Author Archives: james

Feeling Envious or Jealous?

People get jealousy and envy mixed up a lot.  Let me give you a thumbnail sketch of each:

Envy is the emotion you get when you want something that someone else has.  It’s a two-person thing: there’s you and the person you’re envious of.   You could want beauty, wealth, socioeconomic status…whatever.  Envy is wishing and wanting. 

A good example of envy can be seen in Snow White.  The evil queen envies how pretty and sweet her stepdaughter is and does the whole “mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?” routine.  The film also portrays one of two types of envy.  There is malicious envy (i.e. Snow White’s evil stepmother), and then there’s sort of everyday benign envy.  When you are maliciously envious, you become vicious and try to hurt other people by trying to take things away from them.  If you are feeling just benign envy, you are looking at other people and thinking, “Wow, I wish I had that,” or “I wish I could do that.”  It’s more motivating than destructive.

Jealousy, on the other hand, is a three-person thing.  It’s the emotion you get when you fear that someone or something is going to be taken away from you by someone else.    

Jealousy was the main theme of the movie, Gladiator.  Caesar’s son was very angry with Russell Crowe’s character because his dad admired this soldier guy more.  So the son killed his dad, took over his position, killed the wife and kid of Russell Crowe’s character, and put him in “gladiator hell” because Daddy – just like in the “Cain and Abel” story – loved one of them more.  

Envy and jealousy affect everyone’s life.  I think, statistically speaking, we’re envious infinitely more than we are jealous.  However, what really matters is what we do when we feel jealousy or envy: How do we experience it?  How do we cope with it?

I have always rejoiced when someone who I perceive as having earned something has success.  I have a tough time not resenting people who get things they haven’t earned.  That, personally, is my struggle.  But it’s not in my nature to do something evil to them because of it.  I don’t wish to give into “the dark side.” 

Here’s what you can do the next time you are feeling jealous or envious.  Let’s say that one of your coworkers gets a promotion and you don’t feel like they deserve it.  Or maybe you’re jealous that your spouse gets to be the breadwinner and you have to parent, or vice versa.  Well, you can either say, “Oh gee, I wish I had ‘x’,” and spend your time being miserable, or you can be motivated by it.  You have to choose between misery and motivation. 

Ultimately, you have to put your I.Q. over your emotions.  I talk about that dichotomy on my program on a daily basis.  Emotions are irrational and powerful, and they can only be combated with your brain.  You have to realize that although you may be 100 percent correct about something being unfair, there is not a damned thing you can do about it.  You can tear yourself up or tear them down, but either way, you won’t be acting like the kind of person someone else would envy.  Instead, use it as motivation to turn yourself into the kind of person everybody envies. 

No matter if it is envy or jealousy you’re consumed by, it’s going to be difficult for you to enjoy others’ success if you continue to dwell on it.  And furthermore, nobody’s going to envy you if you’re a bitter, frustrated, ugly, angry person.

Don’t Make These Marriage Mistakes

A marriage is a terrible thing to waste, especially when there are children involved.  People enter into marriages all the time with such optimism, but realize that perhaps they were overly optimistic.  Maybe you barely even knew the person, but you said you did because you had passion for them.  However, marriage is not about passion – that’s just part of it.  Marriage is about two healthy people learning to live together and take on struggles together.  They don’t turn on each other – they turn to each other. 

I want to talk about some of the most common mistakes people make when it comes to marriage:

1. Before you get married, the various things that make you “you” get exercised with a number of different people in your life.  For example, you’ve got a friend you play golf with, somebody else you go beading with, somebody you talk to about politics, and somebody you share your religion with.  Well, do you know what happens when you get married?  You have the expectation that your spouse is now supposed to be the whole package, having all the accessories in life.  Your spouse should definitely be your best friend – no question about that – but not your only friend.  Some other people might be better mentors, workout partners, antiquing buddies, etc.

2. Sabotaging trust.  Love brought you together, but lack of trust will terminate everything.  Trust is all about the small things – hiding store receipts, telling small lies, and casual flirting.  If your spouse sees that you’re dishonest with the small things, they make the assumption you’re a big risk for the big things.  Be open and honest about the small things, and that way, you won’t be doubted.

