False Guilt And Depriving Kids

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False Guilt And Depriving Kids When Money Is Tight

From a Reader

What do you do about guilt? We used to have a lot of money. We went on big trips, had a huge house, and had our 4 kids in private school. My husband was in construction and lost the company he owned. We went from 250,000 to 40,000 a year salary- I’m a teacher. Our savings was lost in the stock market. Well, I feel so bad for the kids. I know we are teaching them important lessons but when they can’t do sports or clubs, my heart breaks. We know God holds us in his hands-1Timothy 6 is an all time favorite in my family but having to tell the kids no so often breaks my heart.

I’ve been a big fan of your site for a long time and I’m so grateful for all your books-I’ve loved them!


Jill’s Answer

This is just one of many questions we get along this same line so I thought I would address it in a newsletter and hopefully help others who are struggling with this same thing. I have also linked to 4 of our other articles below which have sections that deal with this issue, too. Before you read those here are a couple of things to think about.

First, let me ask you– Why are you guilty? Did you purposely make your husband lose his company? Did you cause the stock market to mess up your savings? Are you keeping your kids from doing the things they want because you want to hurt them? Of course not. I’m sure that your answer to all of these questions is no so why do you hold yourself personally responsible for it all and feel guilty?

What you are feeling is false guilt and you have to be so careful as a Christian not to give into it. Satan gets frustrated because he can’t make you sin by committing adultery, murder or stealing so he comes in the back door and tries to destroy our families and our lives with false guilt. I have seen false guilt do so much damage in the lives of Christians and until you let it go, it will eat you alive and spill over to your husband and kids in so many ways.

Even though we will “bravely” say with our lips, “I know God is in control,” what we are really saying with our actions is “I know you are in control but, since you aren’t doing what I think is best, I am going to try to fix things. Then I can give my kids what I think they really need and what is best for them.” I don’t want to sound harsh here and I have felt what you are feeling, too. I also know how deadly false guilt can be to a family so I will risk sounding harsh if it helps for someone to see what is happening.

It is critical that you get the right attitude towards your circumstances because your children are watching you and following you. As long as you think they are being deprived, they will think it, too, and that will hurt them more than the doing without things. Kids pick up on fear, anger and guilt. Even the sweetest kids will milk it for all it is worth but just stick to the facts and say, “This is the way it is. It’s not great but we will work together as a family to make the best of it.” You will be amazed at how your kids, if they have been taught right, will step up to the plate when the parents have the right attitude.

You need to have the attitude that God has us exactly where He wants us. Get excited about this time. God is opening up new doors and new things to learn. Stop thinking that money and the things it can buy your kids is all that they need in life. Maybe God has allowed this to happen because He wants your kids to learn to be stronger in so many ways. They will learn self control when they can’t always have everything they want. Maybe they can learn to make the the best of bad circumstances by getting jobs and learning to pay for the things they want, enabling them to have more confidence and courage instead of being afraid when life hits them between the eyes.

This is a time you should rejoice and get excited. Your kids may not be receiving as many material blessings but they will be greatly blessed when it comes to building their character and their emotional and spiritual strength. God wants His children to be well rounded in all areas so don’t panic or get upset when He allows things to happen to us or them that might be designed to teach us so many things. But you as a parent have to grab a hold of this idea and grasp it or you children will never understand it or see it.

Life happens. The best thing a parent can do for her children (even better than taking them on vacation or having them in sports) is to teach them how to deal with life the way God wants us to, gratefully, wisely and with courage and wisdom. I am continually thanking God that I didn’t have the money to give my children all the things they wanted, even though I had a hard time dealing with this when it was happening. Now, as I look back, I see that my kids turned out to be very responsible, brave, faith filled and confident adults. I don’t have to worry about them. They know everything they need to know about dealing with the hard knocks of life and they are handling life so much better than most adults their age who had all the things you are not currently able to give your kids.

I one heard a story about an old farmer and a young horticulturist who were asked to plant new trees on a windy section of a mountain. The farmer dug a hole, stuck in the tree, covered it with dirt and walked away and left it. The horticulturist dug a hole, added fertilizer, special soil and mulch and carefully watered each tree every day. After a while, the farmer’s trees looked brown and dead and the other trees were healthy, beautiful and full of green leaves because they had been feed and given the best care. Then a huge wind storm came. The horticulturist’s trees lay dead on the ground, pulled up by the roots because their roots weren’t strong enough. The farmer’s trees were left standing strong. His trees had to work hard pushing their roots deep into the ground to find water because they hadn’t been given everything they wanted and that they were thought to have needed. They stood firm and strong and grew to be beautiful mighty trees.

