I’ve been thinking lately about whether or not I’m a good mom; or more specifically, what makes any of us good parents.

I think most parents have doubts from time to time. You have a particularly bad day ( … week … month …? ) and you fall onto your couch at night wondering what on Earth you were yelling about all day. Or maybe more importantly, why you couldn’t get your child to follow a simple command. Any simple command.

You vent to your spouse or your mom or a friend and they tell you what you need to hear: You’re a good mom. You’re doing your best. This is a hard age. But you’re doing a good job.

Thanks, but … based on what?

Ok, take me for example. A former DINK who planned her pregnancy. I saved up for the maternity leave and for anything my child might need, I researched all the safest baby gear, I toured daycares — and turned my nose up at a few. When Ryan got sick, I skipped work to care for him. When he outgrew clothes, I bought him more. As he continues to grow, whatever he needs, he receives. (As a bonus for him, he gets a lot of “wants,” too.)

When we saw he struggled at a full-time daycare, I chose to freeze-frame my career so he could have a parent at home. I take him to and from preschool, I take him to tumbling classes, I take him on play dates. I fill up the kitchen sink every day so he can splash in it. I am forever vacuuming up rice or shredded paper from whatever random activity I’ve conjured up for him.

In other words, I planned for this child, I wanted this child. It was always my intent to be a good mother. I’m trying to be a good momwant to be a good mom. Furthermore, I have the means to be a good mom. Does that automatically mean I actually am one?

If you really care about your parenting performance, if you think about it every day — yet, you fall short — are you still a good mom? Does wanting it badly enough count as success?

Let’s say you’re at a playground and you see a sweet little girl who takes turns, who politely says hello to her “new friends,” who seems the perfect mix of personable and kind and confident. Do you glance over at her beaming mother and think, “Yep, she’s a REALLY good mom…“?

Now let’s say you see a boy run wildly across the parking lot as his mom yells after him, “Hey, we hold hands in the parking lot!!” You see him run over to a slide and push that sweet little girl out of the way because he couldn’t possibly stand to wait his turn. What do you think about his mother?

If you try your hardest to do everything right, yet your kid is the one who is still getting timeouts every day at school; if you read book after book about only children and spirited children and children with this/that; if you ask for advice and take it and you still feel like you’re barely treading water … are you a good parent?

How much of it is intention? How much is actual results?

I am not writing this for reassurances that I am any good at this. If I look deep inside, I know that overall, yes, I am a good mom. Some days I’m exceptional; some days I totally suck. But in the grand scheme, over time, I believe I average out to good.

Bribed him with a TV show to take this selfie. Not my best parenting moment (but also not my worst).

Bribed him with a TV show to take this selfie. Not my best parenting moment (also not my worst).

But when we look at someone else’s parenting and the behavior of someone else’s child, what do we think? Maybe if we know the parent and know their particular struggles, we appreciate their effort more than the random parent of the random wild child at the playground that makes us cringe.

My kid has been both the sweet, kind kid and the wild, pushy kid. I have beamed in pride at my child’s model behavior and I have cringed while attempting to look semi in control as my child goes nuclear. For a while, we were mostly doing the latter. Lately, we’ve starting having more successes and it’s got me wondering about all this. About how we perceive parenthood and how much of a child’s behavior is normal development, how much is natural temperament and how much of it is mom-and-dad-screwed-up.

Personally, I think I would define a good parent as one who is involved. There are many things we have control over and many more that we do not. But we can’t pretend to have control over a single thing if we’re not paying attention.

By that definition, I’m certainly a good parent (passed my own test, boom!). But it’s such a subjective topic that I suspect everyone has their own definition. I’m interested in what other parents think, but I’m even more curious as to what non-parents think. So, tell me …

What do you think makes a good parent?

12 Responses to What makes a good parent?

  1. Michael Ging says:

    There is no easy answer,as all children are different. You can have 3 children in a family and raise them all the same, one might become a perfect citizen, one may drop out of society, and the third become a criminal.

    I believe that as parents we should provide structure to a child and let them make and correct the mistakes that everyone has to learn. You might think that money, having the child go to the right school, and indulging their every need, may make them a success in life. I think in most cases it does not.

    As a parent, I just tried to model what I thought was a good citizen was,because I think actions speak much louder to a child than “following the rules”. For everything that we do in life there are consequences, some that are painful and others that pleasant. If we learn the lesson at a early lever, say not to steal candy, then the lesson is learned and the consequence will be a mild one. If the child does not learn it at that level, then they might steal a car which has much different level of consequence. Its the same with lying, if the child learns that telling a lie gets them somewhere,they will keep doing it. If they don’t learn that as a child, then the result is that they have no credibility and will not make it very well as a adult. I would not worry too much Meghan, you have the basis down, and your son will too.

