Have you ever met a parent who doesn’t have any feelings of guilt about raising their children? I haven’t. Even those of my friends who do their utmost to live without regret – occasionally wonder if this decision or that decision was the right one to make. It seems to me as if guilt comes with the parenting territory!
Even if just about every parent I know struggle with occassional feelings of guilt, to live in a perpetual pool of parenting guilt can be counterproductive. Different parents feel guilty about different things. Too little quality time, lack of money or opportunities, anger outbursts, shouting – the list of things that can induce parenting guilt is endless.
Feelings of guilt can cause parents to act in a way that does not contribute to building a healthy parent-child relationship. Here are some things parents may do unconsciously because they feel guilty about some aspect of parenting their children:
Be inconsistent in disciplining their children.
Don’t follow through on consequences set for uncooperative behavior.
Overcompensate for lack of quality time by buying toys or taking the child on expensive trips.
Leave all the discipline issues to the other parent.
Try to be the child’s friend instead of his parent.
Giving in to feelings of guilt and overcompensating in these ways are more harmful to children than the original action that caused the guilt. Not being consistent in discipline because you feel guilty about being gone from your child for a week for a business trip, sends the message to your child that he can manipulate your actions based on your performance. When you’ve been gone from home, he needs his secure boundaries more than ever to show him that all is right in his world.
Here are four simple ways to overcome parenting guilt:
1. Identify your feelings
You can’t avoid overcompensation because of guilt if you don’t know that you are feeling guilty about some aspect of being a parent. Identify why you feel guilty and make a conscious decision to rectify the original problem instead of overcompensating and creating more severe issues.
2. Accept that You are Good Enough
The perfect parent doesn’t exist! Stop striving to be one. Find a balance between being a wife, mother, and having a career and do your best in each of these roles. Your best is good enough. You have more responsibilities than only parenting your children and it benefits them to see how you function on different levels.
3. Learn to Say You’re Sorry
We all make mistakes in our parenting journey. We are irritable, we shout, we shame and sometimes we make wrong decisions that has a direct influence on our children. Learn to forgive yourself and ask your child’s forgiveness. It is not a sign of weakness to admit a mistake, but rather a sing of strength. Your child will learn infinitely more from your humility than he will from a seemingly flawless parent.
4. Say ‘I Love You’ Often
Make a point to tell your child daily that you love him and enjoy to be with him. Find new ways to express your love to him. Let the first thing he sees in the morning be your smile. No matter what mistakes you have made in the past, nothing can withstand the force of love frequently expressed and demonstrated. Show all the love that you feel for your child and soon it will come rolling back to you.
Being a good enough parent means that you accept what you cannot be and do for your child and help him to cope with your limitations. This process will lead to personal growth for him as he learns to take increasingly more responsibility for his own happiness.