especially for moms
"Am I a good mom?"
"Am I a good dad?"
Those questions lurk under the surface of everyday life. Because buried beneath writing the monthly check for the orthodontist, chauffeuring to gymnastics and serving as a school volunteer, I believe most parents want to be good parents.
"Am I a good parent?" If you ask your eight year old just after you bought him a new video game, the answer will be a resounding, "Yes." But you might get a totally different response if your teen is grounded after failing to fill up the gas tank on your car.
Any definition of “good” parenting involves decisions which might not reflect clear-cut rights and wrongs. That's because many parental actions are judgment calls. For example, my niece and nephew always had later bedtimes and looser daily schedules than our three children. Does that mean my sister has been a better mom than I? Not necessarily: we've both worked really hard to be good moms. Dorothy and Gerry simply have a different lifestyle than Hank and I. Lifestyle differences are reflected in our parenting, and yet there are five elements shared by effective moms and dads.
Effective parents know where they are going.
Whether or not you find it helpful to work through such an exercise, each of us should have a clear sense of direction. That might mean you jot down a single goal on the top of each month's calendar page. Or, you might regularly schedule a family council to discuss short-term problems and long-term goals.
Effective parents live what they believe.
For example, a local grade school produced the play "Damn Yankees." Eighth graders sold "Damn Yankees" t-shirts as a money-raiser for the class trip. One student did not buy a shirt for himself or sell the shirts because he found the play title to be offensive.
Effective parents communicate.
Effective communication is a product of attitude and technique, or non-verbal and verbal communication. For example, if you automatically respond to your child with the words, "I forgive you" in a cold tone of voice, you sabotage the intent of the phrase. Honest, direct communication doesn't have a hidden agenda.
Parents tend to be very good at the first side of communication -- talking -- and not as good at the second side of communication -- listening. The simple advice, "Open your ears and close your mouth," also applies to us.
Effective parents set appropriate boundaries.
Setting boundaries is easy during the early years of parenting: by considering a child's development and personality, we simply determine what is appropriate for an individual child. The process becomes more complicated during the tween years. Those 8-12 year olds love to practice their new skills of negotiation and "fair" becomes the most overused word in their vocabulary. When we parent teens, limits emerge from discussions with almost-adults.
Yet setting limits is important for children of any age, because limits set clear-cut boundaries of behavior. Although a child might see a rule as a challenge to test, limits give parents and children the security of knowing expectations.
Effective parents learn.
Our development is harder to measure, but just as important. Throughout our years of parenting must continue to read magazines, scan websites, and listen to experts. We must continue to observe our children. After sifting all of that material through our personal filters, we can intelligently reflect on changes that will make us more effective moms and dads.
You and I face multiple challenges as we parent through uncharted waters. No other generation of parents has faced the number or intensity of outside influences that impact our children. We are the first generation to parent in the Information Age. Our children are immersed in technology. They will live in a world we can’t even imagine. And yet when we embrace these five basic principles, we demonstrate our intention to be a “good” parent.
All text © Copyright 2017 by Dr. Mary Manz Simon.