7 common reasons why parents feel guilty and 7 reasons why they shouldn’t!
So many parents criticize some aspect of their parenting. Feelings of inadequacy and feelings that other parents are doing a much better job than you are is something a lot of parents identify with. We all put on a brave face to the world, when internally a lot of self-doubt is going on. Nobody ever says to you that you are doing a great job. It is a role that gets very little feedback even though you are a great mummy or daddy.
Here are some of the common reasons I hear parents feeling guilty about and reasons why they shouldn’t.
- Working. Most of us have to work. This means that your little one has to be looked after by someone else whilst you are away working. You may feel guilty that working gives you a welcome respite from a very busy home life or that you enjoy it. Childcare institutions are heavily regulated, and children are generally very well looked after. Some of you have family members doing the childcare and you may worry that your working is putting too much pressure on them. On the other hand, think of what a fantastic role model you are for your children, a parent as well as having a job. If going to work makes you happy then the whole family will benefit from having a happy parent. Once your children become adults you will have maintained a career that you can continue with once they leave home.
- Your child misbehaves in public. Every parent gets embarrassed when their child has a tantrum in the supermarket or is being the worst behaved in the playground. You may find you blame yourself for the event or fear that others may be judging your parenting negatively. Children can be unpredictable at times. It is a very common behaviour trait especially in pre-school children. However, I do advise against trying to go clothes shopping for yourself with young children in tow. Unless you are very quick at shopping it is often a recipe for disaster! If your child is 4-5 years old, you can set your expectations of behaviour in advance and let them know what the consequence will be if the behaviour is negative as well as if the behaviour is positive. If your child is younger, then try to avoid being out at nap time or mealtimes. Meltdowns occur more when your child is hungry or tired.
- Your child’s diet is awful and they are definitely not getting their ‘five a day’. We all want our children to have a well-balanced diet. However, sometimes they get fussy with food and end up eating crisps and sweet stuff. Fussy eating is very common between the ages of 1-3 years and is not your fault. The occasional sweet or fast food is fine, but we all know it is not good on a daily basis. Try not to make mealtimes a battle ground or force your child to eat. Offer your child nutritious foods at the mealtimes but try not to make an issue of it if they don’t eat it. Try eating the disliked food with your child and eat together as a family. Remember it is recommended that children have vitamin supplements up to the age of 5. If you are very concerned about their diet, then speak to your GP or Health Visitor about it.
- My child doesn’t sleep like others do. You may feel that you are the only parent whose child doesn’t sleep. You worry it’s going to affect their learning and that you are doing something wrong. Sleep or lack of it in the early years is very common and actually very normal. Children can have very different sleep needs. A study looking at children from the ages of 6-18 months found that 85% of them wake on a regular basis, 1-3 times a night. Frightening dreams can start at 2 years of age and peak between the ages of 3-6 years. Illnesses, teething and developmental leaps all can have adverse effects on your child’s sleep. If you are concerned about your child’s sleep and feel it’s affecting your child and you negatively, then it’s ok to ask for help. Sometimes what is needed are very small changes. Speak to your Dr or Health Visitor or hire a sleep coach like me!
- They are looking at a screen way too much. Before becoming a parent, you may well have said ‘I’m not going to let any child of mine watch too much TV or play on an iPad or smartphone’. Now that you are a parent you find this technology is part of daily life and that your kids love it! In fact, some TV programmes are very educational. A Study by Kearney and Levine (2015) found that an American Children’s TV show called ‘Sesame Street’ improved School readiness in children who watched it regularly. There are guidelines about screen time by the NHS and WHO but it’s about a balance and avoiding hours being spent in front of a screen. Try to ensure they do have some physical activity a day and if they are in front of a screen, watch it with them and you can talk about what is going on.
- I’m shouting too much at the kids. Even the most calm and laid back parent will occasionally yell at their child. Looking after children is hard at times and can be very frustrating. Most of us have no extended family around to support us and some of us are single parents or have unsupportive partners. All children can have their moments when their behaviour is very challenging. A good way to help you deal with challenging times is to have a plan of action if your child’s behaviour is negative. Having a plan can help you to stay calm. If your child is older letting them know how their behaviour is making you feel can be very powerful. Also, for you to acknowledge how they are feeling makes them feel listened to. You also have to consider your child’s stage of development. A toddler’s intense curiosity to explore may mean they touch something that you have told them many times not to, so try to keep your expectations of their behaviour realistic.
- Not spending enough quality time. Many parents feel this. They worry they are not giving their best to their child and that their child may feel neglected. Life is busy and most of us don’t have staff who can do the food shopping or clean and tidy our houses. Getting your child to help with tasks can be a bonding experience. Singing and chatting to your child whilst driving is also a time to connect with one another. On bad weather days have a picnic in your lounge. You don’t have to spend lots of money entertaining your child or playing with them for 8 hours a day, your attention at times is more than enough. It is also a very good life skill for your child to learn how to entertain themselves.
So instead of criticizing your parenting skills, be kind to yourself. Recognize that you are doing the best job you can and that your children are lucky to have such a caring and loving parent that only wants the best for their child.
Reference for the study that looked at the positive effect on kids by the TV programme Sesame Street.
Kearney, M.S. and Levine, P.B., 2015. Early childhood education by MOOC: Lessons from Sesame Street (No. w21229). National Bureau of Economic Research.
Vanessa Campion is a registered Nurse and a Registered Health Visitor. She is also a Holistic Sleep Coach. She works privately as a parent support consultant at www.savoycsparentingsupport.co.uk.