The Negative Impact of Guilt-Driven Parenting
‘ We make a ton of sacrifices to fulfill your needs. Always remember that ! ’, an exasperated mother said to her seven year old at the mall food court. Carefully holding on to his precious merchandise from a toy store, he walked quietly towards the seating area with his happy meal. The excitement for his dream toy and a meal he probably wishes for everyday, seemed divided.
There is no denial of the fact that parents work tremendously hard in order to provide for the entire family, making large sacrifices in the process. However, how does a child with no affinity to the harsh realities of the real world, understand the implication of the word sacrifice without feeling an ounce of remorse ?
The easiest way to make somebody, especially a child, do what you want, is by enforcing a feeling of guilt in their minds. Most parents believe they are empowering their child and laying the foundation for a better future for their kids, but the truth is quite the opposite. While showing kids the reality of a stressful life through subtle ways is healthy and a much needed necessity, adopting a consistent guilt-driven parenting approach is only giving birth to an evil that will never cease to grow.
F E A R
Yes, Fear. Parents often stretch their boundaries using the guilt-driven approach, not realizing they are diminishing their child’s self-confidence in the process. ‘ Your father and I work really hard so you could go to this school. There are kids who dream to have this opportunity and look at you treating it all so casually. You better work hard towards your grades ’ Sound familiar ?
The first reaction towards a child’s failure is almost always an outburst showcasing a picture of how many large stones the parent carried to the top of the mountain in extreme heat in order to create the dreamy wonderland for their child. Parents wish to enforce the idea of ‘value’ into their child’s brains when in reality all they can perceive is a life devoid of its very existence.
In the process of so-called child-empowerment, parents tend to glorify their deeds while kids become increasingly fearful of their actions, striving hard to avoid any cause for disappointment towards parents.
The negative impacts of this fear range anywhere from low self-confidence to a lifelong history of grudges, which if not dealt with, can lead to an unhappy state of mind. Now, that’s definitely not what you set out to achieve as parents, did you ?
Here’s 3 types of guilt often used by parents, that can take a completely wrong turn in the long term :
I. The Guilt of Favor
When everything a child has obtained appears as a favor bestowed upon them by his/her loving parents, a child has nowhere to go but instead feel indebted to every effort and work only towards repaying these favors in one way or another. This unwanted pressure prevents a child from pursuing every unfinished dream, walking fearlessly and stand his/her own ground in a fiercely competitive world.
Parents, you are not doing any favors, and someday your child might end up asking a question you never wish to hear ‘ Who asked you to do all this anyway ? ’
II. The Guilt of Nothing Is Enough
Setting high expectations from your child is natural for every parent, and it’s a productive way to bring out the best in them. But if falling short of these expectations is unacceptable to the extent that no achievement is ever rewarded, you’re setting up the biggest trunk of grudges for your child, making them question their self-worth.
Stop comparing your child to others, belittling every achievement, no matter how big or small and smile at them expressing hope for a bigger success. A lack of self-esteem will never produce the success you dreamed of for your child, for they will be too fearful of taking the leap at some point asking themselves ‘ What’s the point of even trying ? ’
II. The Guilt of Sacrifice
‘ If it weren’t for you and your education, we could have been traveling and living a more peaceful life. ’
Words said out of anger or frustration, can stick in a child’s brain forever. That feeling of being unwanted or being the cause of despair and unhappiness for the parents they deeply love and admire, can come crashing down in a manner that is unimaginable. This regret can be avoided with mindful and meaningful interactions that create a more healthy perception of themselves.
This is one of my unexpected posts highlighting a topic I often think about, but never wrote until now. With increasing child mental health issues, stressful lives and disconnected livelihoods, I believe it is the need of the hour to take these factors into consideration.
I hope this post is taken in the right spirit and possibly lead to making a small change in our everyday lives.
Carpe Diem !