The same thing applies to us as Christians and to children as they grow. Don’t take this opportunity away from your children but show them how to wisely and bravely deal with it. But first, it has to happen in your own heart. Replace that guilt with confidence and bravery.

For more help on dealing with guilt or providing for your kids, check out the following posts!

Don’t Worry so Much About Your Children

Are We Really Depriving our Kids

Entertaining Kids

Dealing With Discouragement


photo by: valeriebb


  1. Lisa says

    Thank you for this wise article. The part about saying we trust God while our actions and attitudes show otherwise is a “mirror” I will look into again and again. I think a lot of times we know what is the right thing to do and say, but our mind and feelings aren’t on board. Well, faith is a decision; if it was all laid out it wouldn’t be called faith. It’s like the engine in a train and the rest of the cars (feelings,attitudes, etc.) will follow along if we keep chugging away with our decision to follow the Lord.

  2. Sandra says

    This was especially interesting to me because we had a very similar thing happen to knock the props out from under us! We had two wonderful daughters who had to change schools, change homes and had to be told that we really couldn’t afford the things that they had taken for granted. Well, after some 25 years I still feel guilty sometimes. I don’t make an issue of it but it is still just a part of my basic makeup. The advantage to our debacle is that both of our girls are so very good with money. They are now in their mid 30s, happily married to great guys. have good jobs and a little cushion of money in the bank. I don’t dwell on the guilt or the problems we had but sometimes in the dark of night I can’t help but “relive” those awful times. By the way, love the newsletter!! Your posts are very helpful – good times or bad. Thank you!!

  3. Margie says

    What a beautifully put article! One suggestion, schools generally have grants for kids to pay for sports and clubs who cannot pay, at least they have them in my area. Please check with the schools principal to see if it is possible to get a reduced fee or eliminated fee based on your circumstances! The school usually has a fund set aside for this. I hope this helps you! God Bless YOU!

  4. Veronica Tidd says

    Jill you are so right in everything you say but I know you have “been there done that” and are able to share the lessons you have learnt along the way.
    Comming from a very high income to a fraction of that is particularily difficult because the family will have commited to financial responsibilities that can no longer be honered such as mortgages, car loans and loans for higher education.
    The facts are just that facts and I believe they should not be hidden from the children if they are old enough to understand. These catastrophies frequently happen when the children are older and a parent most often a faher in his 50s becomes ill or is fired and finding an equaly high paying job is almost impossible. Divorce is another financial catastrophe.
    Be proactive before the creditors come knocking. Tell the children what the income is and what the essential expences are. Be relistic even if the house is sold not foreclosed you will still need food, heat,clothing health care and transportation to name but a few.
    If the housing market is poor consider renting it out and renting something cheaper for the family.
    Cut back or cancel the TV Internet and cell phones.
    Seriously rethink the food budget, cook from scratch and grow a garden.
    Consider the pets. Don’t get anymore but do your best to keep the ones you have. Something really big like a horse just may have to go especially if it is in a boarding stable. Perhaps the owner can work at the barn in exchange for board, lessons or some riding time on a lesson horse. If you have enough land maybe the horse can come home. It just needs a minimal shelter to keep out of the worst weather, but feed is expensive
    Clothing is another big issue. Most people have too much anyway but if you need more learn to sew or buy used. If keeping up appearances is important go to thift stores or garage and rummage sales in another town. Shop the more affluant areas where people just want to get rid of stuff and really don’t want to sit in their garage all day and watch people look over their stuff. Volunteer at a thrift store or maybe help at your churche’s rummage sale.
    Don’t be too proud to ask for help.
    When the income gets too low for subsistance apply for Medicaid, Food stamps or anything else that is available.
    Barter for anything you can. Maybe the neighbor down the street will let you pick her garden surplus in exchange for watching the house when she is on vacation. Perhaps your dentist needs his office painted!
    Above all don’t be paralysed by fear think in terms of the worst that can happen and develop a plan. Often you will think back aand wonder why you distressed yourself over something. Don’t panic ask for help, if you are depressed ask for pills, it’s far better to be calm than beat the kids.
    I have rambled on long enough but wanted to share personal experience. I did find a job and go back to work at age 58 and worked for the next ten years!