3. Breaching privacy.  How many times have you heard me yelling at people on my show because they told their mother/father/sister/uncle/cousin/friend or posted on Facebook about what their husband or wife did?  They humiliated their spouse in public, made others think less of them, and now they’re wondering why their relationship stinks.  Don’t put your spouse in the position of feeling exposed and betrayed.  Don’t talk to friends and family about private things.  Just don’t.

4. Throwing around the “divorce” word every time you get pissy.  In the beginning of people’s marriages, even little disappointments and slights can turn into big arguments.  It’s no wonder why so many people call my show saying, “We’ve only been married a short amount of time and we’re fighting all the time.”  It’s because they went into the marriage with certain expectations, and then reality hit.  Their illusions about “he’s perfect…she’s perfect…it’s perfect” get dented and bruised, and they become angry about feeling let down, trapped, frustrated, and betrayed.  However, you have to see this as just “real people time.”  Don’t be throwing around “divorce” every time you have a disagreement.  Emotions can run high if you’re not good at resolving conflicts together.  In your minds, you should both be saying, “Divorce is not an option.  We must work to find a way to work through this.”

5. Insisting on being right.  Some of you folks do this like you’re arguing about what’s the best Italian restaurant in town. Constantly insisting that you’re right, that your opinion is the correct one, or that your way is the best way is a quickie way to make your spouse feel undervalued and underestimated. If you find yourself in this situation, whether it’s during a heated argument or just a friendly debate, ask yourself this question: “Would I rather be right or happy?”

6. You don’t spend enough time slurping each other.  When I talk to people on the radio, I don’t ask them if they are their spouse’s husband or wife – I ask them if they are their “husband’s girlfriend” or their “wife’s boyfriend.”  What I’m implying is whether or not they do all the flirting, slurping, complementing touching, cuddling, tickling, and smiling people do when they’re somebody’s girlfriend or boyfriend.  These are things that people tend not to do with their wife or husband.  It’s probably the biggest thing people admit to after going through a divorce: they know they weren’t slurpy enough.

If you’re thinking about getting married or contemplating why the hell your marriage isn’t going well, read my book, The Proper Care and Feeding of Marriage, in addition to these tips.  Trust me, it’s really worth it. 

Now There’s a Term for Letting Kids Be Kids: ‘Redshirting’

“Redshirting” is a term that describes college athletes who practice in red shirts but do not compete in games to receive an extra year of eligibility.  Recently, the same idea has been applied to young kids entering school.  More states than ever now require kids to turn 5 before they enroll in kindergarten, and more parents are voluntarily delaying their kids’ entry into kindergarten.  In short, a small percentage of kids are being “redshirted.” 

In my opinion, the primary reason for kids being redshirted, especially in private schools, has to do with academic competition amongst schools.  By putting kids in school later, they will be more mature, better able to sit still and do the work, and more likely to perform well.  You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure that out. 

In 2009, The New York Times (despite its liberal tendencies) published an article that bolstered redshirting:

“A report out of Cambridge University recommend[s] that kindergarten begin at the age of 6 rather than 5 in Britain.  The Cambridge Primary Review is a sweeping study, requiring 14 authors, 66 research consultants, 28 research surveys, more than 1,000 ‘written submissions’ and 250 focus groups, all leading to the conclusion that British children are currently not allowed to be children.”

If you Google “what age should a kid start kindergarten,” you’re going to see a lot of obfuscating and confusing information.  That’s because it’s a political thing.  The liberal mentality is that kids should be taken out of the home and provided with government education ASAP.  I find that scary.  That is not in the best interest of children.  As the Cambridge study points out, kids simply need to be allowed to be kids.  If you ask really good teachers about this, they will almost always tell you not to put your kids in school too early.  The effects of starting too young begin showing up right around the third grade when kids get knocked off their feet because they’re not really ready.  Boys are especially unprepared because they take longer to mature neurologically and emotionally. 

