Many people see the end of the year as a good time for reflection and review. This to be particularly true for parents, as we ask ourselves…
- ‘Do I hug, kiss and say ‘I love you’ often enough?’
- ‘Have I yelled or punished too often?’
- ‘Have I demonstrated enough interest in my child’s activities, art projects, friendship dilemmas and schoolwork?’
- ‘Do I put enough effort into setting adequate limits?’
- ‘Do I spend enough time with my child?’
In truth, being a good parent is really hard work. More often than not, we don’t give ourselves enough credit for all we do to become better parents. Instead, we feel guilty about not having achieved our parenting goals.
Our biggest source of guilt is feeling that we don’t spend enough time with our kids. Work (inside and outside the home) is time-consuming, one child may need more attention than another, an aging parent might require our energy, and, of course, unexpected problems arise, demanding immediate resolution.
Now, the end of the year is here, and well-intended resolutions have been thwarted: we didn’t go to the park often enough, help with homework, play board games, cook healthier meals, or pick a wholesome TV show to watch together. The year flew by and now, as we reflect, we feel a nagging guilt that we have a long way to go to become really good parents.
That being said, you may be surprised to learn, that guilt is an enormous obstacle to being the best parent you can possibly be—it is a destructive emotion. Guilt us exhausting, time consuming and it makes you feel like a failure. There is nothing about feeling guilty that will help you become a better parent. Therefore, instead of feeling guilty about what you haven’t achieved, it is far more beneficial to acknowledge your parenting successes. Then reassess your goals for next year—perhaps tweaking them to be a bit more realistic.
Let’s practice not feeling guilty together, right now…
- ‘Last year I resolved to serve a home cooked meal to my kids every night. This year, I DON’T feel guilty that I didn’t have time to cook every night. I RESOLVE to replace one fast-food meal a week with ‘fast food’ from home (e.g. sandwiches made with whole-wheat bread and lean cold cuts).’
- ‘Last year I resolved to read to my child every day. This year, I DON’T feel guilty that I only got to it one or two days a week. I RESOLVE to read twice a week…additional days will be a bonus.’
- ‘Last year I resolved to spend one hour of ‘special’ time with each of my kids at least once a week. This year I DON’T feel guilty that my job made it possible to give each child only about one hour of individual time a month. I RESOLVE to continue giving each child one hour a month, knowing that this commitment is practical as well as meaningful for all of us.’
- Now try your own….’Last year I resolved to ________________. This year I DON’T feel guilty that ¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬________. I RESOLVE to _____________.’
Being a good parent doesn’t require you to do everything perfectly. Like your child, you are a ‘work in progress’. Give yourself credit for the good and forgive yourself for your parenting imperfections. Seek help and support when you need it…and make smaller, more manageable resolutions.
Dr. Susan Bartell is America’s #1 Family Psychologist. Her latest parenting book is The Top 50 Questions Kids Ask. You can learn more about her at www.drsusanbartell.com