A lot of parents have anxiety over figuring out what it takes to be a good parent. Especially new parents.
It’s a tricky subject, because you don’t get a report card that tells you whether or not you’ve been a good parent. There’s no master guidebook on how to be a good parent.
The challenging part of it all is that it continues to change throughout your child’s life – what it takes to be a good parent when they’re a month old may be completely different than what it takes when they’re 15.
I do, however, believe there are traits that good parents have in common, that apply no matter what age you’re child is. And that’s what I want to write about today.
What It Takes to Be a Good Parent: 11 Traits
1) You actually care about being a good parent.
Okay, so you’ve already accomplished #1. Just by being interested in reading this post, you probably care about being a good parent, which is the most important trait you could have.
If you have anxiety over being a good parent, it’s a good sign in a weird way. It means you’re focused on it, which really goes go a long way. Bad parents tend to not spend a lot of time thinking about this.
2) You’re involved in your child’s life.
Painfully simple, yet you’d be surprised at how many parents fail at this. And it’s not because they’re bad people – being involved often takes some hard work.
It often involves sacrificing and re-prioritizing things that you want to do.
But it can also be really simple: spending time with your child each evening. Asking them about their day. Not everything requires you to burn a bunch of calories.
3) You’re consistent and reliable.
Dealing with unreliable people is one of the most frustrating things to deal with. Whether it’s a co-worker or a friend, I hate when people are unreliable or inconsistent in how they behave.
Now imagine if that’s the person who is raising you.
Children look to their parents to be primary source of consistency. The one thing their life that they can rely on. Without this, a lot of kids are lost.
4) You set reasonable boundaries.
No one likes an overbearing parent, and no one likes a parent who lets their kids run wild.
That’s why it’s important to set reasonable boundaries.
How do you know if a boundary is reasonable? Sometimes it’s hard to tell.
One thing I like to do is think back to how I would react as a kid if my mom or dad were to do the same thing. It’s not a perfect method, but it usually gets me to the right answer.
Another test is saying: “if someone were to share this with all of the parents in the neighborhood, would I be embarrassed?”
If the answer is “yes,” then chances are the boundary may not be reasonable.
5) You let your child win sometimes (but not all the time!).
So much of good parenting is about finding the right balance.
You want your kids to have good self-esteem, but you don’t want them to be overconfident. You want them to be humble, but don’t want them to feel worthless.
So, let your kid win sometimes. You’re the authority – you call the shots. But every once in a while, let them feel good about a win.
Or better yet, put them in a position where they do legitimately win on their own.
6) You let them fail (i.e. resist the urge to help them with everything).
Getting back to #5 above, balance is key. Some parents stress about failure, to the point where they don’t let their kids experience failure.
Can you imagine if you grew up never knowing what failure felt like? You’d be in for a rude awakening later on life when failure is everywhere, and how you choose to deal with it makes all the difference.
The critical point is that, as you see failure coming or see that it’s happened, you help your child learn from it. Don’t punish it.
Granted, if your child is seriously struggling with something (let’s say, a school project) and you can tell that he or she is giving a solid effort and can’t seem to figure it out, by all means, lend a helping hand.
Just make sure it’s a learning experience, and not you just stepping in to save the day while your kid sits on the couch and watches TV.
7) You read together.
I’ll admit, I’m a terrible reader. I read tons of content online at home, and at work as part of my job, but I rarely pick up a book and just read for enjoyment. It’s not that I don’t like it once I’m doing it – I’m just always preoccupied with something else.
It was difficult for me to force myself to read to my daughter – not because it’s not enjoyable or because reading itself is a difficult task – but because there would always be 10 other things I’d rather be doing (with my daughter).
But it’s important. Not only is it educational, but it’s a good bonding experience. (I wrote about this in greater detail here.)
8) You don’t stress about “the norm.”
Medians, averages, percentiles, etc. drive me nuts as a parent.
It starts so early – on your very first doctor’s appointment, you learn about what percentile your baby’s weight, length, and head size are in.
And later on, whether or not they’re falling behind on that curve.
And then you’re wondering if your baby is grabbing things or rolling over at the right time.
Or walking and talking when they’re supposed to.
It keeps going and going…are they in the “smart” classes at school? How does their GPA compare to their peers?
Are they getting into a good college?
Hopefully I’m not giving you anxiety here.
Thinking about “the norm” can haunt you if you let it. The reality is, no one is “normal” at everything. Your kid will excel at some things, and be behind with others.
At the end of the day, barring some exceptions, they will catch up and they will be fine.
True story: I wasn’t potty trained until I was four years old. I can’t imagine what my parents were thinking at the time. How could I succeed at anything in life if I couldn’t even use a toilet?
Everything turned out fine, and I’m doing great today.
9) You focus on rewarding the positive, not just punishing the negative.
It’s frustrating when your kid does something wrong. Or does several things wrong. And you’re just focused on punishing them when they’ve done something wrong.
Punishment definitely has its place, but a good parent knows when to reward the positive. For a lot of people, positive reinforcement can be a lot more powerful than punishment.
If punishing the bad doesn’t seem to be improving your child’s behavior, try shifting gears and focusing on the positive.
10) You know your limitations.
Being a good parent isn’t about doing everything. If you try to do everything, you will fail, and probably won’t do any one thing particularly well. Don’t be a “jack of all trades, master of none.”
Know your limitations, and focus on the areas that really need attention. Don’t address everything all at once.
11) You take time to also be a spouse, not just a parent.
Sometimes we lose sight of the fact that most of us were good spouses before we were ever parents. In fact, being a good spouse is often the reason we became parents.
Once the kids come, it’s SO easy to forget about being a spouse. You’re so focused on being a parent. And that’s good for the kids, to a point.
Long term though, your kids will be better off if their parents are also good spouses to each other.
Take the time to make sure that happens.
What are some other traits of good parents?
I know there are more than 11, so let’s hear what you’ve got. Leave a comment below!