How-To know if you are a good parent? – Parenting guilt
Know if you are a good parent: I have not come across a single parent who has not felt guilty about the way they have been parenting their child one way or the other.
Some partially feel guilty and some occasionally feel guilty. But in general, every parent I have met has always had some reason to feel guilty.
They somewhere feel responsible for the way their children act and feel that they were not good enough.
And I was no saint. Correction: I AM no saint. Even as I write this article my second son is trying to guilt me up into feeling that he is not able to study because I am busy writing the article. And hence he has to spend time on Instagram and not even attempt to read what is in his textbook.
Some facts: A study conducted by FarmRich states that almost 75% of the 2000 patents who had school age children stated they face or feel the pressure to be ‘perfect’.
It also reveals that more than 20 times in a week a parent feels guilty of one or the other parenting decision they have made. And close to 25% land up second guessing their decision.
So if you are wondering if you are a good parent then you are not alone.
Topics covered in this blog
- Characteristics of guilt
- Why should one get rid of guilt?
- Dangers of parenting guilt
- Common reasons behind parenting guilt
- The 10 Effective ways to get rid of parenting guilt
- 10 ways to proactively avoid getting into a parental guilt
- 10 ways to snap out of a guilt attack
- How-to think objectively and not blame yourself
- How to know if you are a good parent
Characteristics of guilt
To understand if you are a good parent. You need to understand what guilt is.
Guilt is an emotion. It is an emotion like any other emotions such as shame or embarrassment. It is a moral emotion.
Few characteristics of guilt
- Guilt can be real or perceived.
- Guilt is a self-conscious emotion. it involves reflecting about oneself. It is a self-evaluation that one does on their own behaviour. Guilt is more like punishment of oneself.
- Guilt is highly socially relevant. Which means that one feels guilty because of what relation they have with others and the expectation of how they should have behaved with respect to others in a given situation.
- Guilt is usually linked to some specific harm (real or perceived).
- Guilt happens when people perceive they have committed a mistake or they have really committed one.
- It can also be based on their own reflection of something not done that they are expected to do.
- The emotion of guilt can be used positively or negatively. Guilt can be a burden in one’s heart. However, at times these uncomfortable guilty feelings can provide a strong reason to reach out to apologize, correct the mistakes that were done and to behave responsibly in the future.
- Guilt or just that they were not living up to their own expectation of how they should have been in that situation. It can stem from sub optimal outcome.
- The level of guilt feels might vary from person to person based on their personality types. When someone feels no guilt or remorse in any of the reactions which is socially definitely not acceptable, they fall on the diagnosis of psychopath.
- Guilt and shame are different but closely related. While guilt is specific to an action. Shame is more general. E.g. One can feel shame because they are fat. But feel guilty if they binge eat even though they like to reduce weight.
Why should one get rid of guilt?
Why the emotion of guilt can work both in positive and negative ways. Guilt can act as a compressor that gives you a warning alert when you are moving in the wrong direction. it cannot you and give you the courage that you need to move forward and rectify the mistake that you have committed.
However, guilt is usually associated with negative outcome of connotation.
When one carries excess guilt or it becomes chronic or obsessive. It can lead to depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Can be like a rot in your bones. It only spreads and makes you more and more spiral out of control than bring out the best in you.
A guilty person is hardly a happy person to stop the beauty and happiness of life slowly fade away in front of a guilty heart.
There is always a nagging feeling that they have not lived up to the expectation of what they believed to be ideal.
And that is a heavy burden to carry all through life if one does not have the coping skills to let go of the guilt and move on.
Guilt can lead to self-blame. And when this happens it can start becoming more harmful to self or to one’s around.
Dangers of parenting guilt
As a parent you are always unhappy because you are not living up to the standards you have set for yourself. You are often wondering if you are a good parent.
- Your unhappiness spread to all those around you and affect them.
- Your high expectation from your child can lead them to get burnt out or cause them to be stressed and lack self-confidence and self-esteem.
- If you start to over compensate for your guilt you land up spoiling your child with over indulgence and thereby raising an entitled or irresponsible child.
- Your pain can create more serious problems for your mental and physical wellbeing.
- The pain you have and unwittingly display can make your child feel less adequate “I am not good enough” and they may land up blaming themself for your sadness.
- Your guilt might lead you to put more effort to reach your idealistic image of a perfect parent. But that can be a lot of stress and lead to depression, substance abuse or even suicide in the worst case in your child.
- Your constant state of guilt which raises mood swings, irritability, self-blame etc… can make your child get emotionally distant and detached from you.
- It can cloud your judgement and might prevent you from taking decisions that are best for your child.
- Your guilt can come in the way of your disciplining your child. You might become too forgiving of their faults because of the guilt trip you are going though.
