Making Your Kid Feel Guilty About Being Bad Is Really ... Bad

This Just In 11

boyWell, I guess it's time to go crawl in a hole for a few months, since I can't seem to do anything right as a parent these days. After reading about a new study that says putting a guilt trip on your kids can harm them, I'm the one who is really feeling super-guilty.

Researchers from the University of Jyväskylä in Finland examined 150 first graders and their parents and teachers. And guess what? According to their findings, which will be published in the Journal of Family Psychology, "When parents used higher levels of guilt-inducing parenting on certain days, this was evident as atypically high levels of distress and anger among children still on the next day."

Basically, kids know when their parents are trying to use guilt to manipulate them. And apparently, it can have negative consequences.

And here's where the "me feeling totally awful" part comes in. I've definitely laid more than one guilt trip on my son in an effort to invoke some sort of behavior out of him. And now I guess I have yet another thing to add to my list of parenting fails.

Please tell me I'm not the only mom who has resorted to one of the following guilt-tactics to get my kid to act a certain way.

When he's back-talking or giving me attitude and I want him to feel bad about it, I say, "Don't you know how much Mommy loves you? You need to be sweet to me ... I love you more than anyone."

When he gets upset about me working, I lay a guilt trip about me having extra money to buy him stuff: "Mommy works so hard every day so that you can have nice things. You still want to be able to get new toys, right?"

When I'm overwhelmed and he wants me to build a couch fort and I want him to realize how exhausted I am, etc.: "Mommy is so tired right now, honey. You know how you feel when you're really, really tired? Do you like it when you can't sit and relax? We'll do a couch fort tomorrow. I promise."

When he refuses to eat his dinner: "Honey, there are kids in the world who don't have any food to eat. I'm sure they'd love to have a hot meal to enjoy tonight."

When he simply isn't happy with me for some reason and I want to remind myself that he still thinks I'm awesome: "Well, would you rather trade me in for a different mom? A lot of kids would be really happy to have a mom like me."

OMG. The shame. No wonder stuff like this upsets kids so much. The mere act of typing out those phrases made me feel like a horrible mom.

I think it's time to clean up my act. Pronto.

Be honest, do you ever put a guilt trip on your kids?


Image via Mary Fischer

behavior, discipline


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BlueJane BlueJane

My parents used guilt with me. It's called being responsible for your actions. And showing that your actions have consequences. If you're mean to someone, you make them feel bad. And you should feel guilty about that.

Coles... Coles_mom

Different tactics with different kids. I have one kid who is ultra-sensitive and little guilt goes a LONG way. Giving him the "mom look" reduces him to tears. Another of my kids is tough as steel and couldn't guilt her into anything. Ever. So of just say it depends on the kid.

Tripl... TripleC14

Teaching empathy for others isn't a bad thing. And momentarily feeling guilt or shame can be part of that. No big deal if it's not constant and overwhelming.

nonmember avatar American Expat

FFS why don't you get yourself a stuffed animal or a statue?! Get with the real world! Your kids are going to experience guilt, they are going to have bad times, they are even going to get hurt. It is called life! Stop stressing out over it, it's really making you look much older than your 35 years.

jalaz77 jalaz77

This is rediculous. Of course I make them feel guilty. If they say something that hurts my feelings I let them know that. So let's be passive aggressive cause that always works. If there is a problem with our kids we take care if it head on.

the4m... the4mutts

I will make my kids feel guilty every day if I have to. Their actions effect others, and they damn well need to know it!

nonmember avatar Trish

These studies are ridiculous. We can't do anything as parents anymore, because everything supposedly has a negative consequence according to some study.

nonmember avatar Adrien

BlueJane nailed it on the head.

nonmember avatar April

I don't go for that passive aggressive "Be nice because I love you" crap. That is passive aggressive guilting.

I will say (once the dust settles) "It hurts my feelings when you talk like that/say those things to me. Remember how you felt when someone (was mean to you)? Why would you want to make other people feel that way"

It changes with the age, of course. However, if they feel guilty, they KNOW they hurt you/were out of line.

Now with food, again, I just tell them to eat it, or put it in the fridge and they can eat the rest for their snack later. I see no reason to guilt them into eating it

Melis... Melissa1508

I totally guilt.  If you're mean, you should be guilted. 

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