Parenting is not for the faint of heart. It’s hard, and you’re never going to be perfect. But the best part is, you don’t have to be.
You’re a critic. It’s not your fault, but you are. You critique the movies you watch, the articles you read (this one included), and you critique your parenting. There’s no way you’re not going to critique your parenting–I certainly won’t convince you otherwise. But take a step back for the next couple hundred words, and think about it.
When I was a kid my father and I had an odd relationship. It was less of a “Do what I say because I’m your father,” attitude from my dad and more of “Look, son, this is what I’m doing and have done, I don’t advise you to do this, and if you do, I’ll be disappointed.”
At times this was contradictory but as I look back I never really got into trouble. And not just because I didn’t get caught, I really just didn’t do anything that could get me in serious trouble. What can I say, I was a rather boring teenager. My dad had convinced me that I didn’t want to do it because it wasn’t worth the trouble. It wasn’t out of fear but because of watching him make terrible decisions and have to live with them. He wasn’t a happy man most of the time and he chased happiness in all forms except the ones that work. He set a good example for me, it was just an example to avoid. He should be proud, and I think he is.
So, how does this relate to your parenting?
Remember what I said about critiquing? When you look at your parenting you have to ensure you’re not always casting a fully negative light or a fully positive light. There are always going to be things you do well, and there will always be things you can improve.
Parenting is based on a few key concepts.
1. Knowing what’s best for your child to the best of your ability AND acting on that inherent knowledge.
If that sounds a bit vague then stick with me. You can’t possibly predict every single crazy thing that is going to happen to your child. You can’t prevent them from getting sick, trust me, and you can’t be there every single second of their teenage life.
Knowing what’s best for your child comes from your own life experience and putting that experience into context for your child.
2. The context is the key. Putting your experience into context for your child matters a great deal in the times we are living because things are changing so friggin’ quick. If you’re 38 and have a 7 year old child, their childhood is most likely drastically different than yours was, and that’s awesome!
So don’t think for one second that if you let your kid play on his Kindle for two hours on a Saturday that you’re a terrible parent. Your child is learning more in that two hours than you did in two weeks of computer classes in the early 90s. Trust me.
3. As a parent you need to understand and accept your role as a leader and leaders understand the context of situations. Talking and texting on a cellphone for a solid 20% of your day isn’t out of the ordinary now. In 1998 it was. So when someone from the baby boomer generation gets angry and says something like, “You kids need to put your cell phones away and have a real conversation!” It’s going to fall on deaf ears, because those are the real conversations of 2014—for better or worse.
You don’t have to like that fact, but you can’t argue that it is a fact.
Your kids are not growing up in the same world you did. But that doesn’t mean your principals and love will reflect any different than your parents did on you when you were a kid.
If you love your child and are willing to do what’s in their best interest 100% of the time, even when it hurts the most, then you are a good parent.
4. Good parenting doesn’t depend on the form of disciplining.
Whether it be spanking, time-out, time-in, grounding, different colored stars, incentives, or whatever it may be. Good parenting depends on the love you have for your children and your willingness to put your own feelings aside for the sake of their growth and development.
5. Tough love is sometimes appropriate–and necessary. I’m the tough one in our house. I don’t really enjoy it, and often times I’m incredibly impatient (I have a short fuse sometimes, I’m working on it…). It’s not my son’s fault when I’ve had a bad day at work.
While these concepts above are what I find important in my everyday parenting I think they can be summed up in a few characteristics that may be a bit more universal. You should be able to gauge your parenting based on these aspects.
Stern but fair
Patient and Consistent
Here’s where the piece about thinking you’re a bad parent comes in. If you read those characteristics and thought, Wow…I’m not even fulfilling three of those. That’s ok. You’re reading this, so you want to be a better parent (and since you’re reading this, you’re probably already an awesome parent).
Your child needs some portion of these characteristics at each stage of their life. Think back to the times when you were most angry at your parents. I know my most frustrated times were when I thought they were being unfair. But as I look back I didn’t have the context to determine whether or not they were being fair. I was just a 15-year-old kid.
Parenting is not something you can ever have set in stone. It will change from year to year, from child to child, and from situation to situation.
Stop being so hard on yourself and allow a little grace to come into your life.
Focus on these characteristics and these five concepts, you’ll be more than fine. You’ll raise some awesome kids.
What is the hardest thing about being a parent?