    • I’ve thought a lot about that, too – about the importance of the example you set. As a small example, my parents are always, always very kind and appreciative to workers in restaurants/retail. They are understanding of mistakes, good tippers, and always very polite. In turn, I’m the same way. I don’t ever remember them telling me I should be polite to a server or a cashier … but I subconsciously digested the way they treated these strangers over many years so that to me, that’s just how you are expected to act. Excellent food for thought, Mike. Thank you for weighing in!

  2. Heidi says:

    I think, in the simplest terms it is this:good parents worry about being good parents. And I know you didn’t ask for it, but I’ll tell you anyway: you’re a good mom.

  3. Angie says:

    Oh wow, what a tough and loaded question. First off, I must ask: why are you more interested in what non-parents think?

    Secondly, I go through this internal dialog a lot myself. I’m one who sits back and watches. Not to judge others. I try not to place people into categories. But more to figure out where I stand. I see the parents on their phones while their wild child is creating a ruckus at the mall play area, other parents forced to intervene for their children. And I also see the moms gently stepping in with their own wild child is the one creating the ruckus. I don’t necessarily think it’s the parenting. Some kids are just wired a certain way. Sure, some times parenting is definitely responsible.

    Thirdly, I still don’t think I can answer your question. It’s one I’ve been questioning for a while myself. Sometimes I harbor so much guilt at night while thinking over the day’s events. I could have done that differently. I should have said this instead. Maybe if I opted to play a bit more. etc etc. But I do think you are right when you say giving them your time is the key. So maybe I said and did all the wrong things today, but yesterday and the day before that and, surely, tomorrow and the day after that I’ll gift them with my time and attention and it’ll all be good again.

    • I am always curious what non-parents think about these things because I’m aware of how my own opinions of parenting change as I get further along in this journey. Plus, when Ryan is having a meltdown, I know almost every parent of a toddler/preschooler is feeling for me … but I wonder what the other people in the room are thinking.

  4. Jaclyn says:

    I think a good parent is one who teaches their kid what matters in life. A kid who is kind and respectful — even if he or she is wild or goes nuclear — is clearly a well-loved, well-parented kid. That stuff can’t just be picked up. It’s something that says, “Mom and/or Dad spent time discussing these concepts with me, so I understand the importance of ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ I understand that you are the grown up and I’m the kid. I may not always like it, and I may not always act like it, but I know it.”

    I never look at a screaming kid in Target and go “You’re a bad parent” — Lord knows that parent has no control over when those melt downs occur. But when I hear a kid mouth off to Mom or Dad, or completely ignore Mom or Dad when she or he is talking, that usually makes me cringe.

    • Yeah, this is kind of what I was wondering about. Because I used to feel very similarly. In certain instances, I still do. But now I’m often the one with the kid who is yelling back at me or not following my direction. Just last week at his tumbling class, he threw a little tantrum at the very end (cuz, duh, he wanted to keep tumbling). His coach had to pull him off a slide and carry him back over to sit on a bench and I tried to tell him that I knew he was having fun and didn’t want to leave but that we would come back next week and have more fun. He put his hand up in a “STOP” gesture and yelled “GET AWAY FROM ME, MOMMY! GET AWAAAAAY RIGHT NOW!” It was totally embarrassing because we are forever working with Ryan on appropriate/respectful ways of getting your point across. It is a constant dialogue in our home.

      However, I knew pushing the point right then would make things worse because he was visibly very upset, so I sat back down and said I would talk to him when he was ready. Then he walked about 10 feet away, sat down on a mat, crossed his arms over his chest and yelled “I’m frustrated!!” He fumed for 30 seconds then got up and went back to the bench with his classmates and was fine. So in the end, I counted the experience as a win because he used words (not hands!) to get his point across. Afterward, I talked to him about how we need to speak nicely to each other even when we’re frustrated, but that I was proud of him for using his words and taking a moment to calm down.

      Anyway, that was an example with a pretty positive ending. I’ve got a million others with less-than-positive endings. 😉 I feel like it’s a constant effort and we’ve got a long way to go. Then again, I also feel like we’ve come a long way.

      Thanks for weighing in, lady! I always value your perspective.

  5. Tish says:

    I agree with most of what you’ve written, Meg, and also that of the people who have commented above. Living and demonstrating your values (honesty, kindness, loyalty, generosity, etc.) everyday will rub off on children. I will only add that I’ve read that the three rules of parenting are, “Be Kind, be kind, be kind” and this has always stuck with me. You can be strict and consistent, while also being very kind. You can enforce the rules of your home, kindly. For me, being a good parent means doing all the hard stuff, but always being a soft place for my children to land.

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