My 9-year-old child is afraid of swimming, although he is good at parts of it. In just 6-7 days, he is now able to float and can swim a half of the length of the pool. But he doesn't go into the pool to do these things willingly.

I got angry one day, and punished him in a way I now feel terrible for. I told him I was leaving for home and he could come home alone. I left him behind. He walked for about 8-10 min thinking he was alone, not knowing I was following him. The road was not lonely, it was a busy road and he knew the path home, but home was far away from the swimming pool.

I am still feeling very guilty about how I could have been so rude to him. I asked him later, "Were you afraid of being alone?" He said "Yes, I was afraid."

Apparently he had called out for me 2-3 times after I left the pool, but I couldn't hear that, and then when he thought I went home, he started walking towards home.

I feel very guilty about what I've done. He is such a good kid. I spoke with him about this, and he said, "Mom, forget that. That is past."

I know that is past and now I can't change it, but how can I deal with my guilt I still feel over this terrible behavior?

  • Thanks for your replies. I am ok now. Definitely I will not do this again. That time my anger was powerful than me. But now on I will take care that I will not get angry to that level. thanks trups Jun 9, 2017 at 6:36

2 Answers 2


I am going to dispute the premise of this question, and it is going to sound a bit harsh. But you should feel terrible. It's the normal and healthy response of a caring parent. It's a terrible thing that you did to your child. And it is a good sign that you feel guilty. You're supposed to protect him and make him feel safe. He should feel that he can rely on you. If he cannot, then chances are that he will not be able to form meaningful bonds with other people (I can't find the reference now, but I believe that this is well known?).

Now does this make you a bad parent? No. You did this once. You know it was a bad thing to do. And you feel bad about it. You also talked with him about it. I hope you explained that why you did what you did. That you wanted to do it for his own good. And that you realize that you went about it the wrong way, and that you're sorry for hurting him. This is why it doesn't make you a bad parent. It's an incident and not a pattern of behavior. You'll feel bad about it for a while though. That's what makes you a good parent: you'll feel shitty about hurting your child and you'll strive to do better. No one is perfect.

The way to cope with it is to accept that you made a mistake, realize that this is normal, and be happy that you had a healthy response (guilt) to it. You're not a bad person but you did a bad thing because you were mistaken about what the appropriate means (abandoning your child) to the end was that you pursued (get him to swim). You let anger and frustration get in the way of your reason. That you feel guilty is good, normal, and healthy. It's the appropriate emotion. Realizing that, understanding why it is the appropriate emotion and what its function is, is how you cope with it. You'll always feel guilty about it though when you recall that incident because it was a terrible thing to do.

Edit: The previous version was a bit too short on motivating my reasoning and therefore too harsh. My apologies for that: I did not intend to be too mean or too harsh. All I want to convey is that it is good, healthy, and normal to feel bad for doing bad things. That's how we learn to live up to the image of the person that we want to be.

  • 1
    This isn't sugar coated, but it's a great answer. Owning that you make mistakes and feel guilty when you do is also good behavior to model for your child --- he'll make mistakes as well, and you can show him that it's okay to feel bad when that happens, and that feeling bad when you've done wrong can help you work to make things right (e.g. apologizing). Jun 6, 2017 at 3:47

Find out what you are really feeling. Guilt is a legal term not really a feeling. I sense some disappointment and sadness as a result.

You are sad, that you did not have more self control.

Your kid is already over it. Now in order for you to get over it and not be afraid to do it again, you need to find out what you did not like about him swimming willingly. Does it make you look like you are inferior? That your kid is not a natural born swimmer?

If you can be okay with that. Then I'd say you should be able to react differently in future instances where you'd like things to happen faster than they actually are happening.

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    "Guilt is a legal term not really a feeling." Can you cite a reliable source for this? Most of us recognize guilt as a real feeling because of another real ability, called empathy. Re-labelling it as something else seems a straw-man kind of argument. Mostly, though, I agree with this answer. Jun 3, 2017 at 14:25
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    While guilt can be a legal term when used as a noun, as a verb it is indeed a feeling. I think trups learning can use this feeling as a way to improve her parenting. All of us make mistakes. It is what we do to fix them, (she apologised) and what we learn from them that matters. Yes, she should move on because continuously worrying over it is likely more detrimental than 'getting over it'. She should in future think about consequences and how she wants to parent in advance of disciplining her son the next time. If you change the 'legal definition' part, I'll upvote your answer.
    – WRX
    Jun 3, 2017 at 15:36

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