So what does it take to be a “good parent?” This seems to be a question that many of us ponder as we enter the role of PARENT. There is no one real guide. Our knowledge or insight comes from what we hear from others, what we learned from our parents to do or not to do and the information that we get day to day as we parent our own children. As a mother of two, I find myself constantly trying to find my own formula and as a Mental Health Counselor I try to share the ingredients I have learned along the way. This is my definition of what it takes to be a “good parent.”
1. Find what works for you
There is no such thing as a perfect parent and anyone that deems to be is not in touch with reality. The key as a parent is to remember that mistakes will happen and if you are paying attention, these mistakes will make you better at it. Our friends and family will have an array of “experiences and feedback” they will share over and over again, with the expectation that you will follow it. And while this will certainly guide you, it might not always work for you. So, find what works for you. What makes you and your children happy? As long as you are committed to the journey, have respect and love for your children and yourself you are on the right path.
2.Teach by example
Your children are always watching. As parents, I find that we forget that they are learning from our every move. So walk as their teacher and as their example. Teach them about empathy, kindness, how to be humble and how to know and apologize when they are wrong. Don’t just tell them about. Show them. Show them how to feel for others. Show them how to respect and be kind to others because you show respect to others and express kindness. Show them what it means to be humble and modest through your own actions. Show them how to handle being wrong. Apologize to your children when you have made a mistake whether it is in the way you handled a situation or the way you parented them.
3.Enjoy the time you have
The time we have with our children is truly limited.Especially because most parents have jobs and most children are saturated with school, homework and afterschool activities.Spend quality time.Plan events that the whole family can enjoy.A picnic in the park is an inexpensive way build a memory that will last a lifetime.Set special days aside at least twice per month.Maybe a movie night at home on a Friday evening, or a family game night on a Sunday.Quality moments are not valued by how much we spent to make them happen, but by how much fun we had together.These will be the moments you and your children will cherish forever.
4. Drop the expectation you created and accept them
When we realized we were going to be parents, we created expectations. We thought about what they would like, what activity we would enroll them in, and what they were going to be. I find this to be something that we tend to do without even noticing it. However, it is important for us to drop those expectations and accept them for who they are. Our children come with their own personalities and being a good parent is allowing them to go at the beat of their own drum. Of course we will set boundaries and structure to ensure that they are safe but we must remember that they too are on a journey which is their own. I find that parents struggle with this the most. They want their children to be social, successful, the top of the class and so on. Which is all in good faith but struggle whether their child does not fit the mold they created. If we learn to accept our children, we will have a strong relationship that will guide them through any storm and together you will be happier for it.
5. Set structure and boundaries
Structure and boundaries are so important. It is okay to set routines and schedules. It is okay to set consequences as long as they are logical, fair and not physical. It is great to provide your child with rewards that will motivate them. This will be the stepping stone to teaching your child about respect. Every child, however, deserves to keep their dignity. Be positive but firm. Be logical and calm. Learn your limits and avoid reaching them. When you do reach them, take as step back and regroup. Remember that when you lose your cool, you are no longer in control and your child is watching and learning.
6. No one is PERFECT!
Parenting is another one of those skills that you can expect to never be perfect at. It is a learning process. Every day, if you are paying attention, has the potential to be a learning experience for you as a parent. Embrace it. Parenting is hardest and yet the most fulfilling job you will ever have. Make it your own, do what works for you, and always apologize when you make a mistake.