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Offer Financial Help With No Strings Attached

Jim Daly on

Q: Our daughter has been married less than a year. Two months ago her husband's job was downsized; they're starting to experience some real financial struggles while he looks for work. We have the means to help them and we're happy to ... but we also don't want them to become (or feel) dependent on us. Do you have any advice?

Jim: I applaud your willingness to assist. That said, I also think you're wise to do it carefully. There are several basic points to keep in mind.

First, extend help in a way that doesn't dramatically change your daughter and son-in-law's lifestyle. It's fine to assist occasionally with the cost of necessary items like groceries or a utility bill. But don't shower them with luxuries -- and avoid offering indefinite monthly support. Routinely handing over money might ease a temporary need, but in the long run it's the surest way for your child to become (or remain) overly reliant on you.

Second, extend assistance with no strings attached. A gift should be just that -- a gift, not an attempt (intended or perceived) to control your child. Don't use money as a way to get more phone calls or visits during the holidays. And don't include a list of requirements for how you expect them to spend the money. That just makes your kids feel manipulated, which could damage your relationship. So, if you give, do it without conditions.

Finally, respect your child's home and relationship. Don't undermine their desire to provide for themselves. It's important that your support doesn't cause (or amplify) conflict in their marriage.

Remember, the goal -- and challenge -- is to balance your desire to help with what's best for your kids' long-term well-being, while protecting your relationship along the way. Like so many other areas of life, communication is key.

Q: How can I get my young kids to stop fighting or competing with each other for my attention and affection?

Dr. Danny Huerta, Vice President, Parenting & Youth: This dynamic is common -- especially with young, social, anxious or "leader-type" children. However, there are ways to manage this in healthy and productive ways with each child.

First, recognize that most kids deeply desire to feel seen and heard -- especially by those they admire or love. The challenge is helping each child feel this way while teaching patience, self-control and respect.


One idea is to use a "waiting box" -- a container filled with games, art, books or toys (no electronics). When you notice affection- or attention-seeking behaviors in your child, minimize the competition by offering them the "privilege" of timed access to the box's contents. When the time's up, your child gets your attention.

Second, children want to feel wanted. Instead of waiting for your kids to seek after you, initiate connections using a number game for a fair and balanced way to share your attention. Gauge how much time you have, then assign each child a number. Next, draw numbers out of a bag to randomly select one at a time. The number that comes up is the one that gets some undivided time with you first ... or they can wait to be last and get a longer time with you. Everyone wins!

Third, kids long for reassurance that you love them equally. Examine your parenting for any signs of favoritism that might create insecurity and magnify sibling rivalry.

Fourth, all kids struggle with jealousy and selfishness. Help them recognize and practice patience and self-control; highlight these positive traits and praise them when displayed.

Patience and consistency are key as you address the deeper needs driving their competition for your attention and affection. For more helpful tips, see


Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at or at

Copyright 2024 Focus On The Family. (This feature may not by reproduced or distributed electronically, in print or otherwise without written permission of Focus on the Family.)

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