I think kids should be allowed to be kids, and I believe parents should restructure their families so they’re able to raise their kids.  People should postpone having kids until they can do the right thing by them.  It’s the same principle as buying car: if you can’t really afford the upkeep and monthly fees, don’t go out and buy one.  Don’t put children in an awkward situation simply because you’re not ready to handle it.  It’s not right.  Most people have the biological ability and legal right to have kids, but that doesn’t give them a moral right.  People who aren’t responsible shouldn’t have kids.

One of the main complaints about redshirting comes from parents who don’t want to have to pay for an extra year of child care.  Seriously?!  They’ll put their kids in school at 4 if it will cost them less?  Apparently they don’t care what’s in the best educational interest of children.

Of course, some kids will be ready for school earlier than others, but for the most part, we shouldn’t be forcing them into school at age 4.  Homeschool them, and when they start kindergarten, they’ll be stars.  I’m all for kids not starting kindergarten until the age of 6.  Let them be kids.    

Facing a Grave Illness

Should doctors tell their patients when death is imminent?  Would the news make a difference? 

A while ago, my dad had bad stomach pain.  He called the doctor, and the doctor said, “Oh just take some antacids.” He took antacids for about a week, but the pain didn’t go away.  The doctor went “down periscope” and discovered that my dad had a rare form of stomach cancer, and it was bad.  He underwent surgery and then did chemo (which you all know how pleasant of an experience that is).  While this was going on, I asked the doctor if he could explain to me what was likely to happen next based on what he found.  He said he’d give him about five years.  I thought, “OK, he’s 61. Five years is great.”

He was dead in six weeks. 

As it seems, a huge percentage of doctors don’t want to eliminate hope or upset anybody, so they exaggerate.  It makes it difficult for everyone involved for a couple of reasons.  First, the person who’s dying may want to sort of tidy up his or her life by remedying some relationships or putting some business things in order.  In addition, caregivers need to plan their lives too, especially since they put all their focus and energy into taking care of the ill person.

In my dad’s case, the cancer had metastasized to his brain and it took very little time for him to die.  It was stunning.   He had led such a healthy life except for several gin and tonics every night.  Otherwise, he ate nauseatingly healthy food.  You’d open up the refrigerator at my house and you’d say, “Is there nothing here to eat?  This is all way too healthy.”  I did try – although it was pretty grim – to have a conversation with him about what his wishes were before he passed, but he wasn’t up for talking about it.  It’s because of this that I think it’s really important to know the truth about your loved one’s quality of life – How is the disease going to progress?  What are you going to need to do?  What are you going to feel like? – before it’s too late.

I realize that some people want to know the truth and some don’t, but that’s exactly why a doctor should ask and not just soften the news.  Hope is nice, but “hope for the best to prepare for the worst” is probably smarter.  Of course doctors don’t know when the end is going to come exactly (they’re not soothsayers), but they know enough from their experience, generally speaking, to be able to say, “Don’t plan past Thursday,” or “Don’t plan past next year.”  And yes, there are always exceptions every now and then (i.e. the doctor says that the person is going to die sooner than later, and it happens later), but usually they can make a good guess. 

The doctor should also ask if he or she should tell the patient’s family.  Getting permission to tell the family is very important because when doctors withhold information, it becomes more difficult for the family to chart the patient’s course in life.  And moreover, if the doctor withholds information from the family, they’re going to just go look it up on the Internet.  I think a human being should be the source of that information.

Sometimes people don’t want to talk about death with their physician, or certain decisions need to be made without their input.  When the doctor tells it like it is, it allows family members to decide what they want to do and not do.  They can decide if they want aggressive treatment that might prolong life, or choose to stop treatment, which could result in a faster but perhaps more comfortable death.  These decisions are part of the new focus on health care which is allowing people to die with some dignity, and leaves families feeling at least somewhat competent in the time of crisis because they know what’s being asked of them. 

