I want you to join me in the fight against parent guilt.
Parent guilt creeps in at times when you are overwhelmed, tired, frustrated, and feeling ineffective. You feel a loss of control and if you can convince yourself that you are the problem, then you have control again. You can change whatever you think you did and feel better. You have access to the solution.
Sitting in that overwhelmed state with no clue as to what a solution might be is maddening, At the right moment, in an overtired day, it can be scary.
It's that fear that opens the window for parent guilt to creep in. It all comes down to one solitary thought: What if I am a bad parent?
Hang on. That kind of thinking is a cancer that can challenge parent/child relationships and can compromise your abilities as a parent.
How is that? After all, if you're punishing yourself, you are telling yourself you can do better next time. Punishments are about learning, right?
Not in this case, unfortuately.
When it comes to parent guilt, we are dealing with shame. It's staring you right in the face and is making you feel small and ineffective.
When you feel guilty about something, your first instinct will sometimes be to overcompensate. You might buy your child something he or she hasn't necessarily earned. You'll be more likely to tolerate disrespect because you'll tell yourself that you "deserve it". You want to make amends so you might allow your child to skip vegetables and still have dessert. Bedtime might be delayed. Rules around screen time might be softened as you try to atone for your "parenting sins".
What do you think happens next?
The guilt powers parenting fails.
Harsh words, I know. I don't like telling people they are committing parenting fails but it's true. Changing rules or expectations out of guilt causes confusion. You become inconsistent with yourself. You lose bits of your household structure. You make a few too many compromises and if you don't reign it in, your relationship with your child can be affected.
When parents become inconsistent or when a child's structure changes without explanation, a child can develop anxiety. They feel less in control and are worried that the adults don't have control either. This can cause kids to distance themselves, act out, or show restless behavior. Structure and consistency tells kids that you've got this and that they are safe.
As much as you think you are making amends for something you are guilty of, you run the risk of inadvertently causing new problems for your family. Kids start to feel and act entitled, relationships weaken, and parent stress intensifies.
I get it. Parent guilt can't just be turned off like a switch.
I wish I could make your parent guilt evaporate just by wishing it so.
As with any parenting challenge, it's only managed with work and a commitment to change on your part.
- Commit to reducing your parent guilt. The first step will be changing the way you think and acknowledging that parent guilt isn't serving you. Make a commitment toward reducing the power that parent guilt has in your life.
- Accept that everyone, and every family, has non-negotiables. There are things in your life that cannot be changed. Work. Finances. Outside commitments. You need to work. Other people besides your kids count on you. There are always going to be competing needs and demands that cannot be avoided. The sooner you accept this as a reality and stop expecting yourself to be some superhero parent, the sooner you can reduce parent guilt by problem solving more effectively.
- Not all non-negotiables have to suck. Some non-negotiables can and should be things that will promote your own health and sense of well being. Date nights. Time with friends. Time for hobbies. Exercise. You need these things in your life to be your most authentic self and the best version of you. Without them, you'll go mad and your parenting is sure to suffer. Time to stop feeling guilty for things that make you a better parent.
- Stop comparing yourself to others. If you haven't walked a mile in their shoes, you have no way of knowing the challenges that other parents face. You also have know idea as to whether or not they share your families values. The challenges and obstacles you face will be different from theirs. Making comparisons without all the facts and then assuming you are the guilty party is a waste of energy. It zaps your positive outlook and sense of hope. It slowly kills your spirit and that cannot be good for parenting.
You cannot make yourself a better parent by making yourself feel worse.
No good can come from the kinds of thinking errors you make when you are feeling parent guilt and are encumbering yourself with unrealistic expectations.
There are better tools for improved parenting than parent guilt and shame.
Find them with me at Fresh Start Parenting. I am a parent coach providing local and distance coaching in Wakefield, MA. I can provide you with the tools that will help you meet your parenting goals, find your parenting wins, and leave with more confidence and less shame.
Until next time,