), which has clary sage as the main ingredient. 

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