Great Parents: Twelve Qualities We Most Admire

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.

Twelve qualities we admire in great parents

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.



  1. Poppy says

    What a great post! Always good to remember that our children will be part of our lives forever, and it is partly up to us to make them be the people we want most in our lives forever.

  2. says

    What a thorough list! I cant think of any to add, and that never happens! Dont tell my husband 😉 The most important ones to me are the relationship model with your spouse, passing on anxiety, and showing the same enthusiasm. This is a wonderful reference. Thanks!

    • says

      Most important and hardest. So difficult to remember to leave our “stuff” behind and be the person we want our kids to be.

  3. says

    Excellent list. I find No. 5 (on sibling relationships) more and more important as my daughters — and my siblings and I — get older. Thank you for sharing this. Even those with an empty nest can benefit as parenting never EVER ends.

    • says

      Lisa from you, those words are music to my ears. Not sure we think about the sibling thing enough. Makes you ponder when we realize that it is our longest relationship.

  4. says

    Love this, Mary Dell! Y’all are always spot on and I am thankful for the work you do here to help us parents!

    • says

      Whitney, Lisa gets full credit for this wonderful post. So happy you have had a chance to visit us here and thanks for the kind words about G&F.

  5. Emily says

    Another insightful post…just emailed it to my husband. I think we are both hard on ourselves that we do sometimes fall short on these but your post also shows that that is okay because parenting continues for a lifetime…thank you for that reminder.

    • says

      We all fall short, all of the time. I think that it is the effort and the goal that matters…at least I hope so.

  6. says

    And moments, I would add, Lisa. What a great read this is – such important reminders and a gentle reminder that it’s okay if we fall short in some areas – we’re human too. I’m finding, as mine are all grown now, that I am still learning parenting of adult children too. Some things are the same, some dynamics are very different as we take a step back. You’re so right, yes, fortunately parenting happens over a lifetime. There’s always time to improve and grow and love, love, love.

    • says

      Learning to take it easy on ourselves as parents is a very hard lesson and seems to take a very long time. This was a reminder to myself…

  7. says

    Happy Saturday Sharefest

    love the post, I am going to print out and glad I do most of those. I want my son to be a happy and peaceful man.

  8. says

    It does hurt hearing the words “I hate you” from your child. I know I’m doing the best thing for them when this is being thrown my way, however, doesn’t make it any easier to hear! Great post!

    • says

      It really doesn’t get any easier. I just repeat over an over in my head, “I am the adult, he is the child. I am the adult, he is the child.”

  9. says

    Great list! I like to think we’re pretty good parents, but like we tell our oldest daughter these days, we can do better (we’re at #8 with her a lot of the time). Thanks for sharing.

    Stopping by from SITS :)

    • says

      I know that its what we need to do, know that we owe it to them to set the bar high and stretch them, but implementing this is so difficult.

  10. says

    You speak the truth, Lisa. Now that I have two kids, number 11 on your list really hits home. I can already tell my children are like night and day. Some aspects of my parenting will have to be tailored according to the child.

    • says

      My older children could not be more different although very close in age….I had to learn this the hard way.

    • says

      I know what you mean, we would like to think it is the outside world making them anxious, but I fear sometimes it is us.

  11. says

    Beautiful. Parenting is often a matter of common sense, and I agree with every single thing on your list. This should me made into a brochure and sent home with every new parent, as required reading.

  12. says

    I agree with all of these – especially number 6. It is so important to be truthful with your child at any age. Your children will respect you more if you are honest – and they can tell.

    • says

      You are so right that the kids can see right through us so why lie in the vain hopes of propping them up. None of us are good at everything, every kids knows that so I try to save my praise and my credibility.

  13. says

    Communication in this day and age is key! We use our phones endlessly to communicate with our friends in our lives. I can’t even dream of a world without modern computers. I’m so glad we have apps like these in the world.


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