5. Can I let go of the guilt and do better? You may think your family life and parenting skills have failed. You may feel like you've tried everything. You may feel tired, deflated, and defeated, and you blame yourself for how your kids are turning out—whether your 2-year-old throws temper tantrums or your teenager keeps getting in trouble with the law. Perhaps you've realized some mistakes you've made. But cut yourself some slack here. Self-blame can create a paralyzing guilt, and I have no time for you to be kicking yourself. I need you fully in the process we are about here. My survey revealed that a significant number of mothers and fathers feel guilt and blame themselves for their poor parenting practices. But there is a huge and important difference between blame and responsibility. You need to understand the distinction and to realize that it's never too late to take back control.
To deserve blame, you must have intended your actions or recklessly disregarded the possible consequences. By contrast, responsibility simply means that you were involved and took actions that generated consequences, but there was no malicious intent. I'm not just playing semantics to make you feel better. This is an important point.
Poet Maya Angelou's comment on past behaviors says it best: "You did what you knew how to do, and when you knew better, you did better." Whatever you have done in the past to raise your family, you did what you knew how to do. You are responsible for it. But from here on out, you will know better and you will do better—a whole lot better. You can start now by making intelligent and informed choices about how you lead your family and parent your children. If the plan isn't working, change the plan. Find new ways to deal with your children so that they can respond in new ways. Step up, start running things again, set clear objectives, and implement them with a strong, unified front and a commitment to consistency. Redefine your family dynamics, and focus on the priorities that you know in your mind and heart are required to meet your goals of family success. By opening yourself to the idea of changing and improving, you are making a difference this very day. You may not have all the tools you need yet. But you do have the most important element for success there could possibly be: You have the unconditional love for your children that only a parent can have.
Declutter your life! Our March issue features a complete guide to streamlining your life, from Peter Walsh's 30-Day Organization Challenge to innovative ways to clear your mind. Plus, go behind the scenes of Oprah's yard sale and find out how you can improve the world with a simple "hello."