In addition, families should discuss whether or not they want to know the truth if one of them gets in that position.  Generally speaking, the family wants to know a little bit more than the terminally ill person.  Personally, I want to know the calendar day and time.  I’m big on clarity (I have already had all of these discussions with my son so he knows exactly what I do and do not want).  However, a lot of people feel negatively about that because they believe it eliminates hope.  But either way, my recommendation is that your family should sit down and discuss plans in case someone needs treatment.  People freak out about discussing this because they don’t want to even think about it, but you should (even with your more mature children in their mid-to-upper teens).   Sit and calmly talk about what all the possibilities are and your wishes for each scenario (i.e. “If my brain is no longer connected to reality, I don’t want to be here”).  You can even leave the option open to have life prolonging treatment for when the time comes.  

Remember that everybody else stays behind and has to deal with things after you’re gone, so providing clarity about what you want helps everybody deal with feelings of guilt, fear, and anxiety later.

A woman called me a while back whose 92-year-old mother was alert and perky, but she was on perpetual dialysis.  She wanted to get off it, call in hospice, and call it a day.   Of course her daughter was upset.  She was not only losing her mom, but her kids were also going to have to experience death.  However, I told her that she had to respect her mother’s wishes.  I said that hospice is an incredibly moving experience and takes care of everybody in the family, not just the person leaving, and that her mom had decided she had lived a good life and didn’t want to be spending her time watching her blood being recycled.  She just wanted to go out peacefully, and her daughter needed to honor that. 

How to Be Happy

I think you have to be on a valium drip to be happy all the time.  For the sake of full discloser, I’ll tell you that I’m certainly not happy every second of the day.  However, your motive should be trying to be happy.

Being in a good mood or having a peppy personality is not a disposition you are born with or without.  You have options and choices, which I’ve proved many times on my radio program.  I’ve had so many callers who were initially negative, but by the end of our discussion, they were laughing.  What happened?

Their mood changed.

Your level of happiness is a learned skill.  A lot of you come from a background where your family was warm, happy, cheerful, and supportive, so you’ve learned those skills.  However, some of you haven’t.  Some of you are just too lazy to learn them, or you have been given too many perks for being mopey.  For me, I grew up in a house where everybody was always annoyed.  My parents didn’t walk around being cheerful and pleasant.  So, I didn’t learn those skills.  Nevertheless, I sure learned how dangerous the world could be by just watching them arguing and complaining.  It was horrible.

So, what are some of these skills?

First, you can only have one thought at a time.   I had a caller who was beaten by his dad all the time while he was growing up.  He had come to associate physicality with something bad.  On the air, I had him close his eyes and go right back into one of those experiences where his dad was beating him.  You could hear his breathing change.  But then I asked him to think about his wife sitting next to him and imagine her touching his face softly.  He started tearing up.  We did this back and forth three times to prove that he could put his head anywhere he wanted to.

He learned that he needed to have only one thought in his mind at one time, and that’s true for all of us.  You decide what your thought is going to be.  If you start thinking about all the horrible things that might happen, then they may happen.  However, if you put your thoughts toward how you are going to handle something, you can immobilize your fear.

Another essential part of being happy is to think positively.  The negative stuff gets replaced when you see the outcome positively.  And it’s also very important for you to sometimes take your brain out of an action and allow your body to do what it knows it needs to do.  For example, when you’re having sex with your spouse, your body knows what it needs to do.   That’s why I tell people to fantasize and go wherever they want to go.  Just disengage your brain.

In order to be happy, you also need to be motivated about something.  This is where being a maniac comes into play (I think the happiest people are maniacs, and I don’t mean it in a psychiatric sense).  You have to be a maniac on a mission.  What is it you want to make happen?  When you dive into something with a lot of energy, optimism, and commitment, your life will be happier.  People without a purpose are not happy people.  Wishy-washy people are never happy and they are not successful.  You have to be able to take risks and make decisions.  If you take a risk and you fail, then you take another risk.   If you take a risk and it was a mistake, then you repair it and do it again.   You have to have strong ambitions about something (and I’m not talking about making a lot of money – that usually doesn’t work).

