There will never be a shortage of well-meaning relatives, neighbours, and people in the next aisle at the supermarket to tell you what you are doing wrong as a parent. There are so many different ways to approach the challenges of parenting that you can simply never please everyone, so it’s best not to try!
But what can you do when the critical voice is coming from inside your own head?
Feelings of guilt are very common for parents. For some, the huge range of parenting books and TV programmes don’t provide helpful options but an endless source of confusion, back-tracking and inconsistency.
It’s natural to feel a sense of awe at the responsibility we have to shape and mould our little pieces of the next generation. It’s an important job, and we shouldn’t take it lightly. But you are still only one person. And one person can only expect so much of themselves. Your children don’t actually require you to be a superhero, although they might enjoy seeing you dressed up in the undies and cape.
We have responsibilities in our lives outside of parenting
Everyone’s circumstances are different, but your day will probably involve work, friends, relatives, and hopefully, some self-care. Your children can cope with this. In fact, it’s good for them to observe how adults manage their time and shuffle priorities at different stages of the day.
The key is to prioritise wisely, and then enter into the task at hand fully
If you are always trying to do three things at once because feelings of guilt drive you to keep everybody happy, then make a conscious choice to put those feelings to one side. They’re not helpful.
If you are answering emails, then ensure the children are safely entertained, ask them for 15 minutes without interruption (it’s worth a try!), then finish the task. If you are having some fun together-time with your kids, don’t let anything distract you from giving them your full attention for a reasonable amount of time. Guilt can drain your confidence in your parenting ability, and confidence is one of the main tools of a parent coach. You can’t afford to indulge feelings and thoughts that make you less effective in this role.
Take a look at the following keys for creating confidence and security in our children, and consider how guilt will prove a barrier to every single one of them.
Children love a sense of order and routine where they know what to expect, and not having to guess whether things are going to be the same today as yesterday.
We carry confidence in our voice and manner
If we are frightened of our children – of upsetting them or losing their trust – we will sabotage our role. Children sniff out confidence or lack of it and are unsettled by our uncertainty.
We understand that this is our role
We need to stay on our pedestal and lead our family, knowing that children need to be protected from having too much power, as it makes them feel insecure and abandoned.
Mum and dad are on the same page
Back each other up whenever you can and make a habit of honouring each other on a daily basis.
Limit the talk
Parents often feel they need to explain, negotiate, advise, re-explain, justify and reason with a child to make a point. Your children may interpret this as mum or dad trying to convince themselves because they are not really sure about this one.
It is okay to admit you are not a perfect parent
But don’t feel tempted to undo your parenting by always apologising for what you do.
Believe in yourself – respect yourself
Your child will pick up how you view yourself and follow suit. Remember, that try as you might, you will never get everything right. None of us do. If you have done your best to find out how to behave like a Parent Coach, and are giving it as much energy as you can, your children won’t be traumatised for life by every small slip you make. Real life is full of imperfect people doing the best they can. You can teach your children this from a very early age if you are not always striving to appear to be perfect. Their own learning curves will be full of mistakes, so they will be relieved to know that perfection is not the goal!
There are two types of guilt. One is the nagging pressure that disempowers you and constantly follows you around – no matter what you actually did. The other is the type that inspires you and creates the desire and energy to change.
- Use that ‘healthy’ guilt to motivate you. Every parent finds from time to time that they need to ‘reset’ things at home – maybe be around more, spend one-on-one time with a child, or to turn the television off and get back into the routine of daily reading.
- The other guilt disempowers you because it says you are a failure and everything you do is flawed.