How to be a good parent?
Wow, It’s a question so many of us have asked.
Parenting is hard. There’s no manual handed out at the hospital that will tell you exactly how you should be raising your child. And every kid is different, so just when you think you have it down, the next kid will come along and everything you thought worked will go right out the window.
You may be left feeling like the worst parent in the world.
But let me tell you something… the fact that you’re reading this means that you are anything but.
A good parent strives to be better and make good decisions for his or her children.
Good parents set high standards for themselves, and for their kids.
A good parent wants better for their kids than they had.
A good parent educates themselves so that they can be the best parent possible (like reading this article).
So what are some things you CAN do to be a good parent (even if you think you suck)?
Make Time for Your Kids
You’ve probably heard the phrase “Presence over presents.”
Time is one of the biggest gifts you can give to your kids.
It’s easy to get busy. We all are.
But make it a priority to sit together around the dinner table at least a few times a week. Or if that’s not feasible, find another opportunity when you can spend quality time with them.
As Dr. Jess Shatkin explains, “My kids know, we sit at the dinner table, it’s at least an hour, hour-and-a-half sometimes. We’re sitting there because we just get into these rich conversations and no one wants to get up. And so those are really lovely moments and you build that. You build that by having an after-dinner reading hour. Kids have their homework to do, or just some reading to do, and you don’t get on your phone or your laptop and watch TV or whatever. You pick a book too and you sit on the couch with them, and you’re family dog or cat is there and everybody has a reading half hour. There’s no media. Phones are put away. Computer’s put away. Maybe it’s an hour. And that builds connection. Then after that, everybody has something to talk about.”
Be engaged in their lives. Know what’s going on. Be plugged in.
Practice Self Care
Most of us have heard the expression, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.”
I think we understand that we have to be good to ourselves and make sure that we’re practicing self-care in order to be the best possible parent.
But it’s also a little easier said than done sometimes.
Psychotherapist Sean Grover explains that the first thing he does when a parent brings a child to him is look to the parents to see if parental burnout might be an issue.
“I want every parent to have some sort of physical tension outlet. That means they have to start exercising. Taking a dance class making it fun. Once you become a parent and you start to neglect these parts of yourself, people start to feel worse.
Their moods are not as stable. A 30-minute workout three times a week cuts anxiety and depression by up to 70% in the average person.”
This is one you may not have considered, and just like self-care, it involves looking to your own beliefs and behavior to be the best possible parent.
We often project our own belief system on our kids, both the positive beliefs as well as the negative.
As Dr. Vanessa LaPointe asks, ‘What’s the story that we’re telling ourselves, and then out of those stories what are the stories that we are narrating for our children and the reality that they are being marinated in? What are the stories that we tell ourselves that then infuse the way that we parent our children? And then in our actions, what then are the stories that our children pick up on that then infuse the way they understand the world?”
And it’s more than just the fears and anxieties that we are passing down to our kids.
It’s entire belief systems.
Like education, for example.
I’m not anti-college, by any means.
But there is a strong belief system that you have to go to college if you want to get anywhere in life. And yet, a degree won’t guarantee you a job. Or guarantee that you’ll even like your chosen field once you finish that degree.
So who says a kid can’t take a year off after high school and work and actually figure out what they want to do? Who says that college has to happen at all if the teen isn’t interested?
A college degree doesn’t guarantee success. Success is far more the result of hard work, constantly progressing and learning, grit, and perseverance.
Be conscientious of the stories you’re telling your kids and the beliefs you’re pushing on them.
Let Them Make Mistakes
It’s really hard to stand by and watch your kids fail.
But, as parents, we have to stop rescuing our kids. It’s through failure that they learn. It’s through failure that they discover that failure isn’t the end, it’s just an opportunity to learn a lesson.
That may mean not running home to pick up their cleats because they forgot them. It may mean that they have to sit out of practice or miss a game.
Those are life lessons they have to learn and we have to stop trying to save our kids from failing. We have to let them fall so they can learn to get back up.
Practice Being Nonjudgmental
This can be kind of tough, especially when our kids are in those teen and tween years and some of their decisions just don’t make sense.
However, practice just listening to your kids and not judging their decisions.
Start this early, when they’re still young, so that when they do get into the more difficult years that the groundwork has been laid and they feel comfortable coming to you with problems.
Listening with no judgment is the best way to encourage your kids to be fully themselves around you, which I think is safe to say what any parent wants.
Love Them Unconditionally
This one goes without saying, I’m sure.
But your kids will bring out every extreme emotion in you.
Extreme love and extreme anger on occasion.
But make sure you demonstrate your love for them daily.
Give hugs, listen to them, spend time with them and take any problems they have seriously (even if it seems small to you). Encourage them to always come to you if they need support or guidance.
Final Thoughts on How to Be a Good Parent
Look, no one is perfect. I’m certainly not.
You’re going to make mistakes and have bad days.
That doesn’t mean you’re not a GREAT parent. However, if you need a bit of reassurance or some guidance, there are a few things you can do:
- Make Time for Your Kids
- Practice Self-Care
- Become More Self-Aware
- Let Them Make Mistakes
- Practice Being Nonjudgmental
- Love Them Unconditionally
What do you think? Is there anything else that you think parents can do to be better parents to their kids? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!