Friday, February 26, 2010

Mother's Guilt Can Cause Discipline Problems in Children

Mother's Guilt Can Cause Discipline Problems

When I grew up in the 1940's and 1950's all of the mom's that I knew stayed home and raise their children. I know some worked, but not many.

What I often encounter in this day, when so many mothers are in the work force, is their feelings of guilt about not being able to be with their children.

This guilt can easily cause behavior problems in children. If this is a problem for you, it is important that you resolve it.

There are two ways to handle this guilt. For those who can afford, and wish to do so, to quit work and spend more time with your children. You can go back to work when you are comfortable doing so.

For the great many who cannot afford to quite work. It is important to change the way you think about your situation. Learn to remind your self of the following positive aspects of your parenting, as often as it takes, to diminish your troubled feelings to managable levels:

+ You have no choice but to work.
+ You spend all of the time you can with your children.
+ You make a special effort to spend quality time with them.
+ You show your children in as many ways possible that love them.
+ You make time to both play and work with them.
+ You take them special places and do special things with them.

And of course you do many more things to reinforce the idea that they are the most important people in your life.

In the event that you do not have to work, but have a strong personal need to do so, you may also have to deal with the guilt factor. Perhaps some of these same ideas will also be helpful to you.

I have frequently had mothers of children who are oppositional and abusive to them admit to me that they are permissive and tollerate that treatment because they are "guilty about being away from them so much". They tell me that, in the little time they have with their children, they simply cannot bring themselves to set and enforce rules or punish them if they behave badly. The mothers also admit their fear that their children will not love them if they have to be strict with them. This problem can be made worse when there has been a divorce and the children must split their time between both parents, thereby further diminishing the time the mother has with her children.

Young children are naturally self-centered and, no matter what, they must have limits and consequences for disrespectful, abusive, and oppositional behavior.

As a working parent, you need to review the many reasons that you can complement yourself for being a loving and dutiful mother. It is important to do this often enough so you can consistently praise and reward good behavior and mildly or moderately punish bad behavior in your children...and do it without guilt.

My manual on humane and effective time-outs and using rewards to teach good behavior will help you "turn things around" if you and your children have already been caught in the "guilt trap".

Children need your love, they need your limits, and they need your willingness to provide appropriate teaching consequences when they behave badly.

Please try to let your love and your confidence as a parent show, not your guilt. If you cannot get ride of troubling guilt on your own, seek the assistance of and experienced Ph.D. level psychologist.

Dr. Tom 2/26/10

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