Do You Suffer from Parent Guilt?

Mom takes Sam and Jeff to the mall. Sam needs new shoes. Jeff is younger, does not go to school and does not new shoes right now. While mom is selecting shoes for Sam, Jeff sees some he wants and starts to whine at mom and demand that he get new shoes too. With the high price of kid’s things today, mom feels torn because she really can’t afford to buy both boys new shoes and Sam is the one that needs them. But, her guilt takes over and she gives in and buys Jeff the shoes he wants.

Randy and Cathy have grandparents that live far away. Every year they come and spend several months near the grandchildren. One of the things they like to do is take each child separately to their house and spend a few days focusing on the things that child likes to do. Since Randy is in kindergarten, sometimes it takes a lot of planning to make the logistics work for picking one child up and having their parents bring the other one a few days later. Once all the planning was done, Randy’s mom ask the grandparents to change their plans and pick up Cathy (who was visiting first) while Randy was at school so that he would not be home when Cathy left. Mom was concerned that if Randy would be upset that his sister was going to visit with his grandparents first.

What do these typical scenarios teach children?
Mom has every right to only purchase shoes for the child that needs them. Jeff can be upset, but mom does not need to let his upset make her feel so guilty that she gives in and blows her budget by buying shoes for Jeff as well. Her permissive parenting style is inadvertently training Jeff to whine and be upset to get what he wants. He is not old enough to understand mom’s reasoning and doesn’t need to. The important thing is for Jeff to learn that sometimes he cannot have what he wants and that is an important lesson to learn.

Randy will face many disappointments in life. The world presents many frustrations and situations where things will not go the way he would like. Mom is doing him a disservice by trying to protect him from being upset that his sister is visiting the grandparents first. When children are allowed to experience disappointment, it will strengthen their resiliency against future disappointments. It is okay for Randy to be mad or sad about having to wait. Protecting him will only make him more unable to recover from times when things don’t go his way.

Parents have many opportunities to train their children how to deal with the frustrations and disappointments that are part of normal living. Protecting children from problems promotes their incompetence and can actually contribute to stress in chidlren. Learning how to support children as they work through upsets and disappointment helps them grow into responsible competent people. Parenting classes that teach democratic parenting skills that focus on natural and logical consequences encourage self-responsibility.