“Am I a good parent?” – Every single parent at some point in their parenting journey.
We often ask ourselves this question in the low moments of our parenting journeys. However, this is one that should be classified under the list of unproductive parenting questions that does not add any value to you, save for perhaps therapeutically allowing you to wallow in periods of self-doubt.
Instead, every successful parenting journey begins with a few fundamental questions that look deceptively easy but demand multi-layered answers unique to each parent.
These questions empower you to move forward in your journey with intent rather than being pulled along for the ride and ultimately give you a sense of direction in raising your kids right.
1. What kind of child do I want to raise?
What do you value as a parent – success or kindness? Sure, these are not mutually exclusive but what you prioritise determines how you choose to raise your children.
An article by Wharton professor, Adam Grant and his wife Alison Sweet Grant, notes the interesting contradiction between what we say we want to see in our children versus what we actually do. So, while many of us say that kindness and caring for others are important character traits we want to raise their children to have, we in fact subconsciously prioritize achievement above anything else!
Our contradictory priorities and their unforgiving implications
And as research shows, this mismatch between our actions and stated values is confusing to our children and consequently has a damaging impact on their ability to empathise!
The art of striking a healthy balance
What can we do to strike a balance between these priorities? The first step is to acknowledge that some of your parenting goals, like instilling moral values in your children, may have been unintentionally taking a backseat to make way for other goals, like academic success.
The next step is to consciously give yourself ample opportunities to reprioritise these. After internalising and reprioritising, the final step is materialisation. Have discussions about the value of being caring and supportive with your kids. Model empathetic behaviour in your own actions in your interactions with the world. Whatever way you want to approach the final step, it is important that you find what works for you and your child.
2. Did I overdo it today?
When it comes to rewarding and/or punishing your child, how do you know if you’ve gone overboard?
Rewarding vs. spoiling your child
A good rewards system is careful not to spoil your child. It should serve to motivate your child to work towards being better at something. For instance, if your child has specific behaviour problems like anger management, a rewards program can help them master good behaviour.
If you realise that your rewards don’t serve the purpose of promoting desirable behaviour, and are solely for the purpose of appeasing him/her, it is time to reign it in.
To help you with this, communicate a set of rules in your household. Establishing these boundaries with your kids will help create a sense of consistency and will prevent you from meting out sporadic punishments that extend beyond the crime.
3. Was I present today?
As parents, the cogs in our brains are always turning, our thoughts constantly flittering from one worry to the next, and this happens more times that we care to admit: on the commute, during work and even during family dinner. While this is an unavoidable occurrence, it comes at a rather hefty cost – precious bonding time with our children.
Ask yourself this: When was the last time you were truly present mentally, with your child? When was the last time you sat down with your little one and listened to what he/she was saying, without being distracted by calls, texts or your own thoughts wandering to a looming deadline, work responsibilities etc.?
Parenthood is probably one of the most challenging roles you have taken up to date. However, the sooner you realise that your little one’s childhood is a fleeting gift, the easier it is to internalise its preciousness and the importance of spending real, uninterrupted time with them!
Don’t lose sight of what matters!
Parenting is a confusing, crazy circus act. We’re so often consumed by thoughts of failing ourselves and our children. So we work non-stop for a better life for our kids, not realising that all they really want is a little more time with us. Let’s pause for a moment and ask ourselves how we can put our best foot forward. Only with that can we keep our eyes on what really matters – our kids!