Teach Children Life isn't Fair
This was first published on KSL.COM
Our adult daughter claims we have done more to our son than we have done for her. This is really hurtful to us, because we feel she has not appreciated what we have given her and her family. We have helped them each with different things over the years, but we are retired, in our mid-sixties, and we have bills too. We must watch what we spend. Yet our daughter feels we didn't do enough for her, she keeps bringing up the fact we gave her brother more. We don’t think this is true at all. How do we deal with this jealousy?
Young children are often overly focused on whether things are fair and equal. They cry and complain if their siblings gets more than what they got. Ideally when they are very young is the best time to nip this behavior in the bud.
Recently a friend of mine, Scott Bean, shared a great way to teach this to children. The first time a child complains that their siblings got more ice cream than they got, with empathy and love say, “It sounds like someone is having an appreciation problem. If you don’t appreciate what you get, then we’re sorry, but you don’t get any (and take their ice cream away).
Let them know that in our home we care more about appreciation than fair. Life will never be fair, but we must always be grateful for what we have.
It is your job as a parent to make sure they understand how the world works and it's never going to be fair, but we will each get whatever is the perfect classroom journey for us. (I would let them assume their ice cream is gone for a while, before asking if they are ready to appreciate what they had and give it back.)
Obviously, this won’t work with adult children. With adult children all you can do is be very clear about who is responsible for each part of this appreciation problem and look for the right time to explain that ungrateful and complaining behavior won’t create what they want.
Your main job or responsibility here is to find the right balance (that you feel comfortable with) between helping your adult children on occasion and taking care of yourself. You will know you have struck that balance right when you feel good about what you are giving and don’t resent or regret anything.
If you are feeling “taken from” or unappreciated, then you are probably giving too much. Your gut will know what you feel good about. Also make sure that you aren’t carrying the responsibility for their financial problems. The responsibility for all their needs must stay on their shoulders with an occasional gift of help from you, if really needed, and if you can afford it.
Your other job is to manage your feelings and reactions to their ungrateful behavior. No matter how they behave or what they say, your job is to stay calm, happy, wise and peaceful.
If they are jealous or feel short-changed, that is not your problem or your business. It is not really even about you (though it may feel that way). It is really about their scarcity mentality, fear of loss and insecurity. Ultimately (since they are adults) it is not your problem to fix those — it’s theirs.
You may ask permission on occasion to see if they would be open to an observation. If they are open, you can kindly point out that keeping score and complaining isn’t going to create what they want. It makes people feel unappreciated, which makes them less motivated to help you in the future. Explain to them that wild appreciation for everything you’ve done would work better.
But whether she gets this or not, you are going to keep being fearless, loving, strong and confident that you are doing what you feel good about doing, from a space of wisdom and compassion. All that matters is you feel good about the help you have given — that must be enough.
It is your daughter’s job to work on herself and her scarcity mentality. Fortunately she is in the classroom of life and the universe will keep bringing lessons until she learns how to be happy for others instead of jealous of them, and how to appreciate what she has instead of complaining about what she doesn’t.
Trust the universe to this job.
If your daughter blames you or is angry with you, again that is her problem, not yours. Your job is to stay loving, supportive and kind. Her job is to process disappointment and learn to solve problems on her own. It would be sad if she pulls back from you and gets defensive, but you reacting and feeling offended will only make it worse. Stay loving and happy, and let her process whatever she feels and work through it.
There may be some people who read this article who have jealous feelings themselves. If you struggle with a scarcity mentality, here are a couple of life coaching exercises you can do:
1. Write your feelings on paper and describe them in detail. Instead of trying to stuff these feelings, embrace them fully and feel the pain they create as acutely as possible. Then ask yourself, “What are these feelings here to teach me? What kind of behavior are they encouraging? Why does my sibling’s happiness threaten me? Do their blessings take anything away from me? Does feeling jealous serve me at any level? Does it motivate others to help me? What good do these feelings do? What other options do I have?” Write the answers to these questions on paper.
2. Separate the ego/scarcity/fear part of you that likes jealous feelings from the spirit/abundance/ love part of you that doesn’t want to be here. Which side do you want to let drive your life? Who do you want to be? In every moment, you get to choose your state, and there are only two options. You can live from a place of love, abundance and peace or you can live from fear, scarcity and discontent. How do you want to live? You must consciously make this choice on a daily basis. Write down in detail the kind of person you want to be.
3. Make a written rule against comparing yourself with other people. There is no level where comparing serves you. Make an official policy against it and commit to choosing gratitude instead.
4. Remember life is a package deal and each person's journey comes with some blessings and some trials. If you had another person’s blessings, you would also have their trials. Make a list of all the problems you are grateful you don’t have, this will help you appreciate your life.
5. Carefully choose your thoughts — every thought matters. Choose to think only positive, loving thoughts about yourself and other people. In doing this you are choosing abundance and blessings for yourself. Choose to see the world as abundant and overflowing with enough for all.
6. Choose gratitude for what you have, every minute of every day. Gratitude is one of the most positive emotions you can choose. When you live from a place of gratitude, you are accepting all love and blessings from the universe and opening the door wide to receive more. Also remember, there are many people on the planet who have less and would be terribly jealous of you.
Count every small blessing and embrace gratitude.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is the author of the book "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness" and a life coach, speaker and people skills expert.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.