“Am I a good parent?”
A question every parent has asked themselves at one time or another. Even though I am a successful child life coach and a parent, I find myself asking this question too. There is no denying the truth, successful parenting is tough! So, I want to start by stating the obvious. I know it’s strange to hear since you and I have not formally met, and I am sure you have heard it before, but you probably didn’t believe it when your partner, friend or your mum said it.
Here it goes: you are doing a great job as a parent!
Yes, you are. And you should be proud of it.
But, if you’re reading this, it is because you are finding some difficulty dealing with a situation and having a moment of doubt. Maybe your kid is not responding well to your instructions, or your daughter is struggling with friends. Perhaps your son is not sleeping well, or they are experiencing some anxiety. Let me guess, you are looking for good parenting skills or parenting topics to help you to overcome these challenges, right?
As a parent of two and child life coach, I can fully understand how that can make you feel. But the point I want to make is that you have the right intention, and, by and large, you are doing a cracking job already. Having the right intention is a good first sign of successful parenting.
Let’s face it, how many of you wake up every morning thinking: Today, I am going to make my kid’s life miserable? Well, none that I have heard of.
Here is another quick question, how many of you go through the day saying, ‘it’s their problem, I dealt with my stuff, I don’t care what they are going through. It’s their time to toughen up now’? Let me guess, not many of you either. Obviously, there might be some. But, I don’t think they will be reading this. Only those who want to become better parents will care to read parenting topics. A few of you might have gone through online parent courses or considering one. Well, I am here to offer parenting skills that will help.
What skills do you need to be a good parent?
Leelanau Children’s Center has a list of 10 skills of practical parenting. It says;
“Love and affection, You support and accept the child, are physically affectionate and spend quality one-on-one time with each other.”
Speaking from years of experience as child life coach, it all starts with one single line;
I am trying to do my absolute best for my children. I admit I get things wrong, but my intention is always full of love.
Now, let’s complement this line with another that, maybe, we are not using as much:
I am trying to do my absolute best for my children. I admit I get things wrong, but my intention is always full of love. When I get things wrong, I try to learn and make them better next time. I might not get it right, but I will continue to learn and try to improve. Sounds like a paragraph off online parent courses, right?
It’s the ability to acknowledge our flaws and continue to build upon them every day that moves you from good parents to successful parents.
Writing this, I imagine some of you saying; what does he know? He doesn’t know me! Doesn’t he know how hard this is for me? I suck at practical parenting but it is not entirely my fault. I am a single mum, or I have four kids that don’t listen, or the older one is continuously shouting, and the youngest one still sleeps with me most times.
Well, you are right again. I don’t know you, and I would never generalise. But in my journey as child life coach, I have worked with thousands of children and parents, and I see some reoccurring patterns.
One pattern I see often is parents losing faith in themselves. When this happens their attitude or reaction to problems becomes fight, freeze, or flight. Since we cannot “flight” from our responsibilities, they go into fighting or freezing mode. The truth is, neither of them are good parenting skills. They just don’t work.
When we freeze, we pretend the problems are not there. It is a phase, it is hormonal. You may say your child is having a bit of pressure now due to exams. However, deep down the bottom of your heart, what we really mean is “I don’t know how to deal with this. I am going to see if it goes away.”
That is the bad part. The big question now is,
What are the signs of good parenting skills?
When we go into fighting mode, well, I think you know what happens;
Arguments, bad energy around the house, moody teenagers and partners, and a repetitive loop of action-reaction. You don’t need online parent courses to show you these. They will be so obvious that you can only pretend not to notice. I highlighted some of these in one of my previous posts about children tantrums and bad behaviour.
So if those strategies don’t work—and, let’s face it, they don’t—what should we do? The alternative is to start praising ourselves a bit more. Take stock of our work, dedication, and love for them. To embrace our ability to learn and get things better. Finally, to learn to adapt to the situations and grow with our children.
This is the reason why, after almost 10 years working as child life coach, I have created Helping Kids Parents Academy. With this project, I want to share with you all the experience, techniques and information I have collected and still collect in my day to day work that can help you in your quest for successful parenting.
I will share client cases, their stories, the emotions driving the behaviour, the approaches we used, and how it was resolved.
I know that not everything I do will work for everybody in the same way. This is because practical parenting is not a one-cap-fits-all. However, I know that you will find something that works for you. I also know that many of you will rev up your creativity, and with time, come up with even better ideas.
I want to create a space in which practical parenting becomes successful parenting. Nonetheless, it will not be because you are doing the things I tell you to do, but because you embrace yourself as a loving, caring and resilient parent who is the best example for his children.
While writing this article, I did a lot of research and thinking on my own experience as a parent, and on the hundreds of conversations I had coaching children and parents. It is not an exaggeration to say that virtually all the advice you can find in online parent courses is about what we, as parents, must do or say to our children. Which words to use, how to praise them, what to do when they have tantrums or suffer from anxiety. However, little is said about how the parents can appreciate themselves and their efforts.
In my mind and experience, there are only a handful of key ideas that make up the qualities of a good parent:
1) Love from day one. Despite moments of despair and difficulties, the love of a parent for their kid is constant.
2) Respect for their children’s uniqueness. Each child is an individual and should be addressed as such.
3) Support the children in their learning, struggles, ambitions and whatever it is that they are experiencing or want to experience.
4) Educate them on the core values that are fundamental to us. It doesn’t mean our children will take on those values. However, it means you made a conscious attempt to share something really important—and will appreciate it someday.
5) Evolve and adapt our role to the changing needs of our children. Evolve from doing everything for them to letting them make their own choices. Changing from being their source of learning to learning with them to learning from them.
I must admit I was aiming to come up with 10 ideas. However, after reading these five over and over again, I think it’s more than enough. With these five points, anyone can write an entire book on good parenting skills.
Now, make a list of these five qualities of a good parent. Spend a few seconds, or more if you want, and tell me if you don’t have them.
I bet you do have them, and you display them regularly. However, because of self-doubt, you might be thinking that you are lacking all the basic ingredients on parenting topics. I hope the realisation of how good you are already hit you now.
So, going back to my initial point: you are doing a cracking job. It can only get better from here!
In summary, let’s answer the two most common questions in practical parenting.
– How can I improve my good parenting skills?
This is an exercise I do regularly for different areas of my life. I’m kind to myself, I take time out and treat myself to calm and a nice coffee. I highly recommend taking some time to be quiet and reflect.
Once you are relaxed, take a pen and paper and think of the last few days and come up with five things you have done well. It is crucial to think about what you did, and not on the effect it had or the result you achieved. This is a crucial exercise that is often left out in parenting topics. For instance, you might have kept a calm temper even if your child didn’t talk to you for an hour. Aim to make them as different as possible. Of course, it may be tricky at first as we are not used to giving ourselves positive feedback, but persevere and believe you are worth it. Your quest for successful parenting skills depends on this.
Once you have the list, keep it in a place close to you (wallet, purse, your desk). Every day pick up one of those qualities and focus your energy on doing it as well as you can. Only one! No more. After the first five days, do the exercise again. You are allowed to keep two and come up with three new ones. After four rounds, you come up with a list of what makes you good. At this point, embrace the things you are doing well, there will be time to learn others.
Further reading on parenting topics that I liked and hope you enjoy as well are found below. My approach focuses on what you have to do towards yourself. As you will notice, all further reading, as well as most online parent courses, focus on what you have to do towards your kid. You need to master that too. Therefore, they will make a good read and starting point for building your parenting skills. Enjoy!