Every parent wants to be a good parent, but what that means exactly is hard to pin down. We all have different ideas of how parenting should look. These standards are based on what we grew up with and also what’s around us. They have a huge range, too, from heavily involved to more hands-off approaches. So if we have all of these different expectations, how can you tell if the job you’re doing is ‘good’ or ‘bad’?
At the heart of it, the quality of parenting on a child is measured by how the child is being treated. What helps one child thrive could be all wrong for another, and this can definitely confuse the definition. And what about values? Some people think good parents prepare their children to reach the peak of achievement, while others just want their children to be happy. Some parents feel most successful when they are close to their children, while others want a more distanced relationship with their children as a way of maintaining authority. None of these are necessarily the right, or wrong, choices.
This level of variation in parenting can make it hard to figure out your specific way of functioning as a parent. However, there are a few principles of positive parenting that seem to consistently help parents interact with their children.
Do as I do: the importance of good modeling
You may have noticed by now that Baby is already starting to mimic and stare at your facial expressions and movements. Even if they tried, they can’t help being more influenced by your actions than your words. Try to keep in mind that they watch you to see how the world works.
This can apply to more obvious things, like modeling a healthy lifestyle, healthy relationships, manners, and other social skills. However, it also makes a difference when it comes to things you might not be thinking about passing on, like your ability to manage stress, your ability to hold onto or let go of control, your positive or negative attitude, or whether you’re willing to talk about problems that you’re struggling with.
Adapt to survive: meeting Baby’s needs as they change
Your parenting style definitely doesn’t stay the same from age one to age eighteen. This might seem intuitive, but it’s harder to realize in real life that what worked last week could be useless today. This goes for everything from food to discipline, and while it’s not always easy to adjust to, it is a good sign – it means that Baby is growing and changing, just the way they should.
Steady wins the race: the importance of consistency
There are many different opinions about what kind of boundaries to set for Baby, but what’s super important is following all boundaries once you’ve set them. Consistency, even in boundaries Baby doesn’t want to follow, is how they learn where the limits of their world are, and how they learn to feel secure. They’re also a good way to lay the groundwork for politeness and discipline when they're a little older.
The bottom line
There’s no one action or belief or rule that makes somebody a better parent than another person, so try not to overanalyze it. You love your baby, and you want what’s best for them – you’re a good parent. The rest will follow.