“How do I know if I’m a good parent?” Is a question all of us probably have from time to time as we raise our children from a completely helpless and dependant baby to a grown, autonomous adult.
Remember that just because you made a mistake doesn’t make you a “bad parent.” Your mistakes do not define you as a mom or a dad, they simply teach us. Like all “good parents,” you make mistakes and that is ok. The greatest parents are those that recognize their mistakes, learn from them, make changes and are pleased to have the opportunity to do so. Being a “good parent” is a day to day process in which we are constantly improving the cycles of our life, our family and our parenting.
“I was a bad mom today.”
I recently had an experience with a mother that told me, “I was a bad mom today.” I asked her to tell me why she felt that way. She told me about how she felt irritable and upset most of the day. Her children wouldn’t seem to listen to a thing she said, each time they tried to leave the house, someone had poop in their pants and the older kids took forever to do their chores and school work. She looked at me for disapproval and sighed.
She was surprised when I didn’t condemn her. I said, “That sounds like a pretty good Mom to me!” I brought to her attention that she had shown patience and restraint even through feelings of irritation and possibly even anger. She had served and taught her children throughout the day and maintain her limits regarding their chores and school work even when they had tested her resolve. The kids were learning and she was stretching herself despite that nagging feeling that the day had been a disaster.
Refocus: Recognizing mistakes and learning from them is good; Shame is bad.
Instead of focusing on whether you are a “good or bad parent,” focus on accepting, learning, and being a little better. Throw away the labels.
There are a lot of messages out there today that spew the idea that morality and “goodness” are relative and self defined. However, I don’t think a parent should ever fool themselves into thinking that yelling and screaming at their child is acceptable or “good.” There is right and wrong. There are good and bad. At the same time, the act of yelling does not define them as a parent and make them “bad.” When we make a mistake, shaming ourselves is not helpful in our quest to be better. However, recognizing our mistakes is not the enemy of progress and can actually be a motivating factor to improvement if we are willing to take an honest look at our actions.
Brene Brown explains the differences between guilt and shame in a TED talk she gave this last year. She states…
Guilt: “I made a mistake.” This can be productive, enlightening and motivating.
Shame: “I am a mistake. OR I am BAD.” This is discouraging and debilitating.
While there is no absolute definition of a “good parent,” I’ve learned that some of the things that we generally measure our parenting “goodness” by, are often the worst measures there are. I’ve also learned a few general questions to help us recognize our own “goodness” in ways that can motivates us to be even better.
Sometimes the very feelings that make us feel “bad” are evidences that we are indeed “good.”
Remember, you’re not a “bad parent” if…
- You feel irritable or frustrated at times.
- Your child says “no” or “doesn’t listen”
- Your friends don’t always agree with how you raise your children.
- People stare at you and your child when they cry or whine in the grocery store.
- Other people have more “stuff” than you.
- Your child doesn’t eat their dinner.
- Your child is anxious or hyper or throws tantrums.
- Your kid talks back.
- You were a little grumpy today.
So, stop measuring your parenting by those things. All parents experience these thoughts and feelings. All kids make mistakes, challenge authority and act out. The sign of great parenting is not the child’s behavior. The sign of great parenting is the parent’s behavior.
My guess, if you are reading this and other parenting blogs is that you are a “good parent!” Ask yourself the following questions and answer.
Measure it by these:
- Do I Love my child?
- Do I treat my child with respect and kindness?
- Do I teach my child?
- Do I connect with my child?
- Do I improve myself and learn?
- Do I ask forgiveness when I’m wrong or make a mistake?
- Do I have concern for my child and strive to help and edify them?
- Do my children amaze and inspire me at times?
- Do I want the best for my child?
If the answer is YES to any or all of them, know that you are a good parent. Does that mean that the work is done? Of course not. Does that mean you don’t have bad days? Nope. Does that mean that we don’t have improvements to make? No, that is actually one of the attributes that is most incredible about “good parents.” They keep on growing and learning.
Question: How do you define “good parent?”
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