Can I be a better parent? Every now and then I have a search through my blog stats to see where people are coming from and what words they are using to find my blog. Every single day the phrase “how to be a better parent” comes up. Now, the very fact that these people are searching this tells me they are probably already doing a good job and more than likely a great job. It is a fairly general phrase, so I started thinking, “what information are these parents really after?” What do we all need to know to be a better parent? Or the very best parent we can be?
Not definitive, not new or groundbreaking and not perfect…..but here are 4 ways I came up with that will go a long way to ensuring you are being the best parent you can be.
Work with your strengths and get support for your weaknesses
We are never going to be great at every aspect of parenting. Some are great at sitting down and doing crafts (not me) and some are great at playing imaginary games (not me). Some are great cooks and have extravagant afternoon tea snacks laid out (not me). In fact now I am not so sure what my strengths are! Well I do love watching them play sport (cricket, not so much). I am getting better at sharing my time with them all. I am OK at helping them with homework, although my husband says I get a bit too excited with some assignments, especially the history ones. But along the way there is no shame in getting help, seeking support or outsourcing others to get you through. We are all so different in our personalities, skills and values that we can never be expected to parent like everybody else. So don’t compare to others, just accept your differences instead.
Rely on your Gut
We know that parenting can sometimes be turned in to a science with all the experts, psychotherapies and research telling us that every move we make will have repercussions that will leave our kids in therapy for the rest of their lives. Sometimes however, we just need to listen to our instinct. I relied on instinct heavily when my kids were little and I’m sure my Maternal Health nurse would be shocked at some of my sleep and settling techniques. But I listened to my babies early on and they have never had trouble sleeping. I still believe it is OK to seek out advice and different opinions, but know that at the end of the day there are a many many ways to raise a child, so make sure decisions sit well within you and represent your own values and beliefs.
Be present and aware
There is no substitute for just ‘being there’ for your kids. This is pretty easy when they are young as they are so dependent on us that we kind of have to stick around. But as they get older, and their independence grows and their desire to be joined at the hip to you begins to recede, we need to remember that they still want to know that we are there. We don’t have to hover or smother, but we can still be active in their lives. We can continue to communicate with them (even if they only respond with a grunt) and let them know that whilst we may no longer be active participants in all their recreational pursuits, we are still aware of what they are doing and are still interested in all aspects of their lives.
We know that guilt is seen as the enemy of any parent. But as I have written before, if we are feeling guilty, it is only because we care so much about doing the best job possible. That can only be a good thing. What we do need to do however, is to forgive ourselves. Forgive ourselves when we missed the star of the week presentation at assembly, or left them late at sports training, or yelled at them, or smacked them or fed them chocolate cake for breakfast. If you are feeling guilty, you are trying, and if you are trying you have nothing to be guilty about. So recognise that you may have stuffed up, think of how you could avoid doing it again…and move on.
I am sure there are many other ways we can be ‘the best parents’. For me, I am not after perfection. At the end of the day I want to enjoy my kids. I want the good to outweigh the bad. I want to rejoice in the little things. I want to look back and know that I did do the best job I could and that as a result, I was the best parent I could be.
What’s the best parenting advice either you were given or would give to others?