Parents are almost exclusive in their unified feeling of guilt about their parenting. Parents constantly fall into the guilty parenting trap by lamenting that they are not spending enough time with their children and are at work too long. When they finally do spend time with their children, they worry that they have not given each child enough attention, have not done or said the right thing. And the list goes on.
Divorced parents feel guilty that they are not providing a solid home experience for their children and financially struggling parents worry that they are not providing a secure home. And the biggest worriers of all are, you guessed it… the Moms.
So where does all of this guilt come from? To be sure, we as parents are entrusted with an awesome responsibility. Raising kids is probably the most difficult task that we will ever undertake and surely the most important. And that alone is enough to give anyone pause (and a giant headache!)
I know that as a young mother even though I often thought I was doing a good job, there were so many times that I felt like I wasn’t doing enough. Maybe I wasn’t giving my kids everything that they needed. Maybe when I did this, it wasn’t the right thing or maybe when I said that, it did more harm than good. Around and around and up and down.
Guilt Doesn’t Do Anyone Any Good
And after several years of this, I finally came to a profound revelation, and one that continues to guide me even today. My guilt about my parenting wasn’t doing anyone any good! Not me, not my spouse and certainly not my children! When a person feels guilty, it affects who s/he is and how s/he acts. When a person acts from a place of guilt they are usually acting from a place of weakness. They do things, and say things and even give things that they shouldn’t.
Our children don’t need guilty, weak parents. Our children need strong, secure parents that act decisively for the good of their children and for their good of their families. Guilt does not allow them to do so.
The Benefits of Guilt
So does guilt have a place in our lives? Of course. Guilt is an emotion that lets us know that something is amiss. We feel guilty when something in our lives is not quite right or needs extra attention. We feel the guilt so that we can pay attention and do what needs to be done! This is particularly true when it comes to parenting.
Let’s say that we are feeling guilty over finances. We can’t give our children everything that they want. It’s natural for a parent to want to give the best to his/her children but there are so many more things that a child needs from his parents. Here is an opportunity to show our children the true blessing of family. Family can form a shield to protect and carry us through many difficult circumstances. The family bond is so much stronger than “things.”
When we feel guilty about something, the purpose is not to carry the weight around forever. We need to put the load down and sit down and figure out why we are feeling guilty. Then, we need to carefully analyze what can be done to correct the situation. It is so much healthier to look for and work towards a solution than to have negative feelings.
Finding Solutions is Healthier than Feeling Guilty
Here are some steps to finding solutions.
- Carefully analyze why you are feeling guilty or in pain
- Sit down with a pen and paper and list possible things that you can do to ease the situation
- Talk to your spouse or a trusted friend and bounce your ideas to get another opinion
- Once you have some ideas for a plan of action – get started!
- Monitor your progress- even small steps in the right direction are liberating and should be celebrated
Let’s say that you feel guilty over yelling too much at your children. Are there steps to take that can ease some of the tension that gets you riled up? Have you made your expectations clear to your children.? Are they abusing privileges? Have you been lazy about stepping in when things start to escalate and then you only intervene when things are out of hand? Maybe you just need more cleaning help at home.
Really looking to see where the problem lies, can bring unexpected solutions. A well timed snack, starting dinner a half hour earlier, supervising homework before play are all examples of small tweaks that can lead to big payoffs. Have you been avoiding that talk with your spouse or with your adolescent daughter? Get support from a friend and take the leap. Feeling guilty never does any good but taking steps to improve a situation, always sets us on the right track, even if progress is slow.
We live in a busy, demanding world and it is easy to land up in the guilty parenting trap. Remember the wonderful things that you are accomplishing every day and how your efforts are keeping your kids well fed, healthy and strong. Applaud the work that you do every day and look for solutions when things are not going as smoothly as planned. We need to throw off the guilt and be the strong and secure parents that our children need us to be. Good luck!
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