Parental Guilt: Is selective listening one answer?
Have you ever finished reading an article on parenting, applied it to your own situation and found yourself to be seriously lacking? I know I have, and it left me feeling a little despondent, inadequate and, at the worst, incompetent. The point often made is ‘neglect this advice at your peril,’ and, with that, no one wants to feel they’re not up to the task.
In this fast-moving, 24/7 news cycle, content is king and information can be quickly sourced with a quick Google search. Often the most controversial (instead of ‘sound’) advice is published. This content generates the greatest conflict and thus the most interesting stories – the bread and butter of most media outlets. Sometimes it seems as though there are too many channels and, I for one know, at times I feel bombarded with information. This constant stream of chatter can often be conflicting and offer more confusion than clarity.
What is Parental Guilt?
‘Parental Guilt’ has been referred to as ‘the gift that keeps on giving.’ It is fuelled by unanswered questions that build regret. Some of the questions may be ‘What if I follow the wrong advice?’ or ‘Will the choices I make ruin my children’s lives?’ or ‘How much screen time is too much?’ Most of these questions will have no answer but we beat ourselves up over them.
The best way to overcome the self-blame is to be satisfied that we are not PERFECT parents but GOOD ENOUGH parents.
The rivers of information mentioned before are one thing that fill the lake of parental guilt. So, how do you navigate the churning rapids of reasoning? Well, one technique that may help is the art of selective listening.
What is Selective Listening?
Selective listening is when people “… make choices when listening. They apply filters. They half-listen to get a general impression of what’s said.” It is a “… listening technique that filters and summarizes to achieve comprehension.” It is an active process that requires a dash of critical thinking from you.
Keeping the filter idea in place, when you sieve through a pile of information, you keep the diamonds and wash the dirt away. This process can be a powerful remedy to parental anxiety and put YOU back in charge. You can then use some mindfulness to shine a ray of light through your diamond and, hopefully, ease your dilemma.
Mindfulness, at its simplest, is a means of “… paying attention to the present moment. Practising mindfulness can help you to cope with everyday life and deal with tough times.”
When a difficult parenting moment arises, STOP. Be conscious of what is around you and use what you have found to apply to the situation. Be completely present in the moment and note if it your new technique works. If it doesn’t, try another diamond.
You’re doing great.
Now, I’m not suggesting that you neglect parenting advice as much of it is based on extensive scientific research. What I’m suggesting is that you listen closely to what you think may help and ‘cherry pick’ what works for you. After all, as any grandparent will probably tell you, being a parent is not a precise science but more a case of WGYT (Whatever Gets You Through). They may also make the point that parental guilt is a chronic condition that affects the vast majority of us.
When in the midst of trying to juggle twin toddlers through the supermarket, the most wonderful comments I have from passers-by have been a genuine and heartfelt comment such as:
“You’re doing a great job!”
It is often some words of support and encouragement like this are incredibly uplifting. It is much more positive than casting judgement on what is already a difficult situation for the mum or dad involved.
So, in the end, the best advice I can offer to you is to keep doing what think best – you really are doing a great job.
- Kourametis, D 2017 ‘The Gift That Keeps on Giving: Coping with Parental Guilt’ Psychology Today
- Lateral Communications 2016 ‘What is selective listening?’
- Reachout.com 2018 ‘How to Practise Mindfulness’
- Rost, M 1991 Listening in Action (Prentice Hall/ Pearson).