Guilt Free Parenting: 8 ways to avoid the guilt trap


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

2)  Don't measure your success or parent reactively because of the comments and/or fear of being judged by others.  No one is a wiser parent then those who don't have children~and those who do and are trying to tell you how to parent are probably sharing their own self judgement with you.  Don't take it on!!!  Letting go of other's views, staying connected to your child and responding in the way your child knows you understand their feelings (misbehavior is simply a way for your child to communicate through their actions what they are feeling internally) will decrease your humiliation and increase your child's ability to respond to you.  Telling your child to "SSSHHH because you're embarrassing me!" is probably not an effective parenting tool that will result in you looking any better to a stranger, and will likely not win the cooperation of your child.  When you model an appropriate and compassionate parenting response, you will likely impress anyone who is watching and they may even learn something!

3)  Surround yourself with friends who will support you without judgement.  Find a friend who you can call when you've had one of those, "I'm ready to auction my child off to the lowest bidder" days who you can also support when they need to vent and make an intentional agreement that you won't judge one another and you won't give advice unless asked for it.  Just a phone call letting of steam can be a huge relief and keep you off the slippery slope when you feel like you're about to fall in the pit of guilt.


4)  Don't take your child's behavior, feedback from judgemental teachers, and well-meaning parenting advice from your family or friends personally.  Know that it is okay to set boundaries with them as well.  If you are forever getting the judgemental eye from your mother or the unsolicited parenting advice from your best friend or neighbor ~ let them know that you understand they are trying to help, but you feel judged and criticized when they give you that look/offer their advice and you're already hard enough on yourself and really need their support.  Setting boundaries can be done in a firm but compassionate way.

5)  Educate yourself on each developmental stages of your child, challenges that they face and the tasks they are working to master.  This will help you put their behavior (saying "No!" at the age of three and moodiness when they are 13) in context and help normalize it.  It helps for perspective, but also by learning about their developmental challenges, you can educate yourself on the best strategies to help your child through each of these stages/tasks.  This equips you with the information you need and will keep you from viewing their behaviors as a failure on your part.  If your child wasn't going through these challenges, it would be more concerning. 

6)  Give yourself a break and the benefit of the doubt.  Every parent loses their cool and messes up at one point or another.  If it is a chronic issue, find a support group or therapist to help you identify what is getting triggered in you when you lose your patience.  Otherwise, chalk it up to your developmental process.  Just as you wouldn't want your child to beat themselves up for a mistake they made, neither should you.  It is not what we do to our children, but what we do after what it is that we've done that truly matters.  If you yelled at your child - apologize and take responsibility for your behavior.  Repairs are one of the best teaching tools we can model for our children.  None of us are perfect and knowing we can mend a hurt will help you avoid parenting guilt and teach your child the lessons of taking responsibility, forgiveness and compassion.

7)  Trust your instincts!  You know your child better then anyone.  The times I have felt the most guilt as a parent were when I didn't trust my instinct and made a decision that discounted what my gut was telling me to do.  

8)  Remember that guilt is a feeling that can be a moral compass at times we have done something intentionally or unintentionally to hurt someone - it's not something we should use as a club to beat ourselves up with.

Remember that your children behave differently with you then they do at school, at friend's houses or with family members when you're not around.  This is true for ALL children.  When I set a limit with my youngest daughter when she was 4 years old and she wasn't getting what she wanted she proclaimed, "YOU ARE RUINING MY LIFE!" and stomped off to her room.  My thought was, "Great!  I'm doing my job and all is as it should be".  Thirty minutes later she was back to her usual happy self.  Confirmation that I was on the right track!


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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