Most parents have the best of intentions when it comes to their kids – yet some of the things parents do with a good heart backfire.

I’ve seen well-intentioned parents buy new and expensive cars for their kids upon getting a driver’s license. They do it out of love, generosity, or sometimes a desire for the child to have things the parent never had or had to work very hard to obtain. Sometimes this works out well and sometimes it doesn’t.

All kids, not only the ones who show rebellious tendencies, can be negatively affected by good intentions. Many parents send their well-behaved kids to religious school a couple of days per week after secular school to imbue them with a sense of the family’s tradition. Some kids find this an imposition and develop resentment toward the religious tradition, then rebel and stray from it. Some find their way back in later years and some do not.

Financial wealth is often passed on with wonderful intentions. Recently I was working with a family –  a young inheritor in his mid-twenties in particular. His grandfather had passed and left him a significant sum of money. While the inheritor was incredibly appreciative, the grandfather hadn’t had much communication with the grandson about this gift and what it meant, and how he intended it to be used. The grandson was mature, responsible and sensitive. He wanted to honor his grandfather’s legacy by using the money as his grandfather would see fit, but since he hadn’t been clear on what that was, the grandson often felt guilt using the money even for very legitimate, appropriate reasons and in fact was hesitant to spend it at all.

This is not to say that is it inherently wrong or harmful to buy children a car, send them to learn about their cultural background or even gift them money. But even in the best of situations things can go awry. So why leave the outcome to chance?

In my work with financially fortunate families I’ve learned a good deal about how to increase the odds that an inheritance will have a positive and growth-producing impact and how to intervene when things are not going well. There is no reason to leave the consequences of inheriting to chance. The context of an inheritance is of utmost importance and parents have many tools at their disposal to express and clarify it. Communication is crucial – especially starting when kids are young – and there are many creative and energizing ways to approach the process.

What is most important is that the senior generation commits to being proactive and NOT leaving things to chance. They should tell meaningful stories about their lives, talk about what money and material possessions mean to them and discuss the financial gifts they intend to bestow with the recipients – all with an eye toward meaningful gifting. They should spend time with those to whom they will gift and create lasting memories.