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Ask Dave

Telling Mom No

Jessica is calling because her mom keeps asking her for money. Jessica isn't sure how to tell her no.

QUESTION: Jessica in Omaha is calling because her mom keeps asking her for money. Jessica isn’t sure how to tell her no.

ANSWER: You’ve identified that just giving her money doesn’t work, so you told her that she’s going to have to get some training. And if she gets some training, then you’d be willing to give her a little bit to help her get started and use that training.

I think you’re on the right track because here’s the thing: You’re basically giving a drunk a drink, aren’t you? You’re not helping her solve her alcoholism. In this case, it’s not alcoholism. It’s mismanagement of money, which isn’t nearly as serious as alcoholism, but she’s obviously doing some things wrong with money and you can identify those. You can see them, can’t you?

Just talking to her about doing those things doesn’t fix it, but I would sit down with her and just lovingly say, “You know, Mom, I really love you and care about you, so I’m not going to participate in your misbehavior with money because it’s bringing you bad times. Instead, I want to participate in helping you win with money so that you never have to ask anybody again, because I’ve got to tell you I know that you coming to your daughter and asking for money has to be embarrassing to you. I don’t want you to be uncomfortable like that.

“I want you to have the dignity of being under control, so here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to pay for you to go to this class, and I think it’ll change your life. If you attend every class, then I’ll sit down with you. And as you’re going through the class, I’ll help you and coach you. I’ll be your biggest cheerleader. If we look at your debts and your money stuff together—you and I—and we see something, I might jump over and help you with something there, but it’s just going to help you be on the right track. It’s not going to help you continue to do the same thing over and over. You’ve got to change some things, Mom.”

If she says, “No, I’m not willing to do that,” just say, “I’m not willing to participate in you continuing to be the same with your money, so no, I won’t give you any. But it doesn’t mean I don’t love you. I love you, but it’s because I love you I’m not doing that.”

It’s not an act of love to be an enabler. That’s what you had already realized. I’m just putting language to what you were already thinking.

Probably some of the things that are going on in her life that have caused your brothers’ relationship problems with your mom are causing some of her money problems too. Larry Burkett often said that money problems are not the problem. They’re the symptom of other things that are going on, and when people have things in their life that are the kind of things that destroy relationships, they’re also the kinds of things that keep you from being able to handle money well and keep money. It all kind of goes together.

It sounds like we need to get her in a good church, too, don’t we? It’s kind of a pattern here. She has a falling out with a lot of people, doesn’t she? The common denominator is her. That’s what I mean. I don’t mean just attending a church. That’s not magical, but certainly creating a spiritual walk and engaging in it causes people to clean their character up—most times, when it’s done well and causes you to be able to have relationships and think long-term and those kinds of things, so that’s why I put that in there.

That’s exactly what I would do if I were in your shoes. I think you’re on track, Jessica.