Have you ever met a parent who at one time or another hasn’t struggled with guilt of some kind? I know I haven't. If you are like me and millions of other parents in the world, raising your children is at the top of your priority list. It is what you place your full attention on to the best of your ability; however, there are still times when guilt seeps in.
Although, through my many years evolving as a parent and a grandparent I have come to realize the necessity of including myself on my list of priorities, I still feel the pangs of guilt occasionally. To be honest I don’t think we can expect that to ever go away completely. Our conditioning runs so deep that to want to “live for our kids” is almost instinctual at times. For me, whenever I find myself in a conflicting position of doing what I want versus something one of the children wants…I have to take a deep breath before I respond. Otherwise, to avoid the feelings of guilt, my instincts automatically lead me to minimize the importance of my own desires.
Just the other day both of my grandchildren had planned to go to their friend’s house for the afternoon. This is a bit of a rare occurrence as most often our yard is the central meeting place for all of their friends. But with this in mind, I decided to take advantage of the situation.
I planned to shut down my computer, close the books, turn off the telephone and treat myself to a relaxing hour in the pool alone. You know, pulling out the floating chair, fresh lemonade in the cup holder and just floating around absorbing the warmth of the soothing Florida sunshine, listening to my kind of music!
I didn’t make a big deal of it, kind of a secret plan just waiting for the house to empty. And then the children appeared with an announcement that their plans had changed, they all decided they were coming to our house after all…and for all things, to swim!
You guessed it; my first instinct was to say okay…letting go of my highly anticipated solo hour of bliss in order for them to have their fun.
But I didn’t!
I took a deep breath, tossed out the faint yet fast growing feelings of guilt and did the following 3 things.
#1. I was honest with them and shared my plans. I didn’t ignore my feelings of what I wanted to do. I addressed my children in a non-emotional tone. I was clear about how important this was to me, how I had been looking forward to it and how I felt I needed to have this opportunity to re-charge my energy.
#2. I expressed my understanding of their desire to have fun and to swim with their friends and in turn listened intently to their feelings.
#3. I asked them if they were willing to work toward a compromise. They agreed.
Through open and honest communication we came to the conclusion that we could all have what we wanted by simply delaying the time their friends were to come over. The children decided to go to their friends as originally planned, allowing me the alone time I wanted, waiting to come to our house until after I was through enjoying my time in the pool.
Parenting will always provide us with situations requiring the need to find a healthy balance between the wants and needs of our children and what we feel we need or would like to do. By adjusting our parenting mindset, seeing the far-reaching value in these situations as opportunities that will add to their personal growth by far will over-ride the twinges of guilt.
An important part of a successful parenting mindset is to be able to see things from the big picture perspective. Life is our classroom and continuously presents us with teachable moments that can easily be missed. Limiting our attention to the little picture perspective where we are solely driven by our desire to see our children enjoy the pleasure of instant gratification, thus avoiding feelings of guilt, can cheat them out of important experiences.
As in the recent situation with my grandchildren, I could have easily let go of my plans and been very happy to see them having a great time with their friends, thus avoiding the unpleasantness of feeling guilty…but then they would have missed out on the greater gift…lessons of consideration, healthy communication and cooperation.
Not a bad trade for a delayed afternoon of fun with their friends!
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Denny Hagel is a child advocate and parent coach, devoting over 25 years to the success and well being of all children. She is the published author of over 150 articles on parenting, several of which have attracted international attention.
Denny was blessed with forward thinking parents who raised her with an understanding of her value as an individual, her innate power to choose by way of her thoughts, ideas, opinions and beliefs, thus, instilling in her a strong sense of personal responsibility for what happens in our lives
She is the founder of Awakened Parenting LLC, a company dedicated to helping parents release parenting paradigms of the past and consciously choose to raise their children to approach life with a positive mindset and strong sense of self. It is Denny’s passion to combine what she learned through her formal education in early childhood education and psychology and what her parents instilled in her and pass this on to all parents.
Denny has created the discussion group "Awakened Parenting Discussion Forum" on Face Book which now has nearly 600 members. She does on line coaching with parents and teachers who consult her on a regular basis. Denny collaborates with counselors, authors, coaches and others working in the parent coaching field. Denny Hagel is the author of the newly published "The Missing Secret to Parenting", "The C.P.R. Program for Parents & Teens: Conflict Prevention/Resolution Formula", "Mini-Me Syndrome" and two free e-booklets “Parenting Using the Law of Attraction” and “Becoming an Awakened Parent".