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Stuck in a cycle of parental guilt?

Stuck in a cycle of parental guilt?


If you would like to be free of the parent guilt or if you have regrets about the way you brought up your children, the tips below will assist you.

Parents can feel guilty for a number of reasons, including:

For what they have done, for example

  • being selfish
  • being too critical of their children

For what they haven’t done, for example

  • not being there to protect the child
  • not having a good relationship with their ex, the children’s other parent

For things they wish they had done, for example

  • spending more time with their children
  • being fully present around the children

For not having done enough, for example

  • not being there for their children enough when the child wanted to play with them, talk to them, etc
  • not being affectionate enough

For doing too much, for example

  • doing the child’s homework, instead of only helping them with their homework
  • having high expectations of themselves as a parent/person

For things they wish they had done differently, for example

  • changing their habits (eg. smoking, drinking, overeating)
  • stopping yelling or getting angry at the children, their partner or ex

For things they wish they had not done at all, for example

  • asking children to fend for themselves at an early age
  • getting divorced or separated.

Guilt is an emotion, like anger, happiness or any other emotion. It is OK to feel guilt and any other emotion in proportion – to feel emotions is to be human. However, if the guilt you feel is out of proportion, then it needs to be addressed so that your guilt buttons stop being pushed. For example, do you feel so guilty that you take too much responsibility for your children and you do the things that are their responsibility (eg. do their chores, their homework for them).

Children Have Choice

What parents need to realise is that children have a choice. Research shows that two siblings raised in the same environment can interpret that environment in very different ways, and grow up with very different personalities. You only need to look at your own siblings to see the differences between your personalities. This means that each child makes their own unconscious choices based on how they interpret their environment and upbringing. Therefore, parents only have some influence with their children.

Parents do the best they can to bring up their children. No one teaches parents how to raise their children – there is no manual for how to do that. Most parents work it out along the way and they do the best they can with their own resources, their own upbringing and skills. The rest depends on how your children interpret your influence.

How to Empower your Children

It is more empowering of you to focus your energy on influencing your children to the extent you can, rather than to feel guilty over those things you have no influence over anyway. The best way to empower your children is to be a great role model for them.

You can show a great example to your children by:

  • Identifying whether your guilt is in or out of proportion – if you over react with guilt by over compensating with your behaviour, then the guilt is likely out of proportion
  • Addressing the out of proportion guilt and any other emotions, self doubts, etc so that your buttons stop being pushed, and you communicate with your children calmly and rationally
  • Teaching them by example as to how to be empowered in life (eg. by taking responsibility for your own thoughts, feelings and actions) so that they can role model that behaviour
  • Living a happy and purposeful life, inspiring them with what is possible and what they can achieve.

By being free of the parent guilt and setting a great example for your children, you will empower your children and yourself to have happier relationships with other people.


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