  5. jaylee says

    What a beautiful and wise answer you gave to the lady’s concerns in your article. In my own life, when I was younger I would sometimes wish we had more money so that everything wasn’t always such a struggle. But looking back on it, now I can see that the struggles are what made me strong and built my character. In my first job, after graduating from college, one day my boss said to me, “Where did you get your work ethic? Most people your age don’t have the willingness to work hard that you do.” Her comment really surprised me, because I hadn’t really thought about it; we were just raised that way by hard-working, Depression-era parents bringing up six kids on a small income. In recent years, I quit teaching school for the time being to care for my elderly mother. I’m not receiving retirement pay because I was not yet eligible for retirement, so my income (to put it mildly) changed drastically. But the miracle is, I’m now in better financial shape than when I was teaching full-time and working a part-time job on the side! I’ve learned that God can take less and make more with it, if we allow Him to work in our circumstances.

  6. Nancy says

    Attitude is what will make or break you. If you feel guilty and “poor” you will pass that negative attitude on to your children. If you look at your current situation as a challenge and have a positive attitude the kids will not be afraid and bitter.
    When I went through it, I looked at living as well as possible on a little income, as a game that I could win.
    My clothes and my kids clothes were purchased at Goodwill, or garage sales. You can find the very best labels for a fraction of what they originally cost. You can find frugal recipes in many places, especially on the internet. I found that stocking up on canned goods when there were great sales, buying marked down meat, and using less meat in meals, we could eat well and stay on a very limited grocery budget.
    Read blogs and books that are about frugal living. Those authors/bloggers, etc. are amazing and share their ideas.
    The kids can pay for some of their own “fun” by cutting lawns, shoveling snow, babysitting, etc. They will take pride in their accomplishments, and learn that when they earn the money, they will be more discriminating on how it is spent.
    You will feel great when you put a good meal on the table for a few dollars, or find a designer label piece of clothing for pennies on the dollar.
    Involve the kids in budgeting, if they are old enough to understand the concept of money.
    Get rid on anything that isn’t essential. Entertainment can be board games, getting books and movies from the library, putting puzzles together, going to free events, and church activities.
    Kids need love and attention, not “things”.
    Some day, they will look back on this time as the good old days!

  7. Cindy says

    Great article, as always. I think that if kids are made to feel that they can help as part of the family during difficult times, they will rise to the challenge and get into the spirit. I can think of only one time that one of my kids used the “so-and-so’s parents give him (whatever)” line (as opposed to our family where our kids worked for things.) I just asked him how he would handle things like that when he has kids, his muttered reply was “The way you guys do, I guess.”

  8. says

    the main thing parents should feel guilty about is working all the time to buy the toys and gadgets and never having time to sit down and talk to their children or take them out and play a game of hockey or to to the beach for a day away from home.
    the rest is just stuff.
    time together is love.

  9. Tammy says

    Thank you for this article.I had these same “guilt” feelings recently as I heard friends talking about signing their kids up for this sport and that dance class. We have chosen not to do those things because of the cost.
    But just the other day a friend was telling me that she was going to go to work full time so she could pay for all the things her 3 kids are doing. She listed swimming, dancing soccer,tennis,softball and the list went on and on. I asked why so many and she said her kids friends were in those sports and she didn’t want them to feel left out.
    My guilt for not putting my kids in extra things evaporated quickly. I am grateful to God for my time spent at home being there for my kids. I am also grateful for my husbands and my talents that let us teach our kids things that are better than sports. We homeschool and my husband has taught all our kids (girls too) car care, welding,carpentry and I have taught them piano , sewing and cooking all for free.
    Thanks again for this article it was a confirmation for us that we are on the right path and while these feeling of doubt pop up once in a while, if we are prayerful and wise we will prevail.

  10. Valarie S. says

    We have also gone through many times of want, mostly related to job losses by my husband. We always strove to give the children information appropriate to their ages and be honest. But we always told them that these were adult problems and we were ultimately responsible for working things out with God’s help. The other thing we always tried to do was instill a sense of contentment. No matter what our situation was, we can always find things to be thankful for – lovely clean sheets that have dried in the sun, good friends and family that loved and supported us, etc. There will always be those with more than us and those with less. We can be thankful no matter what…..

