Are You Good Enough? What Makes A Parent Good?
By: Stephanie Kirby
Updated August 17, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Lauren Fawley
Let us look at what makes an effective parent.
The History Of Parenting
The history of parenting has depended a lot on what were the societal expectations of that time. Parents have consistently been tasked with the survival of their children, but they have taken on different roles throughout history too (provider, teacher, disciplinarian, taskmaster). As society has evolved, there has been a greater emphasis on caretakers to entertain their kids, maintain a model home, and protect children emotionally and physically. This is sometimes referred to as "helicopter parenting" because it describes the style of "hovering".
Parents have described pressure in today's culture to define success as raising a child to impressive adulthood - coupled with a memorable and magical childhood. Kids not only need to have good character but also rock-star grades, and scholarship-worthy athletic skills. A parent's identity is wrapped up in the success (or failure) of their child. It seems that in this time of competition, there is pressure felt to be an over-achiever.
These are not realistic expectations for every child to meet, however, and can interrupt processes of healthy childhood development, such as the need to be accepted for who we are.
The 4 types of parenting styles
The four styles are authoritarian, permissive, uninvolved, and authoritative. In order to be effective, being mindful of your style is important. Let's take a look at these styles.
This caretaker is strict. An authoritarian parent is one who rules with an iron fist. "Because I said so," is not uncommon to hear, and when the child breaks the rules, they're going to be punished. They may have high expectations, and it takes a lot for them to consider bending their rules. They tend to not be as nurturing, and it's definitely one of the controversial styles to say the least.
Authoritative parenting is considered to be the balance between all parenting styles. There are rules, but these rules have an explanation and sometimes, the rules can change over time. Parents have expectations, but there's reason behind those expectations, and they can change. If the child has a different goal, the parent may change their style. An authoritative parent doesn't belittle their child, but they don't talk to them like they're an adult. They know how to talk to a child so that they can understand.
Styles can be fluid. Some styles may fluctuate depending on the mood of the caretaker. With authoritative parenting, sometimes the more balanced style may fall a little off-balance.
An Effective Parent Means...
With so many pressing expectations of parents these days, it's hard to decipher public parenting opinion from research-based facts. If you're looking to raise an emotionally healthy person with a strong character, research suggests some of the following behaviors:
You love your child
This sounds obvious, and for the vast majority of parents, this is given, even when your child's behavior is frustrating and hard to cope with. But how are you communicating this? It is important to separate your child's behavior from their person so that they understand you love them even when they get in trouble for something they've done. The Parent saying "you are wrong" to a child who makes a poor decision is much different than saying "you made the wrong choice".
You give your child food, clothes, and shelter
Providing for your child's basic needs is a hallmark of parenting. There can be pressure to go above and beyond in these areas if you are acting to "keep up" with other parents, but your child needs the sense that they "are" enough, no matter their material possessions most.
You meet your child's emotional needs
This does not mean you must spend every moment of every day with your focus only on your child. But it does mean that you spend quality one-on-one time with them, nurturing their heart and showing them that they are valued and important to you. Some experts say that 30 minutes of undivided attention (meaning you are not also on your phone or watching TV or completing another task) is beneficial for your child. This also means that you validate your child's feelings. If they are crying, do not tell them they do not have a good reason to cry, comfort them. Feelings are always ok, but you can teach your children healthy ways to cope with them (for example, do not hit someone when you are angry). Parents have to be a good example when it comes to managing feelings in a healthy way too.
You set limits when appropriate
Children need to learn eventually that they will not always be able to have their own way. Setting limits with children is an effective way to help them learn to be part of the greater society. The child's brain does not have the capacity to regulate itself very well, so kids need to be shielded from things that are not good for them, like too much TV, sugar, or video games, for example. As a parent, you have to balance giving kids the chance to learn and experiment with helping them learn healthy behaviors by sometimes limiting what the child wants to do.
You allow them to safely fail
It hurts to watch your child get hurt but it also develops resilience which is critical for appropriate functioning later in life. If you rescue your child in every challenging situation because you believe "effective parents" prevent their children from experiencing emotional pain, you are actually robbing them of the growth experience they need to have. When your child tells you about some difficulty that happened, have a conversation about how they can learn from it.
Let them be "bored" (sometimes)
Unstructured time has been showed to be very positive for children's brain development. Do not feel like you have to provide an activity constantly. Children are naturally very creative, imaginative, and experimental, and it is very healthy for parents to encourage children to entertain themselves for a bit of time every day. If you live in a place where your children can go outside for some fresh air and to encourage them to move their bodies even better.
You may have heard it said that "It takes a village to raise a child." It is true that parenting without support of other people is very hard, in essence you have to be absolutely everything to your child if you do not have other adults to help share the responsibility. Many cultures throughout history have shared responsibilities for raising children in different ways. In our society, having your "village" can simply allow you to peek into the reality of other families and normalize your own struggles. No one is the "perfect" parent because we are all just doing our best. Having support allows you to have concrete information about what has been working or not for others and a place to vent frustrations (instead of taking out frustration on your child).
If you do not feel like you have a supportive "village" around you and you need help figuring out how to find one, if you struggle with social relationships, or are having a hard time raising your child, consider seeking supportive online counseling through BetterHelp. You will likely find that if you care for yourself mentally, emotionally, and physically, you will have more energy to act like a capable and healthy parent.
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