What is a “Good” Parent?

Dear Sharon,

Do you think there’s a way of a parent really knowing if they’re dong a good job? It’s a question that many of us ask ourselves all the time. Are there any indications? Life is so complicated these days. I often wonder if I’m doing right by my kids.

Alice (Gerritsen Beach)

Dear Alice,

Your question is well put; life is complicated today and most of us wonder how they are doing in the middle of all the pressures we juggle every day. The truth is that children thrive under a wide array of parenting styles It is impossible to answer your question in absolute terms, but here are some things that I keep in mind. I hope they are helpful.

Don’t assume they love them as much as you do.

First, children do best when their parents take time out to enjoy their company. This sounds simple enough, but in our fast paced, high-pressure world sometimes the only time we can relax and genuinely enjoy our little ones is after they are asleep. Looking at your child lovingly while their head is nestled on a soft pillow is a wonderful experience but it is important to feel that amount of pure affection at other times as well. This means finding activities that do not involve power struggles, discipline issues or school work that you and your little one enjoy together. No matter how old a child may be he or she regularly needs to see their parents face light up with joy just because they are nearby, sometimes fun activities help that happen more easily.

Secondly, our faced paced world often makes it difficult to find the time to listen to our children talk about their days Of course some children talk about their days easily while others are quieter and keep their thoughts to themselves In either case, our anxious or hurried questions like “How was your day at school?” often don’t bring much of a response.. Whatever your child’s personality is like it is important to remember that whenever your children tell you something about their day, their dreams, their thoughts (almost anything counts – say more there )that it is important to take the time to listen to what they have to say. It could be one word, it could be a hundred, those times are always important and require a respectful ear.

Thirdly, children of all ages need advice from adults. We just have more experience than they do. Most of us realize this but have trouble knowing when and how to share all we know. Many of us, myself included, end up talking too much or saying nothing at all. We shouldn’t take up all the air-time in our house, that NEVER works, but at the same time we can’t be afraid to state our opinions. Children grow up with a value system that comes from their families. It may be different than society’s values or different from another family’s but children need to know what their family believes. Unfortunately, if points one and two never happen, our value system becomes a power struggle that is ultimately rejected later on.

There are three things that I believe often help children flourish. I usually start talking to parents about points one and two, parents that can figure these things out in our high pressured world often find that their jobs are easier in the long run.