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?
This Post Has 23 Comments
Absolutely. Great points. I agree with every one! I am glad people are searching for this term…gives me hope. Zanni @ Heart Mama x
Yes it can only be a good thing. Thanks Zanni
Some interesting thoughts in this post.
When it came to relying on my gut, I pretty well trusted my gut as it told me that it didn’t have a lot to offer beyond kindness, patience and uncoditional love. For everything else, it referred me to my head which in turn sought evidence and solutions from the world around me.
And that sounds pretty spot on to me Cam 🙂
I am a big reader and I love to research things. I love to learn and read as much as I can, as for me, its a way for me to hear all sorts of things and then sift through it and apply the things that sit well with me and that work for Mia and I. I also feel good when I have a bit of understanding about the different stages of development and stuff that Mia is and will be going through so that I can always keep that in the back of my mind if we are having a rough day or she is acting in a way that might be slightly out of the ordinary.
Having said that though, I tend to rely on my gut instinct the most and I reckon that is one of the most important parts of parenting, trusting your instincts. All the extra knowledge that I’ve gained from reading about parenting and child development helps, but its no substitute for just following those instincts.
Forgot to add…
#teamIBOT was here!
Very true and I am sure this will continue to make you the best parent 🙂
I’m constantly feeling guilty at the mo so it’s time I changed my behaviour – sometimes I wonder if I was mean to be a mum of three, it’s just so hard at times. Thanks for pep talk I needed it 🙂 x
Oh emily it certainly is hard at times, and of course you were meant to be a mum of 3. You do need to stop feeling guilty however. Better to get the help where you need it and remember all the great things you are doing already. (easy to forget about those)!
Great tips Martine. Especially the last two. I don’t think you can overestimate the importance of just being available to your kids.
Thanks Jess, and you are right, there really is nothing more important than that.
Fantastic tips Martine, really needed to hear some of these. I have had a bit of a rough patch with my eldest over the past few months and these help. I have also realised over the past week that I get better results when I am a calmer, softer spoken and relaxed mum. Playing nazi mum wasn’t getting me or them anywhere.
Thanks Sabeen, I am glad they helped. Sometimes I think they just switch off too when they hear the same things. All about trial and error too, and working out what works for you all. 🙂
This is such a great post 🙂 each and every day there is something that happens that makes me question my parenting skills……guess it’s just a “normal” side effect of parenting. It is great to know that we are not alone
Never alone when it comes to parenting Beck!
The best advice I was given was probably to ask for help if I needed it… That is bit a particular strength of mine, and I need to be reminded fairly frequently
As usual right on Martine – I need to let go of guilt. I’m also trying to be more patient with my 1.5 year old but it’s VERY hard x
A lovely post, Martine. Way before I had kids, I have a memory of imagining motherhood differently. I imagined myself a SAHM who was great a craft and always patient, a good cook, some wonderful homemaker. The reality is quite far from the dream. I started my family late (40) so my personal path pre-motherhood involved a lot of work. Once becoming a parent, I have gone on my gut a lot but the guilts still get to me mostly about working instead of being a SAHM. I know I can’t get those little years back. They are little for such a short time. I think I need a huge dose of forgiving myself.
Yes you do Veronica…because from what I can see, you are a gorgeous mum x
I remember my early days when my gut instincts would be questioned or undermined by the nurses, midwives and doctors. It’s all to do with self-confidence, I think.
These days I listen to my instincts a lot more and care less what other think…
Absolutely, and the further we go on in our parenting journey the more we are confident in relying on those instincts 🙂
Nice post. I think I’d make a better parent if I could avoid technology on the weekends. Hours can quickly wick away when the laptop comes out, not good!
Yes..time limits can be helpful for all of us!