The Do-Gooder


Dear Mr Foot,

I do not know if you follow the Facebook groups formed around your books. But there has been a lot of pushback on your idea of the ‘Give Jar’ and kids giving a portion of their money to those in need. Some people cover it up by suggesting you meant the jar is for buying gifts for family or friends. Others reject the idea outright. Is this the state of our country?


Scott's Answer

Hi Jen,

People may say I’ve become a do-gooder by getting kids to put some of their pocket money into a Give Jar, but I can tell you it’s got nothing to do with raising a little Bono (who wears sunglasses to the dinner table and lectures everyone about starving kids in Africa).

Rather, it’s the only way I know that you can ‘break the brat’ in your kids. (Well, other than hard work.)

Look, our kids are living through the richest time in history, in one of the richest countries on earth. As a consequence, all the lecturing in the world can’t make them see how good they’ve got it.

But action can.

In fact, a researcher called Tim Kasser did a study called the ‘Materialism Intervention’. He picked a group of spoilt brats and got them to keep a ‘give jar’, donate to people who need it, and do some volunteer work. He also set up a control group of kids who did none of these things.

His research found that kids who had the intervention showed sustained increases in self-esteem over time, whereas their counterparts in the control group experienced decreases in self-esteem. And the best part is, it lasted: 10 months after the initial study, those same ex-brats reported that their wellbeing was still improving.

And it will work for your kids. As a bonus, if you do my ‘volunteer challenge’ as a family, it’ll create memories you’ll cherish in 20 years’ time.

Oh, and I take the Groucho Marx view of Facebook groups: I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.