General Question

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

Should we treat our children equally or give more to the one that needs the most?

Asked by Skaggfacemutt (9815points) April 13th, 2011

I have heard a lot of parents struggling with this dilemma. Is it better to treat all our children the same, or help the ones that need help more than the ones that don’t. One case scenario – suppose you have a child that went to school and worked hard at it, got herself into college, made good choices and took care of business, so is in a good place financially. Another was a problem child, skipped school, goofed off and now barely making it. If you came into some extra cash, would you give them equal shares or give the needier one more? Isn’t that demeaning to the child that worked hard and rewarding the other’s mistakes?

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32 Answers

ragingloli's avatar

The one that needs it. However, I would tie the money to some requirements, that means, a large part of the money has to be spent on job training and maybe counselling.

wundayatta's avatar

My parents gave more to my brother, who is an artist and wasn’t making any money.

In think in general, you treat your kids according to how you think it is best they are treated, not dogmatically equally. People are different. One size does not fit all. Life isn’t fair. I can not treat my kids the same. They are too different.

Over all, I try to give them an equal amount, but that doesn’t mean equal money or equal time or equal training or whatever. Having said that, if it was money, I would most likely hand it out equally.

marinelife's avatar

Treat them equally. It does not help the one that is struggling to keep bailing them out.

tedibear's avatar

In terms of money, I would divide it equally. To me, by not doing that you’re saying a couple of things:
1. If you give more to the problem child, you can be perceived as saying either “Here’s a reward for screwing up,” or “I don’t think you’re ever going to be able to be successful on your own so I need to give you more than what your sibling got.”

2. If you give less to the “successful” child, you can be perceived as saying, “Hey, we can give you less – you don’t need it. You do it all on your own anyway.”

I just don’t see any good outcome. If the siblings choose to divide it differently after the fact, that’s up to them.

If you’re talking about emotional support, or help with things like life skills or physical impairments, that’s a different ball of wax. And one that is approached differently, and in my opinion, with greater care for all of the children involved.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

My parents had the ability to walk the fine line between treating the four of us equally while catering to our individual needs. While the elder two excelled in scholastics, the two of us who later came along struggled. Our parents adjusted their coaching based upon the need of each of us, even if it took more time than they originally dedicated to the others.

One sister was a teen in the ‘60s, and Mom felt compelled to be a Girl Scout troop leader and run the sister’s church class in order to offer the mores that she believed in, both which were accepted by each group.

As for financial support, they kept it as equal as possible. There was once a car exchange between my parents and the three older siblings. I wasn’t at a time and place where I could afford to own a car, but they presented me with a check that represented a fair exchange between the others. They felt that this exchange, whether I was able to participate or not, should include me.

Dad passed away several years ago, and his monetary worth has been put into a trust fund, in which the dividends are distributed equally, even though our brother has a say in how the money is invested. Mom has put together a list of all of her physical assets and had them valued. Her intent is that we choose what we want of hers and the value will be deducted from the full value amount. She has also requested that we discuss the list in advance. As creepy as it may sound, it was a good call on her part. Mom witnessed the battle between two of her sisters over their mother’s desk, and it broke her heart. My siblings and I have had several discussions about what we want. Interestingly, they pertain to an emotional connection and not their worth.

My apology for this digression and being on such a personal level. It just seems to me that a parent or parents need to not treat each child the same in every circumstance, but to identify what each child needs in order to succeed in their own life. It is best to support all of their children in a way that they (the parents) feel is fair to each of them, and more importantly, will bring about the best outcome.

iamthemob's avatar

Children are different, and require different levels of attention at different times. There’s a difference between treating kids equally (attempting to give them the same punishments and awards based on what they do) and treating them the same (applying those without consideration to the subjective needs of the child).

If you treat children the same, you’re going to end up not giving some special needs ones the help they desperately need. You need to tailor as much as possible to account for the fact that each child is different.

They’re kind of like little people that way. ;-)

Cruiser's avatar

I am having this exact situation play out in my family. Big brother is high performing and very self sufficient. He did get a LOT of attention at an early age and I know this is why he is doing so well. Younger brother is also high performing but has required 5 times the amount of assistance and effort to get him to and keep him functioning at the level he is at.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I don’t understand why anyone would treat their children the same in every way. These are individuals and they need different approaches especially if they have different lenses through which they view the world. Of course I respect and take care and love them equally but I am tuned into their particular personalities, likes and dislikes and I don’t sign them up for the same classes or always take them to the same events. My one on one relationship with each of my sons is very important to me. They came into my life at different times, my pregnancies were different, so were labors and postpartum periods. Who cared for their first few years of life differed and how much I was involved with each of them differed. Now that they are both in the same pre-school, that part of their life is similar even if they’re in different classes but their worlds will diverge again come Fall 2011 because Alexey will be going to a public school for kindergarten. If one of my children was struggling financially, I’d help them out. If both of them were struggling, I’d help them out. If I came into extra money and only one of them was struggling, I’d give it to the one that’s struggling and not have this be about enabling or ‘punishing’ the ‘one that worked hard.’

