Have you ever felt like you're not spending enough time with your child, or felt ineffective in the face of expert-recommended techniques?
Like many parents, you may be experiencing parental guilt.
Guilt has become an emotion strongly associated with parenthood in recent years. Although the degree of intensity felt varies from one individual to another, this emotion affects parental attitudes, self-esteem and can even lead to anxiety. The phenomenon of “unworthy mothers” that can be found on various social media is no stranger to this. On the contrary, it seems to expose this tendency to associate motherhood with guilt.
Mothers who feel guilty tend to see themselves as solely responsible for their child's development. They may also tend to place high demands on themselves, which makes them feel inadequate (Liss, Shiffrin & Rizzo, 2012). Historically, mothers are recognized as the primary caregivers of children, which may partly explain the fact that they feel guilty more often than fathers. It would behowever wrong to think that guilt has a gender, some mothers feel little while fathers may feel more. Sociological and psychological variables explain more the feeling of parental guilt than the sex of the parent.
A social phenomenon
The last decades have been marked by a multitude of changes in the way we perceive the family and its members: work-family balance, lack of time, appearance of different family models, etc. Another factor plays a central role in the way the parent lives his parenthood: the private life which becomes a public life (Lalande, 2012). Before, the family model was one where the parent had all the rights, which could lead to abuse and therefore gave rise to the formation of regulations and laws protecting the child. These laws and regulations have paved the way for more knowledge, discussion, support and analysis of parenting practices. Today, the family model conveyed is democratic, attentive to the needs of the child, of his parents and in line with current knowledge of his development.
The concept of public life when referring to parenthood also involves information presented in the media, conveyed by experts, as well as the evaluation of parenthood and childhood as made by the media social. Knowledge has led to greater parental responsibility in the way of educating one's child as well as toa “massive psychologization of the gaze”, which aims to integrate certain standards of “good” or “bad” parenting (Brandidas, 2014). The parent can then feel that their parenting skills are being evaluated. The media, friends, relatives propagate their opinions and some parents may feel more resentful of them, which leads to the development, among other things, of guilt.
An individual psychological phenomenon
For an identical situation, two parents can feel completely different emotions. If we take an example where son has a crisis in the restaurant: he screams, cries and manages to throw utensils on the floor. Any emotion then felt by the parent is valid. There is no one emotion that would be more appropriate than another at this time (as in any situation), but how do you explain that Parent A feels angry with his son while Parent B feels humiliated and ashamed? ? Two explanations are possible: the context that influences the perception of events and psychological factors inherent to the parent. Indeed, the parent's perception will be different if it is, for example, the fourth son's crisis today or if the restaurant's customers complain about the crisis. In addition, certain individual factors will make one parent more likely to experience guilt than another, including their personality (especially the level of their standards and requirements) as well as their self-esteem.
An American study carried outamong mothers of children under five shows the effect of high demands on motherhood and their psychological effects on the mother, including guilt and shame (Liss, Schiffrin, & Rizzo, 2012). This study targeted the link between the guilt felt by the latter and the fear of experiencing a negative evaluation of their parenting skills by those around them. Self-esteem is the set of thoughts I have about myself, how the individual evaluates his personal value and how he feels with his thoughts (André, 2009).
Questioning yourself about our parental interventions or self-assessment is not a bad thing in itself, quite the contrary, but as with any sphere of life, we do not want it to become the sphere main valuation. An individual with positive self-esteem invests several spheres of life (example: social relations, family life, work, leisure, etc.). Thus, if the perceptions of parenthood take a dominant place, the parent puts himself at risk in a case where he is not satisfied in his parenthood, that it will have more effect on how he feels about him- same.
Tips for dealing with parental guilt
Recognize itObserve and question yourself about how you feel about your parenting skills and yourself as a parent. Ask yourself the following questions: How do I feel? What is the trigger for my emotion? Why do I feel guilty? How does it affectmy behaviors?
Get information from reliable sourcesThe parent may tend to feel guilty if he notices that his interventions are not producing the expected results. Make sure that the sources that provided you with information about your interventions are adequate, correspond to the needs of your child and yours and that they are supported by studies or a professional order.
Trust yourselfStudies show that if parents put comparison aside and trust each other, they have a good instinct to detect if something is wrong with their child.
Decrease comparisonDo not compare yourself as a parent or compare children to each other. Find individual benchmarks and scales rather than points of comparison among others. After all, why would other people's scales be better than yours?
Respect your rhythm and that of your childToo much stimulation can interfere with his sleep, which is essential for toddlers, among other things in order to consolidate their learning. In adults, sleep is just as important. A lack of sleep makes you more sensitive to depression and anxiety, among other things. Allowing yourself to be rested will make you a more attentive parent and more receptive to the needs of your child.