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Dealing with Parental Guilt: Tips for Parents with Defiant Teens

Guilt is a reality for those of us who are raising defiant teens. Balancing the tasks of raising kids, caring for our home, nurturing our relationship with our spouse, and earning money to pay the bills is just plain hard work.

To make matters even more difficult, our child is now a teenager who may be acting out (e.g., being disrespectful, verbally abusive, failing academically, violating curfew, etc.). Something has to give!

There’s just no way to do it all perfectly all the time – and so we don’t. We don’t fall short out of choice though, so we feel guilty. We are disappointed that our teenage son or daughter didn’t turn out the way we thought he or she would? We wonder how this child is going to function as an adult out in the “real world.” We feel like we should have been a better parent? And we have come to terms with the fact that our child is not the person we once knew. So what is a parent to do in light of all these circumstances?

Feeling guilty is a habit that will take time to break. If our guilt is excessive or debilitating, we may be reacting to memories of our own childhood, which may or may not have anything to do with what our teenagers need now.

Many of us feel that we are less than perfect in our parenting. The problem here is that we think that something is perfect. What would that be though? There is much written on what “model parenting” is, but there are many circumstances where this "model" does not make a difference, or is complicated by other “less than model” factors.

No mother or father remains calm and collected ALL the time. And no child ALWAYS behaves as a perfect little being. Thus, we need to accept that we are “less-than-perfect” parents. We must cut ourselves a little slack and demand less from ourselves – and our teens.

Recognizing what we “could have done” is not necessarily what was possible. When we think about what was possible (spending more time with our kids, not having worked so much, not going through with a divorce) we often forget that, at that time, there were other things going on that made that impossible. When recalling what was possible, our recall is usually faulty. For example, we have forgotten how intolerable it was to live with our spouse prior to that divorce, or how difficult it was to find a job that did not require moving to a new school district (which in turn angered our children).

When all demands of our child are met, he or she loses the importance of things and begins to take it as a matter of right. Who in this world gets all their demands met? Thus, we should help our son or daughter to develop frustration-tolerance and develop a “learn to earn” approach.

While being consumed with guilt, we forget an essential fact: we are not “all knowing.” Sure, we are probably better informed regarding “good parenting practices” than our grandparents where (perhaps). But, that doesn't mean we blame ourselves for not knowing everything.


==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

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