What Makes a Good Parent?
Posted by Gail | Filed under Parenting 101
Having children fundamentally changed who I was. It’s no surprise really? The things you must learn to do as a parent to help raise happy and well-adjusted children means you’re running up a very steep learning curve. Most people manage well. Some, not so much. And the innocent are left to deal with the fallout.
So what makes a good parent? The November/December 2010 Scientific American Mind did an article on the subject. They ranked the following 10 “competencies” as crucial to children’s happiness, health and success:
- Love and affection
- Stress management
- Relationship skills
- Autonomy and independence
- Education and learning
- Life skills
- Behaviour management
You’re probably not surprised to see “love and affection” on the list, but did you expect it to be at the top? And did you think that your ability to reduce stress for YOURSELF and your children would come in at second place? So all you frantic parents running around trying to get it all done and fraying at the edges in the effort need to slow down and take a breath.
Maintaining a healthy relationship with your partner and modeling effective relationship skills with other people is high up on the list. I wonder how many parents realize just how much their children are learning from what they do with their friends, what they say about their co-workers, how they interact with service-givers, and the like. Your children are learning from you. Do you know what you’re teaching them?
One of the competencies I scored particularly high on was the autonomy and independence. I’ve always treated both my children with respect and encouraged them to be self-sufficient and self-reliant. I didn’t make their decisions for them, but helped them to see what the consequences might be of the decisions they were considering. Even when it came to going to school, my standard response to “I’m sick” was, “I have no way of telling how sick you are. You’re the only person that can decide if you’re not well enough to go to school? So, is this one of those days?” I never had an absentee problem with either of the kids. Sometimes my next question, “Anything really important happening at school today?” helped them to see more clearly what their next action would be: up and at ’em or back-to-bed!
Do you promote and model a love of learning? Do you provide for your children, have a steady income and plan for the future? Do you positively reinforce what they do well, and allow natural consequences to teach lessons, or do you punish and guilt your child in the hope of securing compliance?
No one is really surprised to see the last three competencies on the list, though I would argue that “spirituality” may be more important that “religion” except for the social interaction aspect.
Maybe the most surprising things that came out of the article were the things that weren’t so important: women are only a smidgeon better than men at parenting. And older parents, or those with more kids, didn’t score higher than younger and sole-children parents. And gay and straight parents were almost equally good at the job, with gay parents nosing by.
You can LEARN to be a good parent (or a better parent). Reading, taking parenting classes, learning more about how to be good at the toughest job you’ll ever do is worth every minute spent.