We are bearing down on the season for giving thanks, and soon after, giving gifts. Families will gather around dining room tables and Christmas trees to enjoy food, memories, stories; and multitudes of toys, electronics, sports equipment, clothes, and all kinds of paraphernalia. Sometimes we give to express our love for someone and tell them they are valuable to us. Perhaps it is a thank-you gift because they did something nice for us; but we also give out of obligation and manipulation, even though we think our intentions are right. “Jesus said it is more blessed to give than to receive,” but often we give because we want to feel good about ourselves without realizing what our giving is doing to the recipients of our gifts.
Lloyd Reeb, author of Success to Significance and primary spokesperson for the Halftime Institute, says, “Every time you give something to your child, you take something else away. What is your giving depriving your child of?” That should be taped on your refrigerator and read every day.
I just viewed a short video clip from the Dr. Phil show. A fifteen-year old daughter asked to be on the show with her mom because she wanted Dr. Phil to tell her mother she could not cut her (the daughter’s) monthly allowance from $2500 to $1000 because she would be unable to afford the E Class Mercedes she wanted when she turned sixteen and a C Class model was unacceptable. When Dr. Phil said she would have to get a job, the young girl emotionally broke down in tears, crying she could not work because it is too hard. These parents just experienced the concept of toxic giving. The five stage of destructive gift giving are:
The First Gift Creates Appreciation: A person thanks you and truly appreciates receiving a gift from you.
The Second Gift Creates Anticipation: Although there is no assurance a gift is forthcoming, someone believes it could happen and looks forward to it, still expressing appreciation when received.
The Third Gift Creates Expectation: This is the birthday, anniversary, or Christmas gift. When received, there will still be an expression of appreciation, but do not ever forget to give it! (Husbands, remember that time you forgot your anniversary?)
The Fourth Gift Creates Entitlement: Instead of appreciation, it now moves into a “I deserve it” mentality. If the gift is not forthcoming, the result will be indignation, anger, and rejection and termination of the relationship.
The Fifth Gift Creates Dependency: Not only is there zero appreciation, this person also demands what is “rightfully” his or hers and expresses resentment that the pipeline is not filled. They know they are being controlled and manipulated, but they will not turn off the pipeline. They fear what they believe they have a “right” to will disappear, and they wonder how they will survive without it. They have lost their dignity and feel they are trapped by their circumstances. It is not their fault when things go wrong—it is your fault. The daughter in this story was at this level because the parents had succumbed to the previous levels.
Stopping the flow now will almost assuredly end the relationship because dependent people must seek someone else to feed their addiction. Make no mistake—financial dependency is every bit as toxic as drug and alcohol addiction. Every time you give something to your child, you take something else away. What is your giving depriving your child of? What did these parents take away from their daughter?
Toxic gift giving is very subtle. There are warning signs, but we do not want to acknowledge what is happening because we tell ourselves we are giving out of love. We say things like, “I don’t want my children to work as hard as I had to work,” or “I want them to have it better than I had it growing up.” Money and gifts become the substitute for discipline. Think about young children in the candy or toy store. The parent says no to their requests a few times, until it turns into crying or a temper tantrum. Parent is now concerned people around them will think they are a bad parent or their children are embarrassing them with their bad behavior, so the parent gives in and gives the children what they want. The problem with this attitude is there is great value in the disciplines and struggles of life and parents too often deprive their children of the lessons they would learn from their struggles. This bad behavior follows the child into adulthood. Every time you give something to your child, you take something else away. What is your giving depriving your child of? In this case it is the consequences that go with bad behavior.
We do not know what happened to this young lady and her relationship with her parents, but if it is like so many wealthy families where wealth discourages personal responsibility, destroys self-reliance and self-worth, and devalues sacrifice and hard work; I suspect there is very little giving thanks and Christmas is no longer joyously celebrated as one big happy family.
Kip Kolson is the president of Family Wealth Leadership, a multi-family office and family coaching firm, and author of You Can Have It All; Wealth, Wisdom, and Purpose—Strategies for Creating a Lasting Legacy and Strong Family. You can order your copy at Amazon, the FWL website below, or email firstname.lastname@example.org