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 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. 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 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.

Comments 11 comments

Dad 7 years ago

Hi Meg's

How true about the guilt thing! False guilt is so hard to battle against because it feels like true guilt and little children become Ph D's in learning how to exploit it. We need to hear what guilt is telling us about our actions so we respond appropriately. Anyhow enjoyed what you had to say.


megs78 profile image

megs78 7 years ago from quebec Author

hey dad,

thanks for the comment, I'm pretty sure mom will get a kick out of this. Make sure she reads it ok? love you

MotherHubber profile image

MotherHubber 7 years ago from Southern California

Hi M:

Should I feel guilty that I don't feel that guilty about being a firm parent? LOL

Kidding, of course. Every mother feels guilt sometimes. . .that's why we have to offload it onto our kids, right? (hmm. . .maybe I should pick up some of those parenting books. . .LOL)

Nice work!

megs78 profile image

megs78 7 years ago from quebec Author

Hey Mother Hubber,

I remember reading your hub 'Ballsy Women Rock', and totally identifying with the line 'ballsy women disagree with other women on issues such as...or letting small children run the show. uh uh!'

It gave me the validation I needed in todays parenting world. I don't let my kids run me, and my husband and I are proud of how our children function and behave in todays society, even when we are frowned on by our peers for being 'strict'. ( As if putting our children in the corner (facing the corner) is strict.)

Anyways, thanks for the comment, I'll be talking to you real soon:)

MotherHubber profile image

MotherHubber 7 years ago from Southern California

M, so glad you enjoyed "Ballsy Women." Sounds like we are kindred spirits! I was just always raised a certain way, and I think I turned out just fine.

Just today we were in the car and I had to turn around and ask my three-year old daughter "Who is the only mother in this car?!" Her lip jutted out and she pouted as she pointed at me, but I didn't care. I won't have a baby Diva. That spot in the family is already taken!

mom 7 years ago

Hey Meg: It might surprise you to know that I never felt guilty about my discipline methods. They were true to my character at the time. When Ally turned 4, I was completely locked into the guilt/compensate cycle. I couldn't even look Ally in the eye, she had me so hooped. (even after reading the parenting books). But THEN I read an article in the Canadian Redbook Magazine for women - an interview with a woman who had 9 children. The only thing I remember in that article is this: There are as many ways to parent as there are parents to parent. Your instinct is 99.9% correct. Throw away the parenting books and whatever you do, don't feel guilty about anything you do. It's destructive. From that day forward, I began to be true to my instinct and so nope - no guilt. Sorry. I will concede that in later years i realized I could have been less strict but wasting time in regrets is wasting time. I remember apologizing to all of you for when I did go overboard and I firmly believe that at this point, I'm either forgiven or not but I've done what I needed to do. The proof is in the pudding and all you kids have turned out to be pretty wonderful people. I'm proud of the whole lot of you. Love, Mom

PS It sounds like I'm taking too much credit. Having God in the pic really helps. But you kids also overcame the odds - and we ALL have odds.

liz 6 years ago

Letting your baby cry it out is cruel and doesn't teach her anything other than the fact that she's not being heard. Then years later all these parents wonder why their kids won't talk to them, you taught them not to bother.

megs78 profile image

megs78 6 years ago from quebec Author

To each his own Liz! Thanks for commenting. Certainly this is not for everyone. but it certainly helped me. :)

chiefmomofficer profile image

chiefmomofficer 4 years ago from Massachusetts

It's like you were speaking directly to me with this hub. I am constantly feeling guilty about everything! It is so important to discipline our kids and it should not make us feel badly when we have to do so. After all, how else will they learn right from wrong if not from us. Thanks for sharing!

megs78 profile image

megs78 4 years ago from quebec Author

Hey Chiefmomofficer! Feeling guilt is completely normal and healthy to a point, we just can't let it control us. I understand how you are feeling though but trust me, once you let go of it, WOW, does it feel good :)

chiefmomofficer profile image

chiefmomofficer 4 years ago from Massachusetts

You are so right! I'm a work in progress, but I've realized the more comfortable and confident I become in my decisions, the less guilt I feel :-) I look forward to reading more of your hubs!

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