How to Do Away with Your Parental Guilt

Jill Holtz

July 13, 2018

parental guilt

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Colman Noctor, child and adolescent psychotherapist, wants us to do away with the lengthy list of expectations we place on ourselves as parents and get back to the essentials of parenting. Here is some advice on How to Do Away With Your Parental Guilt:

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Any parent will know that there is a whole host of advice out there on how to raise perfect children. It’s quite simple really: all you have to do is ensure that their social, emotional, psychological and nutritional needs are met.

In a screen-free, processed food-free, negative energy-free environment. Which is firm but enabling, affirmative but not overly permissive, being careful not to helicopter or snow plough them. In a two-story home, with a garden, in a cul de sac with two siblings spaced evenly apart – and not forgetting the coconut oil. Easy, isn’t it?

The List of Expectations Is Huge Nowadays

mother thinking

This list of ‘expectations’ is both impossible and undesirable, yet we are convinced that we need to do all of these things – and do them correctly. The parenting task in literally ever other generation before this was ‘keep them safe and feed them sometimes’.

This pressure to provide all of these things creates guilt in those who cannot do these things. Thereby leaving working parents, financially pressured parents and parents with other interests in their life outside of their children, feeling like they are getting it wrong.

The reality is that there is no ‘one way’ to parent. And anyone peddling such a regime is either not being authentic, or is not informed.

How To Find The Best Approach

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Having worked with children and families for 20 years, I can state that no two children are the same, and therefore there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to parenting them.

The truth is that your child’s temperament will dictate the way they are parented, not the regime or book that is most popular at the time. You cannot parent a fiery child and a meek child the same way.

We cannot make sensitive children hard and robust – and it would be a mistake to try. We have got to work with what our child brings us, and we have to work with their particular strengths and challenges in order to be effective.

Traditional Approaches Do Work

Many of the parenting styles that I have seen to be effective are the traditional approaches which allow children to feel safe, where parents are approachable, are appropriately involved, and pace the stepping back of dependency correctly.

Providing a child with the right amount of structure that suits them, listening to them and validating their worries. These approaches are not glamorous, novel or radical. Instead they are solid, containing and reliable.

Learn to Fail Better


Parenting is essentially an exercise in getting it wrong, and learning to fail better. Once you’re trying to learn and evolve as a parent, and are good enough at attuning to your child’s needs, then you are doing all you can.

So ditch the guilt of expectations, return to the basics of relationship building, and continue to be the safe, reliable and available parent your child needs – you can’t go too far wrong.

Colman Noctor is a Child and Adolescent Psychoanalytical Psychotherapist. He has worked across a range of Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services, both in Ireland and abroad, and he has a wealth of national and international clinical experience. For more information, visit

Over to you now. Have you managed to get away from feeling parental guilt? What has worked for you? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below. 

How To Do Away With Your Parental Guilt

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