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

I guess I specifically meant money. I do realize that the children who are struggling obviously need more time and attention. And when I say children, I am talking about grown-up children. None of them are what you would call handicapped in any way, just some are high-achievers and some are low-achievers.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt I don’t have grown up children. I just hope I never think of them in those kinds of terms.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Are you talking about high and low achiever? Well, some are very self-sufficient and others are high maintenance, too. I mean, I could not ever say that (and I don’t say it to them) but it’s true. Am I a bad person for recognizing it?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt I don’t know if you’re a bad person. I don’t know if what you’re recognizing is correct. I don’t know if I would ever recognize my kids as such. That’s all I’m saying.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Sorry if it sounded like I was criticizing your comment – I wasn’t. I really wanted to know if I maybe shouldn’t be seeing their strengths and faults.

I am also thinking of my own parents and my siblings. Two of us worked very hard and got ourselves into a good place in life. The third did not. Now my parents have a paid-for house and want to leave it to the one because she is the only one that doesn’t own a house. I want to know what the collective thinks of that, mostly because I can see myself having that same choice to make when I am older.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt I didn’t think you were criticizing my comment. As to the rest of it, I suppose I don’t concern myself or my children with accomplishments in terms of materialism or ability to afford homes, etc.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

So, @Simone_De_Beauvoir , if you had money to leave to your kids, and all of your kids were financially okay but could certainly use some help, except one who was really in need, would you leave the money equally between them or would you make special financial provisions for the one that is struggling?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt It would depend on my assessment of their situation and on some other factors like how they’ve used my financial help in the past. If I was dying and making a will, I’d leave different amounts, I guess, based on how much I think each of them would need. Their life situations could be different.

Cruiser's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt I think good parents recognize these disparities in their children and treat them accordingly. The parents that don’t on the other hand…

SuperMouse's avatar

One of my go to parenting mottos is “each to his own need.” The fact is that some need more than others and those dynamics can continually change.

My grandparents handled the situation you describe in an interesting way. One of their sons required much more financial support than the other three. They gave him what he needed when they could and kept track of it. In their will his inheritance was decreased by that amount. In the end it does all come out even.

SpatzieLover's avatar

My grandparents were similar to @SuperMouse‘s in their handling of monies to kids.

Both sets of my grandparents raised me to believe parenting is not always about being equal…to them parenting required fairness. If one of their kids struggled due to needs not being met, they did their best to meet the challenges of those needs.

I have a couple of aunts/uncles that had a different perspective on this and were upset when the estates were settled. They couldn’t understand why things weren’t equal. I explained that fair does not mean equal. Due to loans in past, some received less.

BarnacleBill's avatar

I would make sure the one that did well had enough money to pay off all of their school loans first, and then split the remainder between them equally. All things being equal, the penalty for slacking off and making poor life choices is that you have a poorer quality of life.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

We can’t. My fiancĂ©e’s 3 kids are all very different and more than money is needed to help the one struggling. I don’t believe giving different financial support though because of the families I’ve seen, my own included then giving money to the less responsible in order to bail them out doesn’t help them in the long run.

geeky_mama's avatar

I am the oldest of two girls. I was the “good girl” who worked hard in school, paid my way through college..made good choices (as in @Skaggfacemutt‘s example above). My younger sister got 2 DUIs under age 18 and was uninsurable, wrecked 4 cars (in one case, she also got ticketed for hit & run), and was kicked out of her High School after being caught skipping school repeatedly and going off-campus to get drunk at parties during the school day. When she finally graduated HS it took her 7 years to get through her B.A.—all of it completely supported (including spending money) by our dad’s money.
Where I told I was “on my own” and was essentially financially independent from age 17 she was given anything she asked for – and more financially. Where I starved (lived on one meal a day, worked 5 jobs) all through college, she was partying in a sorority house living a life I couldn’t even imagine…all because my Dad believed that she “needed more help” because “she just isn’t as together” as I was. They applied a double standard…and guess what, we lived up to it.

