I have seen it, read it, and heard it numerous times from several parents, grandparents, step-parents, and even from children. For some reason the art of parenting has become lost. Parents don’t seem to parent children the same way that they used to. The simple tasks of teaching your children respect, courtesy, gratitude, and simple appreciation has become increasingly more difficult for some parents. Even more so when the parent is trying to parent a child that is being raised in two separate households because the parents are not together.
Where and when did parents begin to think that it was acceptable to parent their children based on their own guilt for not being able to be with their children 24/7? This is where so many things come into play, and oddly enough some of these weekend parents probably see their children even more than some parents in traditional households see their children. Why? Because those parents with weekend visitation know that their time is limited and many make more of an effort to make their time with their children count and they want to make it special. In doing this, however, many parents are losing sight of how to really parent their children. It is becoming more important for some parents to have their children “like them” or to be their children’s friend, than it is to actually teach them the differences between right and wrong.
Like it or not, being a parent is not all fun and games. Having children means having responsibility. It means having to say no, having to be the bad guy from time to time, and having to go above and beyond for the sake of your children. What is truly amazing is that so many parents fall short in these areas. It is far more important for them not to make their child angry in the time they spend with them than it is to instill a little bit of structure in their lives.
The problem is not always created by the weekend parent. Many times the custodial parent can create additional problems and place the non custodial parent in a position where he or she feels this is the only way to maintain the affection of their children. Ironically, what some of these parents do not realize is that are doing this to spite the other parent and they end up putting their own child in the middle of something that they should not even have to be a part of. No matter what the child have one father and one mother, and neither one has the right to destroy the child’s relationship with the other parent.
Children are resilient and children are smart. Unfortunately, because they are children, they can still be easily manipulated and they can be made to feel guilty or disloyal to one particular parent based solely on the actions of that parent or the other parent. It is a very delicate situation and all too often it seems as if one parent will push their insecurity or feelings of resentment onto their children. Some parents do it deliberately and maliciously using their children as pawn in a game of revenge, while other parents create these feelings in their children without even realizing it. Over time the once sweet and innocent little 5 year old with big blue eyes suddenly because a teenager who has learned how to play each parent like a fine tuned piano in their quest to get what they want out of each parent. Most teenagers are very selfish people to a point, and once they realize how they can benefit by playing the COD (child of divorce) card, they will use it. Again, guilt and manipulation come into play.
So how does this vicious cycle of guilty parenting end? How do we stop this? That is really up to each family to decide. In the perfect world, both households would communicate openly and be on the same page in raising their children and hold the same standards and rules in both households and in raising their children. However, we live in the real world and that is not always an option for some families, communication and openness is not something everyone is willing to accept even if it is for the best interest of their children.
Being wise to manipulations, being honest, and just being aware of your parenting style and what you really are teaching your child is probably the best way to avoid guilty parenting. If you parent out of guilt and do not teach your children boundaries, limits, or that they cannot always have it their way, you are only doing your children a huge disservice. What would be better? To be a parent that your kids think is a fun “Disneyland” parent but that they have little or no respect for? Or to be a parent that has rules and that teaches your children to survive in the real world, even if they do not always agree with you and get angry with you, a parent that your children will eventually grow up to respect?
Guilty parenting may seem like the easier road when your children are growing up, but down the road who will pay the price? You? Your children? Or both? Is it really worth it?