When Mother Feels Guilty

We can start each day wanting to do better. In fact – lucky for us – we can start each minute that way! Did I just scream at you? Oops! Let me say that again more quietly. Did I just call you an unpleasant name? I’m so sorry! I’m going to take steps to make sure that doesn’t happen again. Whatever I did wrong (for the last twenty years), discount I can still set right. In fact, cialis that’s the purpose of my life – to continuously improve my ways.

Slow Progress
Good intentions, however, are not enough. They rarely lead to actual changes in our thoughts or actions. A parent can “wish” to be a better parent every day while making no real progress toward that goal. How many years can pass by while a parent “wishes” to remove anger from her parenting toolbox! Meanwhile, little psyches are developing, absorbing the parent of now, today’s level of competence. How long can they wait for us to become models worth emulating?

No Time for Guilt
Such thoughts might lead some mothers to fall into their favorite emotional dark hole: the endless pit of guilt. However, feeling guilty about our personal failings isn’t necessary or productive. Of course we have human faults and imperfections. That’s a given. Our children and spouses are no better. The task is not to become perfect but simply to move forward. We’re just supposed to be working on ourselves, inch by inch, day by day. So we can pick a small area in which we perceiving a lacking and construct a program of rehabilitation for that one quality or tendency.

For instance, perhaps a mother feels that she’s too critical with her kids. She knows she picked up the trait from her own mother and she doesn’t want to pass it on to her kids and through them, to her grandchildren! Her oldest is already seven, so time is of the essence. She wants to change this behavior NOW!

Clearly, feeling guilty will not help. In fact, after spurring one on momentarily, guilt can lead to discouragement, despair, hopelessness and resignation. It’s an emotion that is generated by one’s own critical inner parent as it voices disapproval: “You’re such an awful mother. Your kids are going to hate you like you hate your mother. You never learn from your mistakes….” After listening to such inner abuse, who wouldn’t feel guilty and doomed to failure? The trick in dealing with guilt is to send the inner critic on a little trip to outer space. Tell that voice that no abuse is allowed in your inner world, so it has to leave – and then picture it being tossed into a sound-proof, sealed box and thrust far, far out of your head. Then, replace it with a healthy, helpful inner parent – one that is remarkably like the parent you are hoping to become. This gentle voice offers encouragement and structure. “It’s a new moment in time – the perfect moment for change. Let’s start by drawing up a plan that will help you achieve your goal of becoming less critical” (more patient, more affectionate, less stressed, less reactive, more upbeat, less judgmental, better at saying “no,” better at setting boundaries, more flexible……or whatever particular trait you decide to tackle).

The Plan
Let your inner, compassionate parent help you create a structure for change. Together you can outline the strategy (read a book, take a class, seek counseling, set up a buddy system) and gently review progress on a daily basis. Purchase a little book to keep track of your target behavior – rate it each evening between 1 (needs a lot of improvement) and 10 (outstanding accomplishment) and make little helpful comments in the margin (“remember to eat 3 meals to maintain equilibrium,” “take a power nap before kids get home to help raise this score tomorrow,” “remember to purchase little treats to reinforce this high score,” “review chapter 3 in anger book,” and so on). Know for certain that you will achieve your goal if you track it this way and make the adjustments you need to make in order for you to be able to consistently meet your target behavior. When you’re consistently achieving your goal, then target a new aspect of personal development and start a new page in your book.

Hold onto your book and use it as proof that you can change. Use this evidence to encourage yourself for all the future programs of change that you undertake. Take advantage of the new moment, the new day and the new year – so many opportunities for beautiful new beginnings!

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