By Dr. Gerald Deskin, Ph.D.
With the myriad of articles and books on how to be a good parent, most of us are left with feelings of guilt. We don't need good reasons to feel guilty, only that we haven't lived up to our desires to be the perfect parent.
There are no perfect parents, only those who considering all the possibilities, feel that they have done the best that they are capable of doing. However, all of us fail in some area. We may not be spending enough time playing with our child. We may not be there when our child needs us. We may too easy or too tough a disciplinarian. We may lose our temper, or become irritable and yell at our children. There is no end to the reasons for feeling guilty if we have tendencies in that direction. As our children start to move away from home and attend school, events happen to them that also make us feel guilty. We wonder if we have prepared our child for dealing with problems in the real world.
Parents often have one of two major approaches. If they feel that their parents did a wonderful job of raising them in a kind and considerate, as well as loving manner, they try to do the same things their parents have done. If their parents were often angry, frequently yelling and criticizing them, they convince themselves that they will try to avoid those mistakes and be a better parent. Of course most of us fall somewhere within those guidelines. We know more about parenting now. We know that constant criticism, or constant yelling and punishing our child is not a healthy way to raise children. The problem is that being a normal parent we do things we said we would never do. The feeling of being just like our mother, or father when we do something we said we would never do is a depressing one leading to guilty feelings.
Parents need to give themselves the permission to make mistakes, to say the wrong thing, or to do the wrong thing. It is acceptable to apologize to your child, or to move away from the situation until you have calmed down. Realize when you feel out of control and try to rectify the situation. Just learn from your errors so you don't repeat the same mistakes.
Don't blame yourself for things you can't control or an error in judgment. Realize that you are going to make mistakes and try to change your behavior. This also means to not necessarily accept other peoples criticism. Parents and friends can be cruel or unthinking. Their criticism may be the result of how they feel a child should be raised, which may differ from your point of view. These are your children. You make the decisions. You may want to listen to comments from people your respect and trust, but ultimately the decisions lies with you.
Your child may make you feel guilty by saying "I don't love you" or "You are mean."
If it works for them they can get what they want. They will then use it against you whenever they want something you won't give them. You can respond by telling them you understand they are angry, but they can't have what they want at this time. Your children will always love you if you are a loving parent who makes them feel safe and wanted.
Suggestions for parents:
Learn what pushes your buttons and makes you feel guilty.
Look for ways to accept your imperfections and do the best you can.
Remember that if your children feel loved and accepted you have done well with the basic job of being a parent.