Common reasons behind parenting guilt
There are many reasons why parents might feel guilty. And most of the time when you look deep inside it comes from the feeling that you have not given your best to your child.
You keep wondering if you are a good parent because you love them and you are committed to giving them nothing but the best.
In some ways a little bit of guilt is ok and in fact can be positive because it tells you that something is not right and you need to course correct. Guilt is an emotion and like any emotion if you work a little bit on it you will be able to overcome it.
You will get into your trouble zone only when you are not able to manage this emotion and it piles up within you. And you start operating in a guilty mode and every decision that you take stems from the guilt that you feel towards your child.
Some of the common reasons why there is parenting guilt. Thing that make you wonder if you are a good parent are listed below
- I am not able to spend time with my child.
- Being a working parent forces me to put my child in day-care. And I am drop them early and pick them up only late in the evening.
- I am too overworked and trying to put food on the table that I am not able to look into my children’s other needs.
- I am not able to follow what I teach them. For example. I like them to be good a respectful. But my road rage or my meddling neighbours get the best of me.
- I don’t think I love my children enough. And they also seem to dislike me or talk to me very much.
- Other children are better behaving than mine. I am failing somewhere.
- I lost my temper with my children. Shouted at them. I hit them, I criticize them etc.
- Our financial situation is preventing me from giving the best for my child.
- I did not listen to what my child was trying to tell me. And try to understand them.
- I lack patience with my children. I throw my anger/ irritation/ frustration at them all the time.
- My children are very indiscipline. And they mis behave everywhere. I get complaints from wherever they go.
- My child is doing poorly in academics because I was not able to help them with their studies.
- My child is always on junk food. And not eating their vegetables. Since I also like junk food, I am not able to resist or correct them. And they don’t exercise enough. I also hate to exercise.
- I should be more involved in their life. But they are not letting me be. Or I am not able to.
- My children spend too much of time in front of the screen. I am not able to control it. They spend less time outdoors playing.
- My child thinks I am favouring their siblings more than him. And I always do only nice things to them and not to him.
- I am not able to stand up to the demands of my children. They know how to get to me and get what them want. I eventually cave in for the sake of peace in the house.
- My bad or unhealthy habits which I am not able to control sets a very bad role model to them.
- My divorce and my wrong choices of partners is hurting my children very badly.
- I am selfish because I need some time with myself. To be able to relax and do what I want and have a “me” time. This means less time spent with my children and that makes me a bad parent.
You might have felt few of them and can relate with me when I have written these points.
I have felt all of them at one point or the other at various intensities. And they have made me feel very guilty as a parent.
The 10 Effective ways to get rid of parenting guilt
1. Identify the reason why you feel guilty. Is it receipt or real? is it because you have high expectation for is it because you are comparing your parenting style with others. identify the main reason so that you can solution it better.
2. See if you have a source or trigger for your guilt so you can avoid them. Sometimes you might find patterns that trigger your guilt. For example, it can be your friendly neighbourhood aunty who pays you a visit who brags about her son’s achievement that we can get you in all knots about your own son. Or it can be after you spend time on social media you start feeling guilty.
3. Sometimes it is your own demons that makes you feel guilty. It can be because of legacy issues. E.g. your fears that you might turn out to be like your parents (if they were hurtful) or vice versa. It can be the way you grew up and the ideologies that you had. Find your own demons, face them and make peace with them. They belong to the past. Don’t carry them forward.
4. Be clear with your core values and parenting goal. They will guide you when you cross roads. Be aligned with your spouse on them so it becomes easy for all in the family to follow. You are less likely to feel guilty your actions are in alignment with core values and parenting goal.
5. Have a closed circle of trusted people with whom you can bounce ideas, fears and thoughts. These are people who will help and give you good counsel and not barge and make you feel worse on your parenting methods.
6. Go by your parenting intuition and gut feel when it comes to deciding what is best for your family. It is your family and your children. You know the full story and what is best for them. Don’t get swayed by what is popular or what others are doing.
7. Listen and hear out what your children have to say. They are the best ones to give you the feedback you need. When you hear their opinion or feelings and understand them. You will be able to course correct and become better as a family to move forward.
8. You don’t have to defend or explain to anyone. They might only confuse you and make you second guess yourself. You owe no one an explanation. You need to be open to feedback from your trusted circle and your kids. And no one else.
9. nd by your beliefs and decisions. If they are wrong, take responsibility for it and make amends and correct them. After all no one is perfect and there is no right or wrong. Don’t compromise on your core beliefs and values as they are roots to your children.
Be of support and encouragement to other parents who face similar challenges. Do Not add to their guilt. Lend a helping hand if you can or keep your opinion to yourself because you might mislead them.
10 ways to proactively avoid getting into a parental guilt
Ask, seek or accept help
You don’t need to be always aiming to be a superhero. some amount of expectation from yourself is needed to make you a better version of yourself.
