From the day you even find out you’re going to become a parent, one thought will plague you: How to nail this whole parenting thing. It’s not that you won’t be a good parent. In fact, if you’re reading this, we can almost guarantee you are a good parent because you care enough to Google “how to be a better parent.” Still, regardless of how irrational, irrelevant, or downright inaccurate it is, you’ll probably never think you’re a good enough (whatever that is) parent. Spoiler alert? You are enough, Mama.
Having said that, there is no such thing as a perfect parent, meaning there’s always room for improvement. And with so many different parenting styles out there, there’s no one way to parent. So, to help you on your journey, here are a few parenting pointers to enhance what you’re already working with.
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What qualities make a good parent?
Do you sometimes hug them and smell their hair? (Don’t front — we all do this.) Would you do literally anything on the face of the earth to protect that precious little human? In other words, do you love your kid? Like, a lot? Because the crux of good parenting is just that: love.
Of course, when you think of aspirational parents in your life, they probably do share a few other traits. They likely have a good sense of humor. They’re flexible and, as much as is possible when you’re worried about keeping tiny humans safe, they tend to go with the flow. They’re good at pivoting. They give their kids healthy boundaries. And, yeah, they’re probably pretty darn good role models, too.
How can I improve my parenting skills?
For starters, take a cue from the cool parents on the block you secretly study on Instagram and lead by example. Kids are notoriously sponge-like so, whether you realize it or not, you’re teaching your little ones something 24/7 — for better or worse. Let your child learn from their mistakes. To do this, you obviously have to allow for those mistakes. This is important, perfectionist mamas! Children need to learn cause and effect, and they need to be able to adapt to letdowns. Of course, definitely step in if your child is about to do one of those wildly dangerous and inexplicable things kids sometimes do.
A huge but admittedly hard thing that parents can do to improve is to avoid comparisons. Yes, this is tricky since social media breeds comparison. You’re going to look at everyone’s perfect little squares and be tempted to size your kid up next to someone else’s. Don’t. All children are different. They all have their strengths and weaknesses, just like grownups. There is no yardstick that can measure their potential, and especially not the one that belongs to your neighbor.
If you feel like your child is exhibiting some less than desirable behavior, analyze it. What is motivating them to act out in that way? Sure, you should discipline them accordingly with a time-out, by taking away a privilege, etc. However, take a measured approach by asking your kid questions and trying to figure out the root of the bad behavior.
What the most important thing to remember about parenting skills?
You’re going to mess up. Most of us do — often. It’s sort of part and parcel with this whole parenting gig. It’s okay, though. This is parenting. It’s messy and imperfect and frustrating and beautiful and infuriating and all the things all the time. And while that can definitely feel overwhelming, it’s also a huge part of what makes parenting fun. Perfection is overrated (and unattainable); parenting involvement is where it’s at.
If there were three tenants of parenting we were going to take to the bank, they’d be as follows: Try not to take yourself too seriously, be present as often as possible, and hug your kid every chance you get. ICYMI, studies show that last one is basically health food for your kid’s brain.