Am I a Good Parent?

Do you ever wonder if you are a good parent? Certainly if you are a concerned parent this question comes up frequently. Your child is important to you and you recognize that you have an important obligation to raise your child to be healthy, confident, and independent.

The first thing to consider is answering this question – Am I a good parent? – is to relax! Parents are people too, not gods. You are going to make little mistakes, even big blunders. They key is to recognize the mistake, accept it, and learn from it. Children are remarkably resilient. If you err, stop it, change it, apologize for it. You will be modeling flexibility and honesty for your child – two important values for them to have.

With this in mind, here are five key areas to master to be a good parent.

1. Listen. Children need to be heard. Take the time to listen and communicate in your child’s language. Your child will feel understood and trust you.

2. Be consistent. Children need structure. They want to know the rules. Both parents must agree on the rules so that your child doesn’t become confused. Until your rules become internalized for the child – that is until your child begins to believe the rules too – it is important that there are consistent and logical consequences for following the rule or breaking the rule.

3. Be a teacher. Remember that punishment usually only evokes anger and hurt in a child. Obviously, the goal is not to teach anger and hurt. The goal is to teach important values such as honesty, responsibility, creativity, sensitivity. Development of these values requires positive interactions with a parent. Liberal amounts of praise and love encourages the child to accept the values you are teaching.

4. Be a model. You are your child’s first example of what an adult should be like. Because they love you, it is natural that they want to grow up to be like you. Perhaps you’ve laughed over the cute way your child imitates your walk or the way you slip your hands into your pockets when you talk on the phone. But is it equally humorous to watch you child pretend to smoke a cigarette or to use obscene language?

5. Love. There are many ways to demonstrate that you love your child. Through listening and teaching and consistency and modeling you are showing you child your love. Buying you child gifts is far less important than hugs and kisses, private talks – in general showing an interest in who your child is.

Finally, it is important to remember that your child is a unique and a separate person from you. He or she is not an extension of the parent, but is as different and distinct as his fingerprints. If you take the time to be curious about who your child is, how they think, who they are becoming, you will have the opportunity to make a lifelong friend.

Happy Blended Families

Blended family is a term recently coined, to define those households composed of parents and children who may not all be related by blood. The results of blending a family are stepparents and stepchildren. Many of you, who live in blended family households, are aware of the unique stresses and strains that affect blended families. Simply, the more members there are in any family, the more complex is the task of relating.

Rather than focus on the blended family as different from the traditional family, let’s take a look at what family really means. What we really have are families – lots of different kinds of households in which people who live together make moral and emotional claims on one another.

According to Letty Cottin Pogrebin in her book, Growing Up Free, the word “family” implies a unit of at least one child and one adult whose moral and emotional claims on one another create a tapestry that each member acknowledges as “my family.”

Many people are surprised to learn that in America there is no traditional family. Here are the facts:

18.5% of all American households are composed of two employed parents and their children;
15.6% of all American households are composed of a father who is sole breadwinner and a mother who is a fulltime homemaker;
6.2% of all American households are composed of a single mother and her children;
0.6% of all American households are composed of a single father and his children.

The high rate of divorce and remarriage in American has produced 25 million stepparents. One child in eight is a stepchild. Of every 100 children under age 18, only 67 live with their two biological parents. The other 33 children live with a single parent, stepparents or other custodians. Obviously, with these statistics we need to redefine the family and begin educating ourselves as to how to rear healthy children in whatever family constellation they live. It’s not the family that’s important, but family life that exerts the most important influence on the development of your children.

Teach your children that there is enough love to go around to all family members, biological or blended. Show respect for the caring your child has for your ex-spouse. Don’t be threatened by your child’s stepmother. Don’t make your children have to choose between you. Work together so that the significant adults in your child’s life can expand and enhance his or her learning.

Look at your blended family as an opportunity to develop tolerance and flexibility. Be creative about the ways that you include extended family member into your family life. Teach your child to appreciate that happy family life is created by caring, committed people of all ages and connections.

Family life and child rearing is too important to be undertaken on a “trial and error” basis. Educate yourself by reading and attending classes on parenting. Occasionally, when a problem arises that is beyond your understanding, it is appropriate to seek the expertise of a family therapist. Each family is as unique as the members who make it. Sometimes personal problems or relationship problems interfere with productive family life. It is important to recognize these problems, to seek professional help and to restore family life to a healthy, happy balance.

Other Issues

There may be other more challenging issues that face you in parenting. You may wish to consult with Dr. Marshack to see if therapy or coaching may help. Here are some specific topics that describe more complex family relationships: