The Value Of Guilt

Don’t tell my children I had Candy Corn flavored Oreos for dinner or that I chased them down with a beer.

Nor should you tell them a bunch of the other things I have done not because they are bad or I am embarrassed but because the privilege of being an adult means I get to do some things I tell them not to do.

I don’t have the time, wherewithal or energy to explain why I chose to eat like I am still 19 or how much fun it was.

My job is to teach them how to become menschen, people of character who are self sufficient and productive members of society.

That means I have spent and continue spend lots of time teaching them how to go along and get along.

It means some times if I thought it was appropriate I have used guilt to encourage them to behave in certain ways.

But if you caught me at the right moment and asked me what I think of guilt I’d tell you I don’t think much of it at all.

The Value Of Guilt

You won’t catch me behaving appropriately because I would feel guilty if I didn’t do so.

My behavior isn’t predicated upon fear of religious punishment or obligation. It is because it is the right thing to do and it makes sense to do it.

Guilt isn’t useful to me.

It doesn’t motivate me to become a better person or to learn more.

All it does is make me feel badly and saddle me with an idea that I am a lesser person.

That is not useful.

No one likes to feel or to be made to feel stupid.

Why Use It With The Kids?

It is not the first, biggest or best tool in my parental tool kit but it is one that I keep in there just in case.


Because there is no handbook or manual for raising kids and there are moments where you need something different to help with teaching them.

Moments where it moves from being at the bottom of the kit to the top and you realize this time it has a practical utility that is worth taking advantage of.

But you need to be circumspect because you don’t want to beat your kid up with it. You don’t want to scar them or saddle them with luggage they’ll carry around for life.

There are lots of ways to help teach them how to be good people without shaming them.

Guilt is just not that useful to me.

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