Guilt Free Parenting: 8 ways to avoid the guilt trap

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Guilt Free Parenting:  8 ways to avoid the guilt trap
Learn how to avoid letting guilt guide your parenting decisions and parent with confidence.

We've all experienced it...the dreaded parenting guilt.  You blame yourself whenever you see your child fail or if they are unhappy or struggling.  You beat yourself up after you lose your cool when your child misbehaves, you wonder how you have failed your child when they come home with a bad test grade, and you are sure iti is your fault that your child hurt themselves when under your care.  There's always something to feel guilty about when you are a parent!

Then, there are those teachers, friends and family members who don't help matters.  They say things like, "he just can't seem to keep his hands to himself, is something going on at home?", or "she doesn't act like that when she's with me-you need to stop letting her manipulate you like that", or the infamous "well intentioned",  "how/why do you put up with that, if he were my child that wouldn't be tolerated!".  Judgements from those around us only increases the sense of guilt and shame that parents often already carry.  If you have a child with special needs of any kind, whether autism, adhd, depression, bi-polar, anxiety or anything else, the stress and shame are only magnified.  You are in public and your child acts out or starts throwing a tantrum and you get "those looks".  You know the look I'm talking about - the "why don't you get your kid under control?" look. I've actually seen adults shake their heads with disapproval or go so far as to intervene and tell a child to stop screaming or crying, as though they have the right to input their parenting wisdom.

 

Then there are the days when your sweet child turns into a toddler who has learned the word "no!".  Or when you hit the teen years, a child who is satisfied by absolutely nothing you do or say one day and the next, you are the greatest parent that ever lived.  

All parents have those days that feel like they aren't cut out for the job and wish their child came with an instruction manual!  Take comfort in knowing you are not alone!  Parenting is truly the hardest job on earth (in my humble opinion!) and the reality is that the job description is forever changing.  To add a little more challenge, what works for one child doesn't necessarily work for another.  Better yet, what works one day may not work the next!  And then to top it all off, once you think you have one issue or challenge mastered a brand NEW one arises!  Every developmental stage brings with it new challenges and a whole new set of behaviors and dilemmas that we parents have to face.  We struggle with whether we responded the "right" way when our child asked where babies come from, if we perpetrated a life time scar when we lost our cool and yelled at our child when they interrupted us for the 50th time while having a conversation, and convince ourselves we might as well start saving money for a therapy fund (for ourselves and them) when our child misbehaves in public.  Then, the dreaded phone call from the school that your child has misbehaved or a neighbor tells you how your child misbehaved when playing with their child.  Then, because of our own embarrassment and shame, we take it out on our kids and feel even more guilt and shame!  Sound familiar?  Some days it feels like you can't win for losing as a parent!

Here's the secret...It's easy to feel like a failure as a parent if you base your success on your child's happiness, their behavior, and other's judgements.  If that's your measuring instrument, you will feel guilty and as though you have failed more days then not!  Here are some pointers to avoid falling into the parents pit of guilt and shame:

1) Clarify for yourself what does define your sucess as a parent?  Some days, the fact that my children are alive and well fed is good enough for me.  You may have bad parenting moments each day, but in the big picture - is your kid healthy, somewhat well adjusted and able to feed themselves?  Focusing on the big picture rather then the daily struggles can help you keep perspective and help appease the self-critical voice that reminds you of all of the ways you failed as a parent on any given day.

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Article contributed by
Advanced Member

Leslie Petruk

Marriage and Family Therapist

Leslie Petruk is a Child & Family Therapist

Location: Charlotte, NC
Credentials: BCC, LPC, MA, NCC
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