However, there is no need to beat yourself up and do everything yourself at the cost of you feeling unbalanced and stressed out.
Know which are the things that you can do and accept the things that you cannot. and don’t hesitate to shy away from asking for help.
It can be from your spouse or your neighbours or even your children will stop to help you with day-to-day things that can make life easier for all of you.
Be effective in prioritising which is important for that day or that situation and you need not be perfect in all situations.
E.g. If you are taking care of a sick child or you yourself are sick. It is OK that you order takeout food from the nearby restaurant. You need not feel guilty that it is not the healthy meals that you always aim to provide to your child.
Socialise with other parents
If possible, socialize with other parents who have children of the same age group as yours. You will be able to do this when you attend school functions or activities or other places such as the neighbourhood park or hobby classes. Make an effort to get to know your child’s friend’s parents.
This way you would soon find out that every parent has their own guilt trips and their own challenges and you are not facing it alone in this world.
Analysis your expectation from your children
If you are starting to get feelings of guilt or doubts with respect to the effectiveness of yourself as a parent. You can analyse for yourself if you are having realistic expectations for yourself and for your children.
If you have very high expectations to the extent of it being and realistic. And if they are not in alignment with the gifts and talents and interests your child has you will have to find ways to tone your expectation down.
Emphasise on responsibility and accountability
Make sure that it is a family practice to emphasize responsibility and accountability. Your child needs to know what their responsibilities are and they are accountable for their action.
You cannot be held responsible for your children’s deeds or irresponsible behaviour. Make it very clear to your children.
Hold them accountable and follow through with the consequences if you have spelt it out earlier with your child. Make your house a non-blame game zone.
Read our article How-To raise a responsible child to get more insights.
Have a healthy life balance
You know better the life that you are in. And you also know which areas you need to concentrate on and which you need not.
Take some time out for yourself when you are calm and relaxed and work out a plan or schedule which incorporates areas or aspects that you need to concentrate on. At the same time not neglect other aspects which are not very pressing but still important in your life.
When you have this outline and plan for yourself you will not feel guilty when you go to work in the morning as long as you also have in your schedule some amount of time that you would spend with your child in the evening.
Don’t compare yourself to others
One of the main reasons for guilt is comparing yourself with others, especially the happy faces and the group family perfect photographs that you see in social media of your friends with their family.
There is no need to compare because neither are you in their shoes nor they in yours. And most likely the photos that you see that are shared can also most likely be curated once.
Ask yourself if you would ever put out a picture of you and your children fighting? Why do you think your friends or others would put ground reality pictures out there in social media?
Let them face challenges
Let you children face challenges that the world throws at them. You might be tempted to rescue your child so they don’t struggle.
But these challenges and struggles teach valuable lessons to your child. It will make them more responsible and accountable.
In that way their behaviour improves and you are less likely to be in situations that will cause you shame or embarrassment. And your children will also not look at scapegoats when they are in trouble and own up to it.
Read our article 11 Practical ways to help your child face challenges and How to Prepare your Teenager Face Challenges in Life to get more insights.
Keep evaluating your Parenting style
It works better if you can proactively keep evaluating your parenting style. Base it on how your children are responding and also on their age growth, needs and development of that particular age.
You will have to fine tune your parenting style as you go along. So, it is always wise to proactively evaluate and keep taking and improving on what is working for you and your child and discarding what is not.
Get some insights from our article PARENTING STYLES – How to spot your style?
Incorporate help and service into your routine
Always ensure that you do at least one or two activities in a month along with your child that it is of help and service to others around you.
It can be anything from helping to clean your neighbourhood to any volunteer work that is helping others or even animals.
These things will not only help your child develop social responsibility and they will look up to you. But it is also mentally uplifting both for you and your child.
It will also help in building a sense of gratitude and helps you overcome any negative feeling that you might be harbouring against yourself when you find that you have been useful to others around you.
10 ways to snap out of a guilt attack
The question if you are a good parent hits anyone of us at any time. But it does mean you have to stuck in it. There are ways you can snap out of it and they are listed below..
Understand that parental guilt is normal
You are not suffering this alone. When you are feeling the pang of parental guilt do remind yourself that it is a common feeling shared by every concerned parent, take yourself out of it and do the next best thing possible for your child.
Use the thought of guilt to your advantage
When you are getting the thoughts of guilt. try to flip it to your advantage. remember that guilt can be used as a positive trait. quickly rationalize why you are feeling guilty and take the step forward to make amends and correct it.
Analyse if your guilt is perceived or real
Next time you’re still guilty stop to think if it is stemming from a perceived notion or from the reality of your actions. Take that minute to understand if what you are feeling is based on your perception or on hard facts. if it is perception snap yourself out of it is your own mind playing its game on you.
Device your own coping mechanism to snap out
If you are someone who is prone to have guilt attacks. Try to have your own coping mechanism to snap out of it.
