Q. As our children are growing up, I wonder if I’m a good mother. Do my husband and I do the right things and make the right decisions? Do we spend enough time with our kids? Do we give them too much or indulge them without merit? How can I get beyond this self-doubt?
A. You’re not alone in experiencing self-doubt about your parenting. Mothers and fathers, over many generations, have asked, “Am I a good parent?” I’ll admit to you that I’ve asked this question of myself. What makes you a good or even better parent? Do you cook healthy food for your children? Do you take your children to the doctor for checkups? While these items are important, values are more important. Look deeper than these surface criteria and consider the values you want your children to have when they are adults.
1. Model respect for others, even those with opposite or quite different views from yours. Your children will mimic your behavior and parrot your spoken beliefs, at least until they are adolescents. Then they will begin to question everything, but will later behave and speak in ways that let you see they paid attention to what you modeled.
2. Teach respect for rules and laws. If you want your child to be thoughtful, teach and model good citizenship. For example, if the seat on the bus is for disabled or senior citizens, read the sign and have your children take another seat. Model honesty if you want your children to grow up being honest with you and others.
3. Demonstrate problem-solving and encourage your child to do the same rather than solving everything for him. Problem-solving is part of learning to manage stress, being flexible and adaptable and being resilient.
4. Model tenacity in the face of difficulty.
5. Work on maintaining and nurturing relationships. Show your child the behaviors it takes to have friends and a happy extended family as well as a spousal or romantic interest that lasts.
6. Listen to and learn your child. While you want your child to have certain values, recognize he is separate from you and has separate interests and talents that you can help develop.
7. Give logical and reasonable consequences. Consequences help a child recognize the importance of not repeating unacceptable behavior or moving on to worse behavior. Be aware that you are a parent with the responsibility to model good behavior, teach skills and values and nurture, rather than having a primary focus on being your child’s friend.
As you look for ways to improve your parenting practices, don’t lose sight of all the things you are doing well. You are probably a better parent than you know!
Betty Richardson, PhD, RNC, LPC, LMFT, is an Austin-based psychotherapist who specializes in dealing with the problems of children, adolescents and parents.
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