How to Parent Without Guilt To Have Happier Children and Parents
How NOT To Be a Guilty Mother
We have all experienced it! It is a horrible feeling! It eats at us, and we let it...but we have got to stop it!
I'm talking about the guilt we feel when it comes to our children. I know almost all of you out there have been angry with your children at one point or another right? and you've probably yelled at them on occasion as well, right? and probably more than one of you have felt that living in a cardboard box on the streets would be easier than raising this screaming child...am I right!
To speak the truth, its hard raising kids isnt it? Especially nowadays, where we are never really sure what to do because parenting is no longer considered something we were born knowing how to do. Now parenting is complicated and it takes loads of books and internet sites to understand the art of parenting and we are bombarded from every direction on what to do and what not to do. It's mind-boggling when you get right down to it.
But guilt is not new. I bet that our parents, no matter how cold-hearted you might think your mother was, felt guilt while raising us. When I got spanked, or punished, or yelled at, or whatever it may have been, I'm sure that my parents felt bad about it and probably carried some guilt stemming from it.
BUT, the difference between our parents and the parents that we are today, is that OUR parents knew not to show that guilt to us. I imagine how my mother must have struggled to keep from comforting us after we had been punished. What mother wouldn't? But she never gave in and we knew who the boss was in our house. She felt guilt, I know she did, but common sense told her, not a parenting book, that if you let your guilt turn into overcompensation, well, then you're just screwed!
It doesn't take a genius to recognize that someone is trying to make up for something, and children are no exception. Guilt is easy to spot and kids see it, feel it, and then start to think...hmmm, I can make this work in my favor, I think. They may not be so articulate, but the basics are there and that's all it takes.
I remember not sleeping one night because I couldn't stop thinking about the screaming match between me and my daughter right before bed, and all I wanted was to wake her up, hold her and tell her how sorry I was that we had fought. But the reason we had fought was because she refused to sleep. She out-rightly defied me and disturbed her sister and made life hard for everyone in the house. So though I know my raised voice was not the best plan of action, I am not perfect and my nerves had been stripped raw from exhaustion, stress...need I go on?
But back to the guilt. I was guilty...so guilty. I even called my mother to try and get some relief from the guilt.
My mom seemed kind of amused by my guilt. She pointed out that when we were little, there were never any questions as to what she would do if we refused to sleep. There was no endless rocking, or pacifying at bedtime. We went to bed and that was it.
' It's so simple Megan', she said, 'if you are tired...you sleep! That's it. It's a basic need that is paramount for EVERYONE, not just your baby, so stop fussing, let her cry and she will learn.'
It was the best advice I think I have ever gotten during those years. It was difficult to let her cry, but she DID learn and life around here got so much easier just like that.
Guilt is important. We need it because it keeps us in line. But don't second guess yourself as a parent if you are doing your best. And DON'T show your kids your guilt. They will take it and run with it and no matter how many times you send them to the naughty corner, the next time they sense you feeling guilty, that behavior is going to surface again and all your hard work will have been for nothing.
I'm not saying that you don't ever need to apologize to your children. Apologizing to your children is important. It teaches them that to be humble and recognize your errors is OK and right. When I'm wrong, or if I've had a fit on my kids that had nothing to do with them, I apologize. But the difference is that I don't take them to buy their favorite toy after I apologize. I say sorry, they accept it and everything is right with the world.
Remember, guilt is not a bad thing, but it can become a bad thing if you let it run your life. So just keep that in mind and remember that your child is watching you and most of all...learning from you.
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