Enough with the parental guilt – how to struggle less

Thank you to everyone who joined our first live event where we explored The Inner Lives of Girls. My hope is by now you feel completely transformed!

Of course, you had it in you all along, I believed in you all along, and now you can put those skills (back) into practice to connect with your daughters like the parenting superstar you are and have always been.

And hey, if you have sons, those steps and strategies you learned apply to them just as much!

[If you missed out (or are reading this in the future!), we turned it into a course complete with a ton of bonus FAQs, and you can get it here.]

Plus we learned the three most important things you need to do as a parent no matter whether your kid is a curious tween just coming into their own, or a rebellious teen that you feel is out of control.

My sincerest wish is you feel more empowered now than ever. Need more reminders as to why you’ve got this whole parenting thing in the bag? Read on.

How the heck do we as parents feel good about ourselves when every message we receive seems to be telling us we are doing things wrong? Hello guilt train. Choo Choooooo!

Before you feel so bad you go off the rails, here is some awesome wisdom form parenting experts who can remind you that you are doing just fine!

How to feel less guilty as a parent

Listen, we’re all familiar with guilt so I don’t need to explain the finer points. You know it’s that gnawing, sick feeling in the pit of your stomach that says, “Did I do something wrong? Have I messed things up for good?” and it truly can knock you off your feet. Guilt can linger for days, weeks, years after an incident has taken place.

In fact, when it comes to parents, guilt has a sneaky way of getting in our heads so much so that when 18 years later our kid gets a C on a test we think “Oh no! That one time when they were two and I bribed them with a cookie to help pick up toys has ruined their self-motivation. Now they don’t know how to put in the effort on their own….”

That’s what I mean by the guilt train. It chugs along beside you ready to pop up whenever something goes slightly awry.

So how do we put a stop to the runaway train?

First, the good news. According to the Family Education Institute, parental guilt can be a sign that you are doing a great job of parenting. It means you are tuned in to your instincts and you have a decent “warning system” alerting you to the times where you may be crossing your own boundaries or values.

And that is a key distinction to helping you reduce guilt: not every family has the same values or boundaries or philosophies on parenting. We can choose to feel guilty for not adhering to what others tell us to do, or we can only feel guilty for when we go against what we had hoped for ourselves.

When we set our own guidelines for how we want to parent, we need to work in some flexibility for the times where we simply won’t be able to live up to our own standards. Which is a fact of life.

In times like these, experts at Harvard Medical School suggest we practice a healthy dose of forgiveness and self-compassion. A great way to try this is to talk to yourself the way you would talk to a friend. If your friend were struggling or felt they messed up, what would you say to them? Why not offer that same wisdom to yourself. After all if it is true and good for them, why would it not apply to you?

Another strategy is to make a distinction between standards versus expectations. We can have expectations that we will parent a certain way, and have our best intentions in mind. But often we set our expectations way too high and then we feel inevitably disappointed in ourselves.

Instead, by setting minimum standards, we know that we can adhere to what is basic and necessary for our children to feel safe, loved, accepted and cared for. It may not be perfect, but none of us are.