Every time you have a perceived guilt attack try one or two mechanisms and see which ones are successful. Make a mental note of it and try the same the next time around.
For example, for me it is going quietly in a corner and praying as a way to cast my burden unto my lord. Or it can sometimes be singing songs that can turn up my soul.
Talk yourself out of your guilt
Tell yourself that ONLY YOU can understand your situation better and no one has walked in your shoes than you. That gives no one full understanding of your situation and there by your actions but yourself. So, the only person who needs to be convinced is yourself. And if you are not convinced, make amends.
Change the questions you ask yourself
Change the questions that you ask yourself from “Why” for which the answers would mostly point out to blaming yourself. To “What” which will lead you to find a solution to the issue that you face at hand.
Make a conscious effort to try and change the questions you ask yourself when you go through a guilt trip.
Read further on how to think objectively and not blame your blame yourself.
Remind yourself that your feelings of shame won’t help anyone
When you get into a guilt trip and start beating yourself for your child’s behaviour. And when you feel ashamed of how your kid has behaved. you need to remind yourself that your feeling of shame is not going to improve your child’s behaviour. In fact, it is of no use or help either you or your child.
Keep reminding yourself till you snap out of the guilt that is paralyzing you. And concentrate on analysing the behaviour of your child logically and see if you can give your child inputs on what they can do differently…
Write down facts about yourself
It helps to write down facts about you as a parent. Some of the challenges that you have faced are how you have overcome them.
All the positives that your children have displayed. Your contributions and your efforts towards the wellbeing of your children.
These are your truths and your effort. And as you write them, they will make you feel proud of what you have done as a parent.
Tell yourself that you are feeling guilty because you love and care for your children and you want nothing but the best for them. so have some self-compassion for yourself and what you are doing or trying to do for your child.
As long as your expectations are realistic and you do have things in perspective and strongly believe it to be the next right step for your child. confidently move forward let out a guilt and pursue it for the wellbeing of your child.
No one is perfect
You will have to remind yourself of the simple truth that nobody is perfect. Everybody is trying and trying to put their best foot forward the way they perceive it. there is no right or wrong way of doing it.
Everybody makes mistakes one way or the other. It’s a simple truth and you will be of no exception. But what is more important is what we learn from it and how we move forward.
So, accept this reality and go easy on yourself. Try to be better at it the next time. Appreciate the effort that you have put and pat yourself up for what you have tried and your resilience.
How-to think objectively and not blame yourself
When a parent goes through a guilt trip, they usually ask themselves questions like…
What did I do wrong?; Why is my child like this?; Can’t my child be normal?….
All the answers of these questions lead to you getting blamed for your child’s behaviour in your own mind. Rather remember to change the questions that you ask yourself.
When you are hit with guilt you can count yourself up to five ascending or descending. Or just remove yourself from the situation to calm down. To give you a break and shift your thought process.
Once done ask yourself objective questions like…
- What is that my child is facing?
- What is triggering my child to act the way they are acting.
- My understanding of the incident and the situation?
- What should be my next step in this situation.
- What can I teach my child to be more effective in this situation?
When you change the questions, you ask yourself you shift your mindset from blaming self to objectivity.
Questions like this point out to your next course of action and this time out from objectivity rather than emotional impulse.
The Million-dollar Question: How to know if you are a good parent
I have listed below what I believe to be a good parent. And I am sure you will identify with few of them…
Well I would say…
- The fact that you are reading this tell that you are a good parent
- The reason why you feel you need to improve upon makes you a good parent.
- It is the truth that you have tried and failed makes you a good parent.
- The though, the need and the desire to give nothing but the best for your child and not give up makes you a good parent.
- The pain in which you are seeking this knowledge make you a good parent.
- It is the invisible scares of parenting that you hold makes you a good parent.
- To love enough to emphasise on discipline for the larger good of your child makes you a good parent.
- The blows you have taken and the thing your had to stomach so you can provide for your children makes you a good parent.
- The “I hate you’s” and “you are the worst’s parent” that you have slashed your heart yet the scream of “mummy” that makes your heat stop a beat and run to your kid makes you a good parent.
And the list will go on…
There is no guide book to parenting. There is no right or wrong way. Situation and natures defer. Even sibling belonging to the same house react differently to different parenting styles.
Everyone is just trying to figure things out as they move along. And the only surety is that we will make mistakes along the way. And the only antidote to those mistakes is to learn as we try and raise up from these mistakes.
Everyone faces it. And it is the universal truth. So, snap out of any guilt feeling that you might have and progress and move forward. If you were in the wrong make amends and move on.
There is no rule book to parenting and it is the beauty and the bane of it. Just enjoy the process and move on.
And when you find a “perfect parent” along the way don’t forget to stop by and tell them they are lying.