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Guilt: The Sequel

Friday, April 28, 2006
If you read the interview below with Debra Gilbert Rosenberg, you'll come across the following quote from Debra: "When moms feel confident and at peace with themselves, they are unlikely to make choices or act in ways that cause them to feel guilty. When they feel insecure, exhausted or overwhelmed, they may do things or make decisions that they later regret, or act in haste or anger, all of which lead to guilt. I think guilt is more related to the mom's state of mind than the stages her kids are in; every mom has ages and stages that are easier or harder for her, because of her unique qualities and life situation. When things are going well inside a mother's life, she generally behaves in ways that cause very little guilt."

I think Debra's comment is insightful because she stresses that every mom is different and every parenting situation is different. Moms end up feeling guilty if -- as a result of feeling totally exhausted or overwhelmed -- they don't have the opportunity to research or think through their various parenting options when they are dealing with what feels at the time like a parenting crisis.

When parents (both moms and dads) feel this overwhelming sense of urgency (this "I have to deal with my child's behavior/sleeping/eating problem today or I am going to completely lose my mind" feeling) they can be extremely vulnerable to advice that may not necessarily mesh well with the unique needs of their child, their family, or their parenting values and goals. And then the guilt sets in.

Of course, what makes it even more difficult to side-step the parental guilt trap these days is the idea that there's some all-perfect "Big Brother" parenting authority keeping tabs on you 24/7: someone who has come up with a set of parenting "rules" that are impossible for mere mortals to measure up to.

One of those "rules" states that you're supposed to spare your child any sort of frustration in life. Frustration is a common by-product of learning and growth, whether you're a child or an adult. You can't learn to build a block tower until you've knocked over a few blocks by mistake -- nor can you learn to feed yourself with a spoon unless you've experienced some of the frustration of seeing that blob of baby cereal dive off your spoon when it's this close to your mouth. (Arrghh!) That's what being a parent is all about: allowing your child to experience some healthy frustration. And there's no need to feel guilty about that.

| posted by Ann D @ 10:49 PM