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You Can Become the "Ultimate" Parent!

Jun 6, 2008
We all know what a bad parent looks like: intolerant, constantly critical, more interested in their own affairs (in both senses of the word) than in the needs of their children. But what does it take to be a good parent? What does it take to give your children the very best start to life that you possibly can?

John Bowlby intensely studied the effects parents had on their children. This was in the 1960's, and at that time he come up with the term "good- enough parenting". He believed that if you did the best you could and stayed away from "bad" parenting habits your kids would turn out fine. After all they are pretty resilient. So is that it? Or do you want to try for more and become a "super parent", or how about being the "ultimate" parent? Do you believe this is possible or is it just something left over from the feminist movement?

First, let's clear this up: no one is the perfect parent. It's not possible for you to do everything right, every moment, every year of your child's life. Nor should you make that your goal. There's some truth Bowlby's concept of "good enough" - you don't need to be concerned with being perfect. Your kids WILL survive childhood and sometimes being "Good enough" is good enough.

But, I suspect that you probably want more for your kids than just average. I strongly believe that there are things you can do, and attitudes you can adopt, that will give your children the very best start to life they could possibly have. And, at the same time, will actually make life easier and more fulfilling for yourself too. It is not a long list, but if you can manage the following, then I believe you have every right to call yourself the "ultimate" parent:

1) Remember that you are a fallible human being. You are not Superman or Wonder Woman, able to be all things to all people. Besides making mistakes along the way, you will have your own dysfunction from your past to deal with. It's attitude, not perfection that matters here.

What is the right attitude? Being humble. Recognising that you have much to learn (we all do) and being willing to be teachable and to learn from your mistakes. A sign of genuine maturity is being able to look back at your past, recognize the mistakes you made, and say "this is what I have learned about myself, and what I need to work on changing in myself".

Of course, there's also a danger of constantly putting yourself down by telling yourself that you are no good. Allow yourself to occasional make mistakes and celebrate when you are successful. Only focus on the past as long as it takes you to learn and make changes, then move forward in the direction YOU want to go. Of course, if you have serious problems, get help.

2) Recognize you are playing a percentage game. We have all heard of them: the kids from the most abusive, deprived backgrounds who somehow manage to make huge successes of themselves. And the kids from the very best of families (as demonstrated by their siblings) who somehow go off the rails into drugs and crime.

The reality is that you, the parent, are only one factor in your children's upbringing. They are also subject to influence from the friends, other relatives, teachers, shop keepers, TV, magazines and, of course, their own genetic makeup. You cannot control all the variables. You might be the very best, the ultimate parent, and yet your kids turn out as failures. You might be the very worst, alcoholic and abusive parent, and yet your kids do fine. Nothing in life is guaranteed.

So you play the percentages. You know that if you beat your kids, they are more likely to turn out bad than good. So, on average, beating your kids is probably not a good idea. Using fair and consistent discipline probably produces better odds for a successful outcome - so do that instead.

By the way, successful parenting isn't determined by how excellent your children end up being. Success for you and them means that you did the very best that you could with what you knew at the time. Some of those decisions were probably wrong when you look back, but that happens. If you didn't try, and took the easy way every time without trying to determine how your decision would affect the children, then I do believe that you failed. That holds true even if your lazy decision ended up being right.

3) Recognize your children are not the only things in your life. In this day and age we seem to be obsessed with the idea that the interests of the children come first, before anything else. I strongly disagree with that concept. Yes, me must consider the best interests of the child, but there are other things to consider too.

For instance, some parents wouldn't consider accepting a new position in a different city if it meant uprooting their family - taking your children away from their school and their friends.

There has to be a balance in our children's lives. By putting them first exclusively you run the danger of teaching your children that their needs and interests matter above anyone else. You are creating a selfish "me first" child. Of course we should consider our families needs when making decisions, but ultimately you have to do what's in the best interest of the entire family.

4) Keep your focus on the long term. Bringing up children can be a long process. Keep in mind your long term goals for your children - how do you want them to turn out as adults? What values, morals and interests do you have in mind? You need to think about what your children need to attain those skills and character traits.

Many times as parents we are faced with the choice of taking an easy, short-term quick fix, or a harder approach that will bear much more fruit in the long term. The TV is such a classic example of this. How easy is it, when the kids are playing up, to just switch on the TV as the electronic babysitter? A quick fix for the immediate hassle or rowdy kids. But how much better, in the long run, to spend a bit of time teaching them how to build a model, or sew a soft toy, or put together a jigsaw?

5) Look for the positives. Like you, your children will make mistakes. Forgive them. Correct them gently and move on. Always be looking for what they did right, not what they did wrong. Children crave their parents' attention. Pay attention to what they do wrong, and they will do more of it. Pay attention to what they do right, and they will be eager to please you more.

6) Be strong and stay focused. If you believe what you are doing is the right thing, you know that you are moving in the right direction. Some times you may make decisions that your children don't respect or try to challenge. Unless there is some new information, stay with your decision. Don't let anyone dissuade you from what you think is the right thing to do. Sometimes that means saying no, which can be a difficult thing for children (or sometimes other relatives) to swallow.

Yes, you may turn out to be wrong. We know that can happen. It's so easy to look back and know what the right thing would have been. Better to stick to your guns than be like a flag waving in the wind. Your children watch what you do in both easy and difficult situations. Even if you make a mistake along the way, the fact that you believe in yourself and try your very best, you can't help but impress them with your good example.
About the Author
For more articles full of parenting advice by author Dr. Noel Swanson, why not check out his parenting advice website?
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