Written by Diane Lang
Currently, what type of parent are you? Rate yourself. If you could score yourself on a 1 to 10 basis, 1 being the worst and 10 being the best, where would you put yourself and why?
After having over 50 parents answer this question, I have found the most common answer to be anywhere from a 5 or less. As parents, we tend to think that we are never doing enough. We think we’re doing okay, but could always do better. We remember everything we did wrong. I just yelled at my daughter. I wasn’t fully listening. I couldn’t get off of work to see my daughter’s school play. We never think of the good we did.
What type of parent do you want to be? What personality traits do you need to work on as a parent? Think of all the traits you would like to portray to your children. Think of the person you would want to be that would make you a great role model. Remember, most traits are learned. This means you can learn any new traits you think you are missing (patience, listening skills, empathy, etc.). This also means you can teach your kids some really great personality traits, which will help guide them through life. Teach your children, for example, about respect for yourself and others, kindness, gratitude and helping others.
What have you learned from your child? For example, my child has made me see the joy in life. I watch her innocence, (not knowing the world has a dark side), the laughter of just enjoying the flowers, the sky, ice cream - living in the moment. I also learned from my daughter that we are born happy. We are born to love life. This gives me the motivation to find that joy in my own life and share it with everyone around me. Think of the influence your kids have on you.
What does my child need from me? Don’t just think about what you want to give or what you think your child needs. Ask your child what their interests, likes, dislikes are. Find out what your child really needs and wants. Make sure you really listen to your child. Don’t tune out thinking you know what’s best for your child all of the time. Don’t get me wrong - as a parent, you’re always looking out for your child and protecting them. But you need to listen to them and follow their interests to help them grow and become their own person.
Do you find yourself ‘keeping up with the Joneses’? This typical statement that we hear all the time holds a lot of truth to it. Do you find yourself comparing yourself to other parents or trying to compete with other parents? If you do, stop immediately. This will only cause failure for both you and your child. Be yourself. Be the parent you want to be. Let your child grow and develop in their own pace. Everyone grows, develops and learns differently - this is okay. Don’t push your child to be someplace they are not. Encourage, but don’t push!
When was the last time you said something positive to yourself or your spouse about your parenting techniques? If you haven’t found something good you have done, you’re not looking hard enough. We learn how to be parents through trial and error. We have help and support but there is no degree on parenting. You have done a lot of good already. Think about and praise what you have done right. Your children need to see you praise yourself. They need to see you have a good sense of self.
What are your expectations for your children? Have you set realistic expectations for them? Write a list of your expectations. Make sure they are realistic - don’t set your child and yourself up for failure.
Write a job description for yourself. I actually have written a job description for a mom but you can also do the same for a dad. You can also re-write your job description if it has changed. Maybe you have become a single parent or you went from a stay-at-home mom to a working mom. Your job description as a parent can change at any time. Be prepared. Write your description.
Here is an example of a ‘Help Wanted’ ad for a mom:
Must have a beautiful smile, warm eyes and a loving touch. A highly motivated and energetic individual with the ability to multi-task, negotiate and manage time. Must be a self-starter and be willing to learn new tasks at any time. Must be organized, delegate responsibility and manage a budget. Patience is a must. Must work well under pressure. Must be responsible, caring, disciplined and have good managerial skills; listening skills a plus. Must have a reliable car. Position requires long hours, overtime, weekends and holidays. No sick or vacation time. Pay is low, appreciation is rare but you will learn a lot from this position.
Who are you outside of being a parent? Not only should you have a sense of personal accomplishment, but also have a sense of professional development. You should have outside interests, hobbies and friends. This will show you as a well-rounded person that your children can admire. Having outsides interests and friends will also make you happier. A happy parent = happy children. To be a good parent, you must first be a happy individual.
Do you have a support network? Always make sure that as a parent you have a strong support team. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. This was extremely hard for me. I always thought I could handle everything, (I had some control issues). But then, you realize this is impossible once you have kids. I remember the day my baby-sitter got the stomach flu, my husband was at work already, and I had an important meeting at work I couldn’t miss. The obvious answer/solution: ask for help. It was hard but I did and it worked! Think of a few people that you could turn to in an emergency situation or just for when you need a break. It might be family or friends - just have those people’s numbers close by. Parenting has a lot of spontaneous moments you want to be prepared for.
Diane, Therapist, Educator, and Author conducts parenting workshops across the US and Canada. Diane has been featured as an expert in a number of print, TV, online and radio outlets on several topics and has recently launched her latest book, Creating Balance and Finding Happiness. For more information, visit dlcounseling.com.