- Family and Parenting
Parenting: What Makes A Good Parent
What Makes a Good Parent?
What makes a good parent? Is there a special parent gene that "kicks in" when we become parents? Can we look at someone and determine from how they look if they are good parents? Surely we can look around and observe parents that we surmise must be good, or can we? Their children are clean, dressed in cute, matching kid clothes. The two children both have monitors in the middle seat of their mom's SUV in order that they can watch whatever they choose on short trips to the store and on the way home from school. They eat organic food, take ballet lessons and play soccer. They have shelves of books and dvds, toys, all the latest gadgets, expensive technology.
Their parents are successful professionals and work hard to provide a comfortable lifestyle and home for their family. The mom is even able to work flexible hours in order to have more time with the children. They look like good, modern parents. The kids look like happy kids. Is this what it takes? Let's take a look at a fictional family, one that we may recognize in real life.
The children both had an assignment at the beginning of the new school year. They were to paint a picture of their family doing something memorable during summer vacation. The little girl painted a cute beach scene with bright blue water and a yellow sun and a striped beach ball, and her brother playing on his wave board. The mom had on sunglasses and a floppy sunhat and she was holding something to her ear. The little girl labeled her picture and painted an arrow to the phone her mom was holding and underlined the word with a broad stroke of black paint. The dad was watching something on his Ipad. Another broad stroke of black paint underlined IPAD.
The boy painted a picture of fireworks exploding into a dark blue, black sky. Big, sparkling stars and whirly gigs of purple, gold, silver, green, blue, colors almost like a rainbow. He painted many people, but only the backs of them. They were looking at the fireworks. He said he didn't know which ones were his family because they weren't looking at him, only at the fireworks. He said it was fun but it was really hot and crowded and it took them a long time to get out of the parking lot. They both said they had fun during summer vacation.
So, what's the problem? These sound like fun, happy memories of time spent together as a family. But both teachers noticed the same thing. Something was missing. There was no red paint in their paintings.
[This illustration is for the purpose of making a point. I make no claims that the lack of red paint in a child's painting proves anything. It is in reference to the symbolic representation of the color red and a line from I Am Sam.]
Spend Quality Time
No matter how calmly you try to referee, parenting will eventually produce bizarre behavior, and I'm not talking about the kids. ~Bill Cosby
Cinderella Ate My Daughter
What Makes A Good Parent?
A parent can have everything and give everything to their children, but without passion and that red arrow pointing to their kids hearts, parents are missing the most essential. "I want the red paint. How do I get it?"
There is a scene in the movie, I Am Sam, where Sam is struggling to convey the attributes of a good parent. When asked, 'what makes you think you're a good parent', he says;
"it takes constancy, patience, it's about listening and it's about pretending to listen even when you can't listen anymore and it's about love... see, he has a home with me and I made it the best I could. And it's not perfect and I'm not a perfect parent and sometimes I don't have enough patience and I forget he's just a kid, but we've built a life together and we love each other."
That's it, that's what it takes. There's our red paint. You're now the red in their paintings. If you've watched this movie, you remember the tears streaming down your face during this scene. Being a good or even a great parent is not easy, parenting doesn't go on hold when we're tired or during the difficult times when we don't have an answer. We make mistakes, we forget we're imprinting our children with the words we use, our biases, the choices we make.
Listen From Your Heart
Listen To Your Children
Instead of worrying that everything is perfect, why not get down on the floor and draw silly pictures or build sand castles at the edge of the shore. Why not forget trying to be a perfect parent when our kids simply want us to BE with them, to be mom and dad, a family.
They want us to look in their eyes, their faces, hold their hand, build a lego ship, help them find a dress for the prom, make play dough fruit, slide down the slide, shoot some hoops, show them how to hold the ball glove, listen to their new song.
They even want to hear us say no and mean it, because it shows them we really care, although they'll never tell. They want to feel a part of who we are. What makes a good parent will look different within each family because there are so many varying factors that affect how we parent, but the common thread is made of patience, consistency, quality time, listening, building a family together in love.
Modern Day Parenting Tips From an Early Childhood Educator/Parent
- Your two year old does not need an Ipad.
- Read (real books) to your child daily beginning at infancy.
- Allow your child to make mistakes, it's part of the developmental/learning process.
- Limit screen time to no more than an hour daily for preschoolers/early elementary age.
- Middle school aged children need to stay physically active.
- Turn off the noise, silence is fine and healthy.
- Children do not constantly need to be entertained, engaged.
- Teach children self-discipline at a very young age. A toddler can place their dirty clothes in a basket/hamper.
- Junk food does not belong in your kitchen or your child's body, (especially at breakfast).
- A parent is the child's most significant role model.
- No matter how tired you are, be excited to see and be with your children. Show affection.
- Teach your children how to listen by listening to them first.
- There's nothing more disheartening than a rude, disrespectful child.
- Please and thank you should be part of a toddler's beginning vocabulary.
- Allow your child to make believe and imagine. Read fairy tales together.
- Always have a good set of crayons, markers, paints and blank paper easily accessible.
- Set reasonable boundaries with logical, natural consequences when broken.
- Enjoy your role as a parent, even when it's difficult. Your child needs you at these times.
- Breathe, and count to ten.
A father's goodness is higher than the mountain, a mother's goodness deeper than the sea.
-- Japanese Proverb
Life affords no greater responsibility, no greater privilege, than the
raising of the next generation.
-- C. Everet Koop, M.D.