Is it possible to take the guilt out of parenting?
Several years ago, I asked a group of fourth grade students if they could describe what guilt feels like. They could. They described it as “gut-wrenching” and “excruciating”! What could children in fourth grade possibly have done in their lives that could justify them carrying guilt around? At that age? The problem is that one mistake can lead to a child forming a negative belief about himself that he is guilty, and that belief will stay with him for the rest of his life until it is challenged.
We all have unhealthy doses of guilt, but why? We have trouble forgiving ourselves when we do something wrong. Many of us are still serving out the life sentences we gave ourselves as children! Guilt has a way of being transmitted from parents to children. I once saw a cartoon which pictured a mother sitting in a café with her adult daughter. Her daughter says to her, “I feel I need you less, now that I can make myself feel guilty on my own!” Parenting is fraught with opportunities to feel guilty—I’m sure you would agree! We’ve all done things we wish we hadn’t as parents, and in life in general, but feeling guilty is not helpful until we learn to challenge it. Guilt has to go.
Guilt is a negative belief that seeks evidence and it is strengthened each time more evidence is found. It can lead to self-loathing, which drives negative behaviors such as addiction, so it needs to be tackled early. In fact, suicide prevention and addiction prevention can begin in elementary school by tackling the guilt and other negative beliefs children pick up as they grow.
Innocence-maintenance is a job we can help our children with, so be your child’s guilt-buster. If your child does something wrong, make sure that guilt is not an ongoing problem.
Five Ways to Be Your Child’s Guilt-Buster
The point is that the essence of who your child is has never changed, and being in touch with the reality of his Inherent Worth will ensure that there are fewer and fewer guilty incidents moving forward, when the belief “I’m guilty” is reduced or healed. This is actually a reversal of cause and effect.
What role does guilt play in your family?
If you found this article helpful, visit www.anneandrew.com to learn about my online course The Key to Raising Trouble-Free Kids and Teens.
I know firsthand the emotional and financial costs of having a troubled teenager and I don’t want that to happen to you. That's why I wrote my book What They Don't Teach in Prenatal Class: The Key to Raising Trouble-Free Kids and Teens (available on Amazon).