You also need to have the gumption to make changes from where you are now.  A lot of people like to stay in their comfort zones or in their familiar surroundings.  A lack of familiarity makes them uncomfortable, and a lot of times people try to stay comfortable even if it’s bad, stupid, or destructive.  But just because you’re familiar with something, it doesn’t mean you’re going to get anywhere with it.

Lastly, you have to be tenacious.  Life requires persistence.  The people who are ultimately successful at being happy are the ones who can delay happiness.  For example, people who shack up do it because they want the gratification of having a relationship without the work of building one.  They think, “I want my gratification now.  I don’t want to work slowly in a respectful, modest way and take my time.  I want sex now.  I want to feel like I’m intimate and committed now.”  However, that’s when everything blows up.  Kids who grab the marshmallow are not the happiest – the ones who earn it are.

If you want to be loved, you have to earn it.  Jumping in bed instantly, shacking up, and being ridiculous doesn’t earn love.  If you want to be loved, you’re going to have to take the time to build love, awe, and respect.  People who are impulsive and refuse to delay gratification just can’t keep plugging.  That’s why their relationships and their businesses don’t work out because it takes years sometimes with no gratification whatsoever to build something that can sustain itself.  If you look at orthodox versions of various religions, it’s no surprise to see practices like couples not holding hands until after they’re married.  They delay physical gratification to learn about each other and become more mature.  They earn their relationships, and THEN they get the cherry on top.

Are We Becoming Robots?

When I was a kid, there was a Twilight Zone episode depicting a futuristic society with no jails.  Instead, if people did bad things, they were put on another planet all by themselves.  One of these inmates, who was very lonely, was pitied by one of his captors and was given a huge box.  Inside the box was an extremely lifelike female robot.  It displayed sympathy, compassion, love, fear, and other human emotions.  At first, he was disgusted: “I’m not going to have sex with a machine,” “I’m not going to develop a relationship with a machine,” “I’m not going to let a machine touch me,” etc.  However, as the years passed, he managed to get over his feelings of repulsion and formed a relationship with the robot.  But then, he received word that he had been pardoned and could go home.  He went to go grab the robot, but the pardoner said he couldn’t bring her with him.  The man broke down in a screaming fit because, in his mind, she was human.  He was willing to stay on the planet with her even though she wasn’t real.

I think that episode is very relevant today because that’s the direction we keep moving.  I read an article a while back about how Japanese scientists have been working on robots for years to be like butlers or maids and provide child care in the home.  If it isn’t already bad enough that we have mothers who don’t mother their own children, just imagine what it will be like in the future when there are machines that will watch your kids for no pay? 

The development of the human brain deeply and profoundly requires human interaction.  This is why in preemie wards at hospitals there are always people next to the babies, touching and holding them.  Human beings require connectedness to develop the ability to love and show compassion, and I think we’re already on the road to losing our sense of humanity.

I read another shocking article discussing the development of “emotional phones,” which simulate hand-holding, breathing, and kissing:

“The next generation of phones could hold your hand, breathe on your neck and maybe even kiss your cheek.  In pursuit of more ‘emotional’ and ‘sensory’ phones, a designer at the Berlin University of the Arts showed off three prototypes at the TEDxBerlin conference…that can recreate those sensations.

One phone includes force sensors and a strap that goes around a hand that can tighten, simulating a squeeze, when a friend grips their own phone. Similarly, the breathing prototype picks up air movements on one phone and translates that into a jet of air on the other (not so good for heavy breathers).

The most alarming (and creepy) prototype is the kissing simulator, which involves a moisture sensor on the smoocher’s phone and a motorized ‘wet sponge pushing against a membrane’ on the receiver’s phone, according to Fabian Hemmert, the designer. The sensor can differentiate between a peck on the cheek and a full on sloppy kiss — moving the wet sponge to simulate accordingly.”

Is this intimacy!?  It’s like masturbating to a vibrator without ever having any kind of love relationship. 