Where I felt it was “sink or swim”—I sucked it up and worked hard, because I had no financial safety net and my dad was unwilling to give me any money.

She felt like she could count on dad to bail her out…financially, from jail, from car wrecks, from her first failed marriage..etc.

I remember being told by my parents and extended family that I was the “smart one” and that I needed to get a good job because no one would ever want to marry me (as if I was homely and unmarriageable).

She remembers being told she was the “cute one” who would have to marry someone for their money because she would never be “smart enough” to support herself.

This did untold damage to BOTH of us.

It took us BOTH a long time to get over the double standard. She eventually realized she COULD do for herself, and that she had a fine brain and made good choices. She’s just as smart as I am.
And guess what, I’m just as pretty as she is. I DID find many men who found me attractive and I did go on to marry thankyouverymuch…

But the financial strain and struggle I endured? I’m still pissed.
I’m still angry that we were treated differently. I still wonder, deep in my heart, if I was adopted and loved less (which is crazy, because honestly there is a strong family resemblance)....because I still hurt over the way we were treated differently.

So, to answer your question @Skaggfacemutt… as for me and my husband, we treat all our children absolutely the same.
We repeat over and over: “We love you all the same”. We DO even up as much as possible. Their college funds, their bikes, their Christmas gifts..anything monetary—we “even up” between the kids.
We’ll continue to do so going forward ALWAYS.

YARNLADY's avatar

No, equal is not the appropriate goal. The answer is “fair”. This will lead to an equitable division.

blueiiznh's avatar

I concur with the fair stement. Every child has individual needs and at times some have more needs than others.
But you have to be fair to all. You can’t forget the needs of of any of them period. Fair implies that the children can feel that they are not being ignored.

mattbrowne's avatar

Children are not adults. We should treat them as children in a compassionate way.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

@mattbrowne My children ARE adults. @geeky_mama ‘s story is much like mine. Even though I am the youngest in my family, I stayed in school, went every day, got good grades and made good choices. My older sisters both dropped out. One got pregnant at age 16 and spent the next 10 years doing drugs. My parents bought her a house! The other kept running around with losers and letting them drive her car. Every time they crashed her car, they bought her another one. I have never received a house OR a car or anything else.

Thank goodness, my parents are leaving their estate to the three of us equally. I am a widow now, and still better off than the two sisters who flushed their lives. But I would like to retire some day, and don’t think I should be penalized for being responsible.

Now to my kids. I have always been a stickler for doing the same for each of them. At Christmas, I spend exactly the same on each and always have. Two of them owe me a sizeable amount of money. I have instructed my responsible daughter, who is the executor of my estate, to subtract their outstanding loans to me from their share if they haven’t paid me back by the time I die. To me, that is fair. However, other people think that is horrible.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

Another case scenario: my cousin has two daughters. The eldest is in college, doing great, and planning her wedding. Then just a month ago, the younger one announced that she is pregnant. Her parents ran out and bought her and her boyfriend a house! WTF! I asked my cousin if she is going to buy a house for her other daughter and husband, and she acted like I was crazy! Their reasoning is that the eldest and her husband are just finishing up their college, and “if they don’t help the younger one and her boyfriend, they won’t be able to go to college” (they are just starting.) They don’t want her living in their house with boyfriend and baby, so they figured this was a good solution. I can see their point, I guess, but it really bothers me when bad behavior is rewarded and good behavior is not.

YARNLADY's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt I am with you on the estate. Our youngest son owes us thousands of dollars, and we have left instructions that his debt will be collected out of his share, and divided up among the other heirs.

dabbler's avatar

“equal” does not mean the same. e.g. in health care we might (hypothetically unfortunately) say everyone has equal health care coverage, but that does not mean you would be providing pre-natal care to the men or prostate health care to the women.
If you want to give your kids something of value it does not have to be the same thing i.e. same amount of cash. The one who can make good use of cash why not, for the one who has proven they can’t handle cash (they never have any) figure out some other way to give that kid something they are less likely to squander and will be useful/appreciated.

dabbler's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt as far as I’m concerned hear hear! you can do whatever you want with your assets in your will and would defend your right to do so even if it seemed mean or crazy to me. You have your reasons and you know better than we.
Ref high and low achievers, there are clearly people who handle responsibilities and assets and opportunities better than others. We often find other measures by which financial losers are high achievers and we should. .. doesn’t mean we should give them some money.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

Thanks, @dabbler . Sometimes I am jealous of my cousin who only had one child. Makes it really easy.

deuxciel's avatar

Engage each of them in helping each other find happiness. No more separation or division!

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