I'm Okay, You're A Brat: Setting the Priorities Straight and Freeing You From the Guilt and Mad Myths of Parenthood

WebMD Live Events Transcript

Event Date: 08/09/2000.

Many parents blame themselves for the seemingly non-stop conflict with their children; Dr. Susan Jeffers shows you how to overcome guilt for more effective and less stressful parenting.

The opinions expressed herein are those of the guest's alone. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

Moderator: Welcome to WebMD Live's Pregnancy and Parenting Auditorium. Today we are discussing I'm Okay, You're A Brat: Setting the Priorities Straight and Freeing You From the Guilt and Mad Myths of Parenthood, with Susan Jeffers, PhD.

Dr.  Jeffers is recognized internationally as an expert on relationships and helping people move forward in their lives with confidence and love. She is the author of many self-help books, including the best-selling Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway and End the Struggle and Dance With Life, and is also a popular speaker and media personality. She is the mother of two grown children and two grown stepchildren.

Moderator: Dr. Jeffers, thank you for joining us on WebMD Live. This looks like a whole new breed of parenting book, very politically incorrect. What kind of reaction have you received?

Dr. Jeffers: Better than I could have ever expected. As I suspected from my own experiences, from my own friends, so many people were very very unhappy with their experience of parenthood. One of the key elements of their discontent was the incredible sense of guilt that they felt because of the atmosphere of our culture today which tends to blame parents for everything. There is no evidence that I can come up with that says that a parent is totally responsible for how a child turns out. I talk about a child's circle of being. Of course their parents, their schools, teachers, television, the whole society in which they live affects who they are. I have seen children given the worst you can offer and they grow up fine, and the reverse is true. Even two children in one family, one can grow up great, and one horribly. We do the best we can, given who we are as human beings, and let go of our expectations about the future.

alicia18_msn: I have a four-year-old little girl and I did use cocaine during my pregnancy .I have been drug-free since she was born, but I am having a lot of trouble with her being very mean to me and her dad.What should I do? She screams all day and says she doesn't love us when we try to discipline her.She is very smart and seems to only have behavior problems.What should I be doing? We don't have her in daycare. She has been home with me since birth.I have a lot of guilt for using drugs, but I need to learn how to deal with her fits.

Dr. Jeffers: Obviously I can't answer anything relative to physical problems, but be assured that many parents who have never used drugs experience the same kind of negative behavior in their children. Number one, don't feel guilty. Second, why not try daycare, indeed? Again, evidence shows that daycare is very good for children. There are what I call "guilt gurus" out there who tell you you must be home with your children from the minute they are born, but evidence shows that children can grow up beautifully with daycare experiences as well as if parents are home. We have to honor who we are as human beings. If we're not comfortable being home, it is important to fulfill ourselves outside the home, so when we are with our children, we are happier human beings. I believe the happier the parents, the happier the children. I think getting a break from each other might be a very good thing. Certainly try it.

alicia18_msn: Maybe I will. She says if I leave her at daycare, she will bite the teacher's ear off! Help!

Dr. Jeffers: Maybe she has to learn some discipline. It's very difficult for parents with children who are not easy personalities. We must get other people to help us so we don't lose our temper. The "village" is gone. It's not natural for a parent to be with a child 24 hours a day without someone to help when the child becomes difficult. It is shocking to me that what is not reported is that from 65% to 83 % of child abuse under the age of eight years old is done by mothers. Only two percent to three percent is done by child-minders.

Moderator: Is it done in moments of rage?

Dr. Jeffers: Very varied reasons. The point is, mothers need help. It's not that mothers are bad people, it's just that they need help. I don't think  there's ever been a time in history where so much is expected of parents in terms of time and energy. Not to feel guilty, to say it's okay to take charge of my life and get help with this child. "I have to fulfill myself in some way so I can be strong and healthy for my child and myself." By the way, this book was written as much for people thinking about having children. I lay out what it gives, but really what's never been put in print before, what it takes away from your life. For some people, children are wonderfully fulfilling, but for others they are not. One of the huge myths of parenthood is that having a child is fulfilling for all people. This is simply not true. People adore their children, but don't like parenthood. Not everyone, but for a lot of parents this is true.