Great parents: we know them, we watch them, we learn from them and ultimately, we want to be them. Between our children’s other parent and the many adults that surround our kids, we are exposed to a vast array of parenting practices. Some we emulate, many we reject and over the years, we bear witness to some great parenting, even if it isn’t always happening in our own homes.
Great parenting? It is hard to define and may even be a matter of opinion, But the only way to improve, is to set the bar high and try to learn something from those we admire.
Perfect parenting is a painful and elusive goal. Great parenting is within all of our grasps.
We cannot teach our children to be the best that they can be if we have not tried to be the best parent we can be, no matter the challenge. Here are some of the things that great parents do, but the converse is not true. One can still be a great parent without doing some or any of them.
1. Great parents realize they are being watched.
They understand their marriage/relationship isn’t theirs alone and they act as a model for their children for their rest of their lives. Whatever anger, affection, intolerance or kindness parents show towards each other will reverberate down through the generations.
2. Great parents know about their place in the universe.
They understand that their world may revolve around their children, but the real one doesn’t. If they are confused, their children will be as well.
3. Great parents delve deeply into their children’s passions.
By showing their kids both care and respect, they find yet another way to bond. By learning the intricacies of hockey or Pokemon, great parents let their children know that they respect and even admire their child’s chosen interest, even it might not have been their own.
4. Great parents have a healthy relationship with money, food and alcohol.
All of these relationships are learned at home and turn out to be painfully difficult to alter later in life. Great parents try to start their kids off right.
5. Great parents model good sibling relationships.
They know that the relationship among their children will ultimately be the longest and one of the most important relationships in their children’s lives.
6. Great parents are willing to tell their child the truth.
They are candid when their children are not that good at something and know that then their compliments will carry much more weight. Great parents do not sacrifice their credibility on the altar of self-esteem.
7. Great parents show the same enthusiasm for each child.
They don’t play favorites with the first child or the last, be it for a lost tooth or college admissions. No doubt this is a parenting challenge.
8. Great parents require that their children live up to their potential.
They do so even when it makes that child angry or the parent temporarily despised. Despite all platitudes, none of us try our hardest or are at our best at everything. Yet children who are encouraged to give something, anything, be it sports, academics or any pursuit, their all, learn early in life about concerted effort and focus.
9. Great parents stand firm.
They remember that at the moment their child hates them, they may be doing their best parenting. When their child has daggers flying out of their eyes and vicious language pouring out of their mouths, tears barely held in check, they remain steady. These are not moments to be soothed over, or backed away from as painful as that might be.
10. Great parents realize that anxiety is contagious.
While it may seem like kids catch it from their friends, it turns out the worst cases are contracted at home. When great parents see anxiety in their children, they don’t panic but take a long hard look at themselves.
11. Great parents adapt to each child.
They don’t adhere to notion that it is unfair to treat their children differently. They know that their children are siblings, not clones, and that setting standards that need to be followed by all is tantamount to parenting with our eyes closed.
12. Great parents never confuse who is the adult and who is the child.
They know who is in charge, even when the child towers over the parent and would win in a fair fight. There is a reason children live under our roof, and substituting their judgement for our own is not great parenting.
Great parents know that on any given day or week we may fall decidedly short of our aspirations but that parenting is made up of months and years and luckily, a lifetime.