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I Find Myself Guilt Parenting


​​First, I'd like to thank you for the parenting advice. Here's my problem: I was absent from my son's life for three years (ages four to seven) due to my addiction to drugs and alcohol. I've been back in his life since then (he is now ten years old), but I find myself "guilt parenting" and blaming all of his negative behaviors on myself. He says he forgives me for our past, is not mad at me, and is happy I'm back in his life. But how do I forgive myself so I can be the mother he needs me to be? I know this kind of parenting is unhealthy and does far more harm than good, but I don't know how to end this cycle. For example, I don't follow through when issuing consequences for his negative actions; when I ask him to do something, he tunes me out, and he doesn't respect me as an authority figure. His father has always been in his life, even when I wasn't, and I can see the difference in the way he treats his father and the way he treats me.



​You are right on target. It's difficult to pick up where you left off with your child, to try to rebuild that trust with each other and smoothly transition back into a parenting role that you haven't filled in a long period of time. You have already conquered half of the battle—you have identified the problem. 

Think of the cycle you are currently in as a "habit" that needs to be broken. It will require you to recognize what you need to change, educate yourself on how to make that change, practice that change, and become consistent with maintaining the change. 

Know in advance that whenever you make a drastic change in parenting style, things usually get worse before they get better, so breaking your habit will take some time, but that's perfectly normal. It may take weeks before you see positive changes in your son's behavior. What matters is believing in yourself and persevering as you work to change.

Just remember, you will always be his parent. Since he is only ten years old, he will be under your roof for many more years. Whether you google things, seek advice from friends, read a book, or take a class, you have to have to put a parenting plan in place and work hard at following through with it.

Boys Town offers an excellent parenting class called Common Sense Parenting®, and we have people across the United States who are trained to present the class. If you're interested, please call 402-498-1059 to see where the nearest location is for you. You can also connect with us through the Boys Town National Hotline at 1-800-448-3000. Let the crisis counselor know your county and state, and they can also check to see whether other agencies in your area provide parenting classes.