I think texting is already a step away from intimacy.  The idea that a few ill-spelled words are meaningful discourse is frightening.  Technology is something that is simply taking over our lives.  I get scared seeing people walking around with their thumbs moving and ignoring the world around them, or texting while they’re sitting with a group of people at dinner.  I’m sure they’re thinking, “I have to answer this!  I have to contact this person immediately!,” but it’s not really contact at all.  It’s barely communication.   

We’ve known about the negative effects of technology on kids for years.  For example, it’s pretty obvious to everyone that it’s not good for kids to sit around all day and watch TV.  The Associated Press reported, “The cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants is in hot water from a study suggesting that watching just nine minutes of that program can cause short-term attention and learning problems in 4-year-olds…Previous research has linked TV-watching with long-term attention problems in children, but the new study suggests more immediate problems can occur after very little exposure – results that parents of young kids should be alert to…”

If you put this all together, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the more you are invested in these abrupt spurts of connectivity with the world, the less you are going to be able to relate eye-to-eye with other human beings.

Is Chivalry Dead?

Are men chivalrous anymore? 

The answer is largely “no.”  The reason: women’s behavior.

“Chivalry is a quaint word dating back to the days of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, referring to gentlemanly behavior towards women.  We think of Sir Walter Raleigh gallantly spreading his cape down on a street so Queen Elizabeth of England could walk across a puddle without getting her feet caked in mud. Over the centuries it manifested itself in such common courtesy as opening the door and letting a woman enter before you, pulling the chair out so the man’s date could sit down, or helping a woman take off her coat.

It’s hard to believe now, but in the early 1960s John and Jackie Kennedy era, chivalry was a huge part of our culture, along with men wearing suits and hats to baseball games and women wearing gloves, hats and mink stoles. Then the whirlwind of women’s liberation swept over the land the next three decades.”

Now first off, I want to make it perfectly clear that I think there is absolutely nothing wrong with women having equal opportunities.  If they have the ability, then the opportunity should not be closed to them.  That goes for everything – gender, race…whatever.  If you have the ability, you should not be denied the opportunity.  That’s basic civil rights, and I am very big on that.   All I’m saying is that women shouldn’t automatically have the opportunity just because they are females.  For example, if a certain number of push-ups is required for a particular job, then the number of push-ups that male and female applicants have to complete should be the same.  If a woman can’t do what a man can do physically, then she can’t be a firefighter.  You can’t have quotas for things just because it seems fair.  We promise equal opportunity in our country, not equal outcome.  I mean it’s silly – should you really be allowed to get a job just because you want it?! 
 
And it’s this feminist attitude that has made respect and admiration between men and women take a nosedive.  Women’s studies programs teach women that when men act graciously, they are attempting to control them and keep them down.  They encourage women to be hostile, become major ball-busters, and think they can have babies without men because kids don’t need a daddy.  If you listen to them, they say just about every woman is beaten, raped, and cheated out of everything (just read Who Stole Feminism by Christina Hoff Sommers if you think I’m nuts).  And when these women dress like pigs, talk like pigs, and act like pigs, it is a little demoralizing for men to put them on a pedestal, take them out on dates, and treat them like they’re special.  Think about it.  Chivalry has to do with respect, and we don’t see women behaving with much dignity when they hook up and have multiple sexual partners.
   
Although chivalry is dead, there are still nice guys out there who would act chivalrously, but they simply don’t know what the hell women want.  Today’s men are very frustrated and scared because they accept women’s equality, but they are afraid that if they act romantically, they will come across as sexist and offensive.  I don’t blame them.  I mean it’s just the stupidest stuff that makes women angry with men.   

For example, when I was just starting to date boys, my dad was very clear with me: “If a fellow opens his car door, then go out on the date with him.  If he doesn’t open the car door, turn around and come back inside the house.  Don’t have a conversation about it, don’t argue, and don’t demand anything.  Just say thank you very much and wave goodbye.”  However, if a guy tries to open a door for a woman today, she tells him, “No, I can open it myself.” 

