The new school year is often a time of reflection as we seek to break bad habits and start fresh. Some of those habits we seek to break relate to how we parent our children.
“Am I a Good Parent?” I ask myself this question a lot. Here I have written a book about parenting, teach online course on parenting, and speak to parent groups across the country for a living, yet I still find myself in situations with my kids where I am at a loss. I’m too busy, too stressed, too impatient, and I definitely do not always say the “right thing.”
What does it mean to be a good parent? I have researched the pros and cons of just about every brand of parenting out there. What I have realized is that there is no magic bullet. All kids are different. Within the same family a tool that works for one child may fail miserably for the next.
I don’t think it is possible to be a good parent all of the time, but there a few qualities that I think good parents do their best to embrace. This list is not meant to be used as a tool to judge yourself, or anyone else. It is merely a collection of themes that appear to thread through all of my work. Perhaps you’ll find it helpful
1) They take care of themselves first. This is probably the most important, but the most difficult. It doesn’t matter how much you do for everyone else, if mom or dad is not happy, no one is happy. You can’t take care of your kids if you don’t take care of yourself.
2) They are not too busy and stressed out. The ability to be present and engaged with our kids is totally compromised when we are racing from one place to the next and our mind is always on what we need to get done or what we forgot to do. Plan down time with the family and use effective stress management techniques like mindfulness, exercise, or yoga.
3) They are patient and teach patience. We live in a world that expects instant gratification. We watch our favorite shows on demand, we expect our text messages to be returned with in seconds and our kids now have the same expectations of us. Kids need time to transition, time to tie their shoes, and they need to learn from us to be patient as well.
4) They work to maintain a happy, healthy relationship. Kids are affected by parent to parent conflict. Whether you scream and yell or give each other the silent treatment research demonstrates a negative impact on children. Many argue that an unhealthy relationship is harder on kids than divorce. Put effort into maintaining a healthy relationship, even if it is with your ex.
5) They embrace mistakes. Kids need to be given the opportunity to learn from their mistakes when the stakes are low. Rescuing, protecting, and hovering will not help them develop the skills they need to become resilient, persistent, hard-working adults. Let your kids know that parents make mistakes too.
6) They set boundaries. Kids need parents to be parents, not parents to be their best friend. Set boundaries and enforce them lovingly and respectfully.
7) They create fun family rituals and routines. So many ways to go here with the family dinner being at the top of my list. Family rituals evoke positive emotions, strengthen family bonds, and decrease risky behaviors in adolescence. Examples include: practicing gratitude, a bedtime routine that promotes connection between parent and child, time for unstructured play, a morning routine that does not include yelling, and family adventures.
8) They value effort. Use growth-mindset praise to encourage hard work, focusing on the process and not simply the outcome.
9) They are intentional. Try to be thoughtful rather than reactive in reactions to your kids. When times get tough, they take a deep breath, give yourself a timeout, and address the situation in a calm state of mind.
10) They are not perfect. Good parents acknowledge the fact that there are going to be times when qualities 1-9 go out the window. They acknowledge their mistakes to their kids and to themselves. They forgive.
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