Lose the Guilt

November 17, 2011 at 8:06 am (General)

I often hear about how moms “lose it” with their kids and then feel terribly guilty afterwards. I know that feeling…the one I get when my patience is at its capacity and I end up flipping my lid over something trivial (or not so trivial). Sometimes I lose it, too. I just don’t feel guilty for it.

Guilt is something that weighs on a person; a burden that someone bears long after the “incident” has passed. I know I make mistakes, but I don’t carry them around with me.

I think it’s because I know I’m trying hard everyday. I make a conscious effort to build a strong relationship with my kids and meet their emotional & behavioral needs. And when there are specific issues to address, I have a supply of positive discipline tools from which to choose.

But no one is perfect…everyone loses it from time to time, especially when we are doing something as emotional and personal and consistently difficult as parenting. The journey is filled with obstacles and frustrations. A parent is bound to lose it once in a while. It happens.

Mistakes are in the past, though, right? And it doesn’t do any good to dwell on the the past. What I know I can do is focus on the present and look toward the future. I ask myself, “Where am I going?” and, “What can I do right now to get there?” I can use my mistakes to help guide me in my desired direction.

First I recover; this is the “focusing on the present” part. Though I don’t feel guilty after I lose my composure and yell at my kids, I do feel sorry. And I tell them that. Focusing on the present means taking the current opportunity to model heartfelt apologies and empathy. It also demonstrates to my kids acceptance and self-forgiveness. “I’m so sorry I yelled before…that sure didn’t help anything. I felt very frustrated and that’s OK. But by yelling about it, I took my frustrations out on you, and that’s not OK. You must have felt hurt and probably scared of me. I’m sorry for that.”

When we’ve recovered in the present, we can look to the future. My kids and I work together on how to handle things differently next time (and, speaking realistically, there will be a next time). We come up with a plan for making different choices, for making positive changes, for choosing our desired direction.

And we try again. I try again. I keep on trying every day, after avery mistake, and every moment of lost composure. I try again and again. And I even get somewhere! But I couldn’t get anywhere if I was carrying a load of guilt along with me. So while I do “lose it,” I also lose the guilt. It’s much too heavy for my journey.


  1. Sharon Mcginnis Girdlestone said,

    I guess it all depends on what we have done! I would certainly feel guilt if I smacked my child. I dont feel guilt for reprimanding terrible behaviour however. I have an extremely spirited 3.5yr old son who has learned to punch me! Working on disciplining him for that. It is not easy.

    • Bonnie Harris said,

      Be sure and connect with the emotions that provoke his behavior and let him know his feelings are always ok. Otherwise trying to just correct the behavior will be fruitless.

  2. Bonnie Harris said,

    You’re absolutely right that we make mistakes and I love your repair words. You’re also modeling to your child that we all get angry and make mistakes. Sometimes, however, apologies can take the place of making needed changes. When losing it happens more often than we like, it means old wounds are getting triggered, and we often take it out on our children. I have written a book, When Your Kids Push Your Buttons, that addresses exactly this issue. Guilt is often immobilizing, but taking responsibility for our reactions and not blaming them on our kids is effective parenting. If anyone wants to check it out see http://www.bonnieharris.com.

    • Ali said,

      Thanks for the book titles, Bonnie. I love the title “Confident Parents Remarkable Kids.” That about sums it up! I think a lack of confidence in one’s own parenting skills is a major issue today in America. I look forward to reading it. I LOVE reading books.

      Great post Kelly – like always, an excellent reminder to forgive ourselves. It’s such a wonderful opportunity to teach your kids that it is human to make mistakes – it’s how we handle them that is important.

    • Kelly said,

      Bonnie, thank you for that insight! That’s a great point…while it’s helpful to apologize after we “lose it,” it’s even better to address those triggers in ourselves. I’d recommend When Kids Push Your Buttons to anyone!

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