    • says

      Valarie I think that is really the secret – contentment. If we as moms and dads learn to be content no matter what, our kids pick up on that and whether things are high or low, good or bad it doesn’t matter or effect us near as much. When we are content with life we tend to focus on things that really matter, are secure and solid and financial loss or gain or things happening in the world don’t put us in as much of a flap. It doesn’t mean we live in a Pollyanna world but that our lives aren’t ruled by fear, guilt, lust(wanting things now) and those types of things so we can roll with the punches and deal with things easier.

  11. Mary in Texas says

    I teacher friend went through a divorce when she had two kids in their early teens. She wanted to keep their house since it was in a good school district and close to her job. She calculated how far her salary (no child support was likely to come) and realized that she could pay for house, car expenses, health insurance, and minimal food with nothing left over for clothes and entertainment. She explained the situation to her kids and left the decision as to whether or not to stay in the house and do without a lot of things or move to a cheaper place and have more. They said “We’ll take care of the extras.” The daughter baby-sat and the son mowed lawns and did other odd jobs. What they made they turned over to their mother who then paid out allowances and money for the extra entertainment. They were all thrilled to find that the money went a lot farther than they could have dreamed it could. The kids had great grades and had a wonderful work ethic that helped them get into colleges and find good jobs. The mother eventually re-married a great guy who the kids loved. Tough times make for strong people.

  12. Pat says

    Just want to say I agree with you. Paul said that he was content in all situations, now he didn’t have kids BUT the key is being content! Attitude is so important!

  13. Michelle says

    When I was little my parents did very well. My dad taught school, did recess duty, drove bus, and worked on farms. My mom also worked full time. They paid for a house and two brand new vehicles in three years. They also had three children. A few years later…they had bought a farm, drove an old truck, had seven kids, and NO money. In one year they watched milk prices get cut in half. If that wasn’t bad enough they also lost every calf that year because the well was polluted, they also lost a baby for the same reason. I was 10, and the oldest. I saw them fight, and cry, and watched them walk into the bank not sure if they could get a loan for a new well, or if they were done. I watched them work 20 hour days…and as a 10 year old worked many 15 hour days. It’s sad you might have to say no to your kids sometimes…have you ever had to say I’m sorry I don’t have the money for boots for your feet, even though you work harder than most adults? In December. In Wisconsin. Yeah, I know sports are are great. I played sports in college. But, I learned far more about life the year I was ten. Some people said they should have quit for us kids. Those people are fools. I have told them many times that I would not trade that year for anything. Life isn’t always fun or easy, but it is what you decide to make it.

  14. Aisling Kiernan says

    Thank you firstly to the lady who brought up this issue. It is something so many of us are feeling and thank you so much for your wonderful, insightful reply. You have made me think about my own responses in a similar situation and helped me appreciate the lessons both I and my family are learning right now. Keep up your inspiring work. We need you.

  15. Marcia says

    Our society is so geared now towards money and prestige and so little towards contentment and making do with what you have that people can pour on the guilt and do their best to make you feel like you are depriving your kids if they don’t have everything. I remember when Amy Dacyczyn of the Tightwad Gazette (remember her? She was frugal in the 1990s when no one else was!)was on the Phil Donahue show years ago and he and the audience were going up one side of her and down the other for depriving her kids. Of what?! She was feeding them, clothing them, giving them shelter, and they didn’t seem depressed or humilated in any way. She wasn’t beating them or being a bad parent. From what I hear of her kids now they don’t regret how they grew up. They may not follow her guidelines word for word but most of us don’t do everything the way our parents did. I think the most important thing my parents taught me was that you do NOT have to do something just because everyone else does. We are not lemmings!!

  16. says

    One of my prayer partners and role models for grace-under-adversity told me: When you are under a burden of “guilt,” pray “Lord, if this is from You, increase the burden I am feeling; if it is from the Enemy of my soul, then lift it!” Wise advice from a 94-year-old saint!

  17. Michele Dingemans says

    We homeschooled and so there weren’t team sports available unless you went through alot of steps to join a private school’s athletics department and the hassles were huge, so my boys tossed a football or played basketball with a neighbor friend alot and in young years my hubby played street hockey with them and also other kids on block came too. They had one year in charter school where I ran them to team practices and games of every kind, plus my daughter’s ballet lessons. It was only that one year they officially did that, but I never apologized or felt bad and they did their own basketball games with friends, etc. and turned out to be upstanding citizens and godly young people. Other kids in 3rd world nations don’t have half the opportunities as ours regardless and they have libraries and museums and other things many kids in the world don’t have! Help them be thankful.

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