All I can say is if you’re a guy and a woman behaves obnoxiously like that on a date, just let her open the door herself.  In fact leave her there.  Tell her she can call a cab herself too because she’s equally competent to do that.  If a woman acts in an ungracious way, dump her.  Don’t waste your time, money, and effort on her.  If you go out of your way to be chivalrous, kind, and thoughtful, and she doesn’t behave in a way that shows she respects, admires, and appreciates it, she’s not a woman – she’s just a female. 

It makes a man feel good to be protecting and taking care of a woman, and it should make a woman feel good to know that a man is being respectful and thoughtful of her.  If I walk into an elevator and a man lets me walk in first, I turn around and say, “Thank you very much.”  Most of the time they look utterly surprised to get the compliment. 

We’ve lost something beautiful and it’s something so essential in a love relationship.  If you treat your husband like he’s a man, you’ll get more manly behavior.  If you treat your wife like she’s a woman, you will get more womanly behavior.  The polarity between men and women actually means something despite what social trends say.  I don’t care how big of a feminist you are – we are still hardwired. 

Women should expect men to provide, protect, nurture, and love them.  If they don’t want to allow that, they are going to miss out on a lot.

Parents Playing Financial Favorites

“It’s not fair!”

A lot of siblings are treated differently by their parents, and the reason is simple: people are human. They say and do stupid things from time to time because they’re not perfect little computers (even perfect little computers crash and get viruses). 

Now, I’m sure when your kids ask you, “Who do you love more?,” you just look perplexed and say that you love them in different ways.  You tell them, “How can I love one more,” and then go through the litany of “I love your kindness” or “I like that you play soccer, but I also like that she plays basketball,” etc.  You try to say that love is not quantifiable and that you love them for all the unique things they each are.

But in real life, it doesn’t work out that way.  Parents often either show more attention to the kid who is easier to get along with, or they end up giving more attention to the kid who’s a pain in the butt because they’re trying to straighten them out.  That happens a lot.  At birth, some little babies are cuddly and some are colicky.  You’re going to feel a little more relaxed and bonded to the kid who is cuddly.

There are so many subtle things that influence parents, especially when giving money to their kids.  Financial favoritism causes a lot of family discord.   And if there are secrets involved, things can explode. 

There have been so many times I’ve had a competent, confident, healthy individual call into the show who is doing well in life but is really upset because time, effort, and money are being given to their loser sibling.  And I’ve had to explain time and again the sad reality: “You?  They’re just grateful you’re doing fine.  They don’t have to worry about you.  They’re worried about the other one, and that’s why they keep throwing fuel into the fire – to try and get the other one straightened out so they can be like you.” It’s really difficult to work hard your whole life to achieve a good lifestyle to find out that your irresponsible sibling is getting supported all the way along.  It seems unfair. Your parents are constantly throwing good money at the bad kid, trying to fix his or her ways, and their handouts only create dependency.  Why shouldn’t the ne’er-do-well have to go out and make it work on his or her own? 

You’ve heard me so many times (I hope) on the program saying to parents, “Let them go.  What’s going to happen?  They’ll have to figure it out.”  And then they respond back, “But they’ll hit bottom!  They’ll be miserable!  They might live on the street!  They might live in their car!  They might live with their friends!  They might shack up!  They might…” 

But do you know what?  They will work it out.  They’ll figure it out if you’re out of the equation.

Now, of course, parents can do whatever they darn well want to do with their money -they can give it away, they can spend it…whatever.  But you parents ought to remember that when you show favoritism after death with money, you’re going to leave behind you a big problem in the family.  The kidlets are not going to get along.  They’re going to be angry with each other.  So it’s good, before death, to sit down with your kids and clarify what your intentions are and why.  You need to talk it out because if there’s a sibling who is reasonably irresponsible, the good kids are really going to be ticked off that they have to share equally with somebody who they feel hasn’t earned that position.

It’s natural to want to fix things for your kids.  Nevertheless, you should carefully consider how your decisions will impact the relationship you have with each different child and the relationships they have with each other.  It can really put a bomb in the family.

My advice is this: die poor.  Do it like the pharaohs and bury it all with you.  That way nobody can fight over it because it’s all six feet under with you. 

…But even then somebody will dig it up.  You know that, right?