Maybe not perfect. But at least a good parent? Every parent asks this question at least once, more likely every day. Your child’s answer may vary widely depending on when you last let her have dessert. Your best friend will likely give you a positive answer but the stranger who witnesses your child’s meltdown at the store may be less assuring.
The answer also depends on your definition of a good parent. All too often parents give me the disclaimer, “I’m not a perfect parent, but…”
So to clear things up from the start, the term “perfect parent” means nothing to me. I mistrust that term just as much as the “one size fits all” labels (Really? All? That is just impossible).
Good parents come in all shapes and sizes, and I get to meet quite a few of them in our parent coaching sessions. Following are a few ways to judge if you should give yourself a pat on the back:
Do you shower your child with love?
You should, the more the better. Please don’t mistake love for things. The latest game system, trendy clothes that “everyone has,” a bike with (literally) all the bells and whistles are pretty sweet from any child’s perspective, but they aren’t love. Love is a hug just because you’re within arm’s reach, a lap that’s available, smooches that end in giggles, and the message, spoken in a hundred ways, that “You are my favorite person and I’ll love you forever, no matter what.” No one can get too much of that sort of borderless love and children are little sponges waiting to soak up enough to carry them through life.
Are you involved in your child’s life?
It seems our lives are busier every day. In a majority of families, both parents work outside the home. Once work is done, there’s everything in the house to take care of – floors to mop, lawn to cut, cars to fill and clean and fix, an endless supply of dirty laundry and dirty dishes, and unmade beds and litter of one sort and another. Oh, and work emails that can be accessed on your phone. And if you are a stay-at-home parent, you wear so many hats, you can’t even keep up half the time.
Meanwhile, your child has a life that they shouldn’t be living on their own. Showing up at the recital or the game or the school meeting is just the beginning. Are you the parent who joins in the neighborhood baseball game or sits on the floor to try to fit a baby doll into a Barbie dress or shows your child and her friends the ins-and-outs of musical chairs?
Scheduling 20-30 minutes of complete attention for your child is priceless. Younger children will invite you to play, older children might talk your head off. These are moments that your child will remember, even if you can’t be that parent that seems to always be available to volunteer at any function.
Are you consistent?
No means no and yes means yes. It’s ironic that kids have such a need for boundaries and are so masterful at squeezing past them. A child’s parents are their bedrock and you jointly set reliable boundaries that make their world understandable.
If you are coparenting, both of you will not always agree on rules and boundaries. And that’s OK! Because no two people can always agree on everything. Children observe how you treat each other. Are you and your partner respectful of each others’ views? Can you enforce a rule that you may not agree with? When a reward is promised, do you follow through?
Most parents struggle with this. Remember, we don’t strive for perfection! Just overall, humanly possible structure and consistency that give your child predictability.
And remember, consistency applies to adults, too. Do you live by the same rules of behavior you set for your child? They are watching and will call you out if you aren’t (but you already knew that).
Are you respectful of your child?
Your child is under your control and protection until he is an adult, but he is also a human being in his own right. Your child deserves an honest explanation for the rules of your household. He deserves to be a productive member of your family and held responsible for his role.
Your respect shows when you listen without interrupting even when you already know what they are trying to say. You let your child make some of their own decisions and choices. You recognize their efforts and let them know. The way you treat your child has a huge impact on how they see themselves.
Are you fun?
Your child is born with a capacity for joy. Your role is not to damp that spirit but to nourish, share, and demonstrate how it carries into adulthood. Jump and run with your child, dance and sing and make a mess. Giggle until you’re breathless. Enjoy your time with this precious little companion.
It helps to take some time out of your day to purposefully engage in fun activities with your child (often more fun for them than yourself). Children gain self-worth from knowing that their parents enjoy spending time with them.
Remember, however, that you are not responsible to keep your child entertained 24/7. Many parents express guilt over not spending enough time with their kids. They are surprised when I tell them that recent studies showed most kids are content with the amount of time they get with their parents! So remember to balance quantity and quality.
So… do you feel like a good parent?
I hope these five signs of a good parent give you some validation. In a time when parent guilt is rampant, I believe parents are more involved with their children than ever. So often parents judge themselves over their child’s behavior, even when parents are doing their best!
If you still struggle, whether it’s with the actual act of parenting, your identity as a parent, or your child’s behavior , please contact us ! You can sign up online and we will call you to schedule a time that works for you.
Our counselors are equipped to help families move out of stress towards happy, more enjoyable relationships.