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Ask Dave

The Value Of Struggle

Dan wants to know how much to help his kids. His daughter is married and about to move away with a car that's about to die. He's hesitant to assist because a struggle often teaches lessons.

QUESTION: Dan in Atlanta wants to know how much to help his kids. Both are college graduates, but they both have degrees that led to basic jobs. His daughter is married and about to move away with a car that’s about to die. He wants to get her a newer car, but he’s hesitant because a struggle often teaches lessons. Dave advises him how to be careful.

ANSWER: It’s a careful step that you have to take. I think you’re wise to pause and say there is value to struggle. Yet you do want to be able to put your kids in a position that they can do things you never got to do. I guess what you want to be careful is that by doing something for them, the first concern is that you’re not somehow causing them to continue in behaviors that aren’t good. If they’re not saving money, if they’re not working hard, if they’re misbehaving with the money that they do have—those kinds of things—and then you turn around and buy her a car, then you were enabling. You don’t want to do that. That’s your first level of concern.

The second level is what you’re talking about. There’s a value to struggle. The caterpillar doesn’t become a butterfly if it doesn’t have to push through the cocoon. If you cut the cocoon open, the butterfly dies. The wings don’t sprout. It’s the struggle that makes them into beautiful butterflies. I think you have to balance that. We struggle with that with our grown kids. We can do almost anything for them, and we want to do some things because we want to change our family tree. But we can only do things for them to the extent it accentuates positive behaviors.

I might, as a part of helping them, continually challenge them on how they’re applying their skills in the marketplace so they don’t have to starve to death—without leaving their area of passion or spiritual burden that they’re called to help or assist with. Does that mean everybody monetizes well? No. But the fruit of her choices is that she’s driving a junk car. The junk car didn’t just appear randomly in this situation. It occurred due to their choices on their income production. That's where I might challenge them as a part of this. I don’t think you’re a control freak if you speak into someone’s life when you give them something. If you’re giving with the idea of trying to control your kids, then that is control freaking.

I would just stand back and say that the things you don’t feel good about, there’s probably a reason you don’t feel good about them and as a part of helping them, try to give them some wisdom and guidance in those areas. For instance, instead of giving them a pile of money, maybe you agree to match them. Maybe two-for-one on the match. For every dollar they save, you’ll throw in two to see how bad they want her to have a better car. Are they willing to take an extra job and make it happen?