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Annie Fox, M.Ed., is an internationally respected parenting expert, award-winning author, and a trusted online adviser for tweens and teens.

Giving to Get vs. Giving to Give

December 29, 2009

And the tomato gods had a field day

And the tomato gods had a field day

I’m a gardener and by definition that makes me an optimist. Even my farming fizzles don’t deter me from continuing to bury peach pits or old potatoes. Those of you who’ve outgrown playing in the dirt may laugh, but every so often my efforts pay off big time. Like a couple of summers ago when the tomato gods smiled upon us. God did they ever! In fact, they were still laughing their heads off a full week before Halloween. Too bad you can’t carve a tomato.

When it comes to gardening, I’m not ashamed to say that I give only to get. I shower my plants with regular infusions of compost tea and worm castings because I want something in return. I believe that I’m entitled to a major payback for all my efforts otherwise I wouldn’t bother.

When it comes to raising kids, there isn’t really a payback. Not coming directly from them to you. Of course, there are rewards along the way. Like the joy we experience when they succeed at something they’ve worked for. And the pride we feel when our children honor us and themselves by making healthy choices­–especially when we’re not around to prod them. But those perks aren’t why we give to our kids. We’d still do it even if we got nothing to brag about. Why? Because, the simple fact is that we parents are in the business of giving to give. Parenting, unlike marriage, is a one-way street.

Does this mean that you’ll inevitably raise a young adult focused only on her own needs? Hopefully not! Because a big part of what you should be giving your kids is an education about what it means to be thoughtful, loving and compassionate. Hopefully you demonstrate that in the way you treat them. Set clear expectations for the behavior you want them to exhibit and you’ll see more of the good stuff. When you do shower those young ‘uns with praise. And pat yourself on the back. You’re helping to launch a loving spirit into the world.

Now there’s a harvest worth a whole lot more than a basket of tomatoes.

Filed under: Parenting,Tips — Tags: , , — Annie @ 4:59 pm


  1. I love this analogy Annie! My husband and I strongly believe that our children are our gift to the world… everything we do in life is with the view that we give to give more. Parenting is not a right but a wonderful opportunity to make the world a better place.
    Best Wishes,

    Comment by Kylie Walker — December 29, 2009 @ 6:27 pm

  2. The idea of parenting as a “one-way street” is interesting. What about the expectation that your kids will be there to help look after you in your old age? Isn’t that where the table turns and parents get something back in exchange for all they’ve done over the years? Or perhaps that’s largely irrelevant because that isn’t why parents do everything they do for their children?

    Comment by Fayette — January 7, 2010 @ 12:18 pm

  3. I’ve got teen boys and have been working on this “garden” for years and years. (It’s kind of a vocation…)

    I’m trying to teach them compassion and tolerance and respect and decency by how I live, how we live. By the choices I make for our family and by how I behave with the boys and talk to them.

    So far, so good.

    I want to give them the tools for the future so that they are confident, kind, “good” men and citizens.

    Comment by Pam @writewrds — June 16, 2011 @ 2:15 pm

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