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Parental Guilt: 8 Signs You Have It & 8 Tips To Overcome It


Parental guilt is real, and it affects everyone differently. It is natural for us to feel emotions as humans. However, stress can occasionally get the best of us, causing us to say or do things to our children that we later regret.

Guilt is a terrible sensation that we all want to get rid of as soon as possible, and we should constantly be conscious of it when we are carrying it unnecessarily.

It’s natural to feel guilty when we do something we later regret. It demonstrates our affection for and dedication to our children. However, excessive guilt is harmful to our health and our relationship with our children.

In this article, we’ll look at the characteristics of parental guilt, its causes, the signs you have them, and finally how to overcome guilt as a parent. But before that, let’s understand what parental guilt actually is.

What Is Parental Guilt?

According to Verywellmind, parent guilt occurs when a parent is pulled between their parental responsibilities and anything else competing for their attention, such as a job or other personal interests.

Causes Of Parental Guilt 


There are majorly two causes of parental guilt and they are;

1. Internal strains:

Parents frequently have unreasonable expectations of themselves. Having a child is a full-time job in and of itself. Being a parent while working is a significant adjustment and a big load of responsibilities for which few prior experiences can prepare you.

2. External strains:

There is frequently considerable pressure to be the perfect parent from the outside. Many parents, however, believe that these expectations are unrealistic and unattainable. This pressure is exacerbated by the pressure applied by employers, who want employees to perform at the same level despite the significant pressures and obstacles they encounter as parents.

8 Characteristics Of Parental Guilt 

  1. Feeling as if you’re never completely in either parental or work mode
  2. Feeling as if you’re continually making a mistake
  3. Having a long to-do list but feeling as if you can only do the bare minimum to get by
  4. Being unable to spend time with your children
  5. Worrying about your job and the state of your company/career
  6. Not having enough time for yourself; not being able to pursue interests or participate in activities that you like
  7. Having difficulty sleeping or eating?
  8. Tired and anxious most of the time

8 Indications That You Have Parental Guilt


Is it normal to feel guilty about your child? Is it, on the other hand, unwarranted parental guilt? Here are seven symptoms that you may be experiencing parental guilt.

1. Guilty Feelings After Disciplining Your Child

When our children do something that makes us think, “They should have known better,” most of us are upset and outraged. While this is true, due to their stage of brain development, children do not have the same reasoning skills as adults.

That is why they rely on us, their parents, to provide direction.

If you ended up yelling or felt your reaction went too far, consider the One-Ask parenting strategy. The outcome can be tailored to your parenting style.

Also read: Choosing A Parenting Style

Natural consequences also work with this strategy! A natural consequence is something that occurs as a result of a behaviour or decision that occurs without adult intervention.

2. Failure to Discipline Your Child

Perhaps you didn’t feel like you gave your child enough time or attention, or that you expressed expectations well enough. Following that, you’re left wondering if you merely rewarded negative habits by turning a blind eye, and you feel guilty for not intervening. Is there a pattern here?

We feel guilty no matter what because it is human nature to doubt ourselves, and it takes a lot of mindfulness to notice and let it go. If this happens, try sitting down with your child before bed or at another peaceful time.

Bring up the event or action, discuss why it was inappropriate, and assist them in developing a more suitable behaviour for the next time. If the same behaviour occurs again, you can fix it immediately.

3. Failure to Implement Discipline

You began to chastise or punish them, but they managed to talk, cry, or puppy-dog-look their way out of it, and you feel awful for being the “bad guy.” You may discover that the punishment you imposed was more difficult than it was worth, that it did not fit the offense, or that you lacked the energy to carry it out.

Even when it comes to my children, I am non-confrontational. It has served me well at times, but I have had to practice standing my ground at others.

Also read: Best 10 Christian Books On Parenting For Every Parent

I studied parenting books on fair discipline that spoke to me and practiced my response to known incidents in my thoughts so that when the time came, I felt prepared, confident, and ready to stand my ground.

4. No Contributions are Required Around the House

Allowances and chores that are rewarded elicit mixed reactions.

Some parents believe that paying a kid an allowance for household contributions is a reasonable and appropriate approach for them to learn responsibility and earn money before they are old enough to work outside the home.

Other parents believe that home contributions should not be rewarded because they are part of having a family in which everyone contributes.

Whatever your position is on this, children benefit from having chores around the house, so let go of the guilt when you hold them accountable.

Yes, doing everything yourself may be easier, but consider what your child is losing out on. Contributing around the house boosts confidence and offers children a sense of belonging and responsibility, as well as the knowledge that they are an important part of the family.

If your children are small, have them match and store their socks and underwear, rinse dishes, and put away cutlery. Picking up their toys is another simple way they may help while learning to appreciate their possessions.

It is up to you whether to connect a monetary reward to donations, but it is worthwhile to consider how all children can contribute.

5. Making Excuses or Feeling Embarrassed Because of a Child’s Behavior

“They’re exhausted.” “They had no idea.” “It’s not their fault.”

While many of these may be true, a gut check will reveal that you are feeling guilty about your child’s actions. It’s not fair to feel responsible for someone else’s acts, even if they were committed by a child who should have known better.

What changes may be made to address the cause of the behaviour if there is an excuse? Let go of any guilt and look at it as an opportunity to help your child learn and grow, whether it’s an earlier bedtime, a sit-down chat, or consequences.

6. Going Above and Beyond Your Means

While it feels nice to give our children clothes, toys, and experiences that make their eyes sparkle with excitement, keep in mind that it is the time we spend with that will help them develop into awesome human beings capable of changing the world, not what we give them.

It teaches kids the value of money and how to make decisions when they cannot have everything.

My six-year-old daughter has requested numerous items for her birthday this month. We had her prepare a list and circle the top three, telling her to think about what she would use the most and that, while birthday gifts are wonderful, it is our celebration together that is important. Even at that age, individuals can ponder on what is most important to them.

7. Feeling Guilty About Your Job

When working parents are unable to volunteer at school or play with their children because they work from home, they often feel guilty. Remember that you are providing for your family, and there are benefits for the children of working mothers as well.

It is critical to devote time to your children in order to make them feel protected, cherished, and seen. But it’s fine if it can’t be all day.

It’s also OK to have your own time (and enjoy it) while teaching children responsibility, respect for others’ time, and self-reliance.

8. Feeling Detached

If you find yourself feeling like there’s a hole or negative gap between you and your kids, it’s a clear sign of parental guilt

8 Easy Ways to Overcome Parenting Guilt


Now that you’re aware of the symptoms of parental guilt, here are eight suggestions for dealing with it.

1. Reduce Stress 

This may entail setting aside time for yourself, which may generate more guilt at first. Remind yourself that filling your own bucket will make you more peaceful, centered, and happy.

There is a reason why parents are instructed to put on their oxygen masks before assisting their children on a plane! Children need to witness their parents taking care of them in order for them to comprehend that they are part of a whole in which all parts are equally important. This helps to avoid the feared, but all-too-common, entitlement syndrome.

It also assists us in breaking out from the survival mindset that causes overreactions and rage. Take time for yourself, whether it’s through yoga, meditation, exercise, time with friends, or reading a good book. You deserve it, and everyone will benefit from it.

2. Establish Clear Working Time Rules

Have you ever observed that when you’re attempting to write an email for business, everyone seems louder and gets on your nerves more?

Because our brain can only stretch in so many ways at once, we frequently struggle to focus on both parenting and work. It’s only a matter of time before we snap—and then the guilt sets in!

If you can’t separate work and family (as many of us can’t), try establishing clear working hours. Notice what your triggers are and problem-solve with your family, whether it is volume control, how and when you are available, or a procedure to enable autonomous issue-solving.

With everyone being home more frequently, this has been a major emphasis for us, requiring regular planning and effort.

3. Discover Different Parenting Styles

Spend some time researching parenting and disciplining approaches that feel fair to you. The majority of books and websites provide actual examples and implementations to help you feel more prepared and in control of your reactions.

4. Genuinely Support Your Child (Even in Divorce)

After a divorce, it is typical for parents to want to be the preferred parent, but what children require is dependability, stability, and parents who take an active interest in what they care about. Encourage them to pursue their interests and hobbies, and allow them to teach you about them.

You may show them your unconditional love while yet setting reasonable expectations and boundaries.

Spending a lot of money on an extraordinary trip to Disney World or Paris may gain you points briefly, but it’s the constant attention that will help you create a great relationship. As a child of divorced parents, I was able to discern when my parents acted out of guilt rather than true interest or love.

5. Schedule one-on-one time with your child

Schedule one-on-one time with your youngster and give them your undivided attention. Make the activity or time period clear to your child so that he or she has reasonable expectations.

Also read: Top 10 Responsibilities Of A Father In Child Development

While we wish we could spend the entire day with them, we often cannot. So, give them specific start and end times and, at the conclusion, emphasize how much you liked your time together and plan your next activity so that it becomes regular.

6. Tell Them How You Really Feel

Say sorry, and tell and show your child that you love them no matter what, even when they make a mistake. This is critical, but it is also more difficult than it appears.

Because we are role models for our children, we must acknowledge our own flaws and how we process, move on, and recognize our mistakes.

We may tell our children that we love them all the time, but they need to hear it the most when they make a mistake. When you’re upset the next time, try speaking out loud about what you’re doing to deal with your feelings.

For example, I may inform my children that I am feeling overwhelmed and require some alone time. I also appreciate their respecting that so that I may feel better and be my best “self.”

Your version may change, but consider a fast “reset” practice at stressful circumstances to help you move on.

7. Exercise Self-Compassion

As parents, we are specialists in child compassion. Forgive yourself as you forgive your children, be open to your own growth as you encourage your child’s growth, and unconditionally love yourself as you do your children.

Try shutting your eyes and imagining yourself wrapped in the love you have for your children.

8. Assert Your Parental Role

Accept your duty as a parent rather than a best friend. Even if your child dislikes it, do what you know is best for them. They will appreciate it afterward.

Also read: Choosing A Parenting Style

Last Thoughts On Parental Guilt

What are the consequences of not releasing guilt? The joy of parenting is lost and can become a burden to endure.

Parenting is frequently said to as the most challenging job in the world. It is also an opportunity to be exposed to events that will help you to grow and progress while experiencing the most profound love in the universe.

Our children are as much here to teach us as we are to teach them. What are some of the times you’ve felt guilty as a parent? What is it trying to tell you? listening, responding, planning, and letting go.

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