What Does It Mean to Be a Better Parent? Perhaps nothing else tests our resources like being a mother or father. The highs and lows of parenthood are so extreme, and the demands it places on each of us are so great that it’s little wonder very few parents would call themselves perfect at what’s been called, with good reason, the hardest job in the world. Wanting to be a “better” parent often means some combination of wanting to find more time with our kids (especially quality time, not just rushing-from-one-thing-to-the-next time), more patience, more joy, and less guilt, fewer arguments (between us and our kids, as well as with each other as a couple), and less exhaustion. This 101 offers tips, tools, resources, and hard-won advice to help you reach your intention.
How Can I Achieve My Intent?
“In all of my research on partnering and parenting I come back to the same conclusion again and again: The best gift you can give your child is a healthy marriage on which they can model all of their own present and future relationships. Because although it’s incredibly tempting to be child-centered in our culture, being centered on your spouse or partner first will do more for your children than all of the other things you give them combined. Doing so can be hard because our kids scream for our attention but our marriages often don’t; as such, slowly and quietly, many of us push our marriages aside. Instead, we all need to be intentional and mindful about making sure we’re not caring for the ‘the whole package’ (our kids) at the expense of the ‘original two-pack’ (our marriage) by developing loving little rituals, moments of levity and lightness, kinder greetings and ways of connecting without even leaving the house. If you are nurturing your marriage or partnership, and modeling for your kids – moment by moment – a healthy, loving relationship with your spouse, your kids will actually be much happier, healthier, smarter and well-behaved. It’s a win-win-win-win-win.” — Carol Bruess, Ph.D. associate professor at the University of St. Thomas, and author of What Happy Parents Do: Ninety-Three Cents and a Little Humpty Dumpty–The Loving Little Rituals of a Child-Proof Marriage
Give Up on Having Perfect Children
“Even if you manage, somehow, to be ‘perfect parents,’ you may be sorely disappointed to find out that being a perfect parent does not guarantee ‘perfect children.’ So let go of the idea of perfection. How to be a better parent? Remember that we’re not just raising children, we’re raising adults. The idea is to eventually end up with the good kind of adult, the kind with whom we’d like to share a conversation and a meal, and take to the movies. Do them a favor and give them the tools to learn how to be independent and self-reliant. Don’t do everything for them. Don’t avoid saying the word ‘no’ because you think it might upset them. Help them to understand that every family is a team, and you’re all there to support each other. Make your children a part of your life, not the center of it.” — Christie Mellor, author of The Three-Martini Playdate: A Practical Guide to Happy Parenting and Were You Raised by Wolves? Clues to the Mysteries of Adulthood
Have a Date Night
“The single most important tip for becoming a better parent: Schedule a date night on your calendar once a week. Whether you are able to set aside this time (an hour or more) for yourself or with your partner, it’s so very important to get out of the house – without your kids – from Day One. Many parents, especially those who work outside the home, have such little time that they feel it necessary to spend every second they can with their children. While this may seem like a positive thing (spending quality time with our children and strengthening that bond is vital to their emotional health), it’s even more important that we nurture ourselves as individuals, and strengthen our relationships with the adults in our lives. Seeing Mom and/or Dad taking the time for themselves is empowering to our children who are just learning what it means to be independent. I promise you that the parents who set aside an hour or more every week – away from their children – report a less stressful home environment, a more peaceful relationship with their spouse or partner and communicate in a healthier manner than those who do not. (Children who are able to respond also report the same!)” – Sondra Santos LaBrie, certified parent educator and creator of the Happy Healthy Hip Parenting blog.
Find a Passion
“Find something in life, beyond your children, that you are passionate about. Whether it is your work, art, social activism or gardening, you should find your passion and make time to pursue it. You will be a better parent as a result because you will live a more full life and you will be happier, creating a positive role model for your children.” — Lori K. Long, Ph.D., author of The Parent’s Guide to Family Friendly Work
Surrender to Accept
“Perhaps the most effective (and difficult) thing you can do as a parent is simply to surrender to accept things exactly as they are with your children. By not trying to control everything, you actually allow things to fall into place. When faced with a problem, let the love you have for your child swell strongly in your heart before you act. Observe the situation without blame or judgment. Remain steadfast with yourself. From this perspective, whatever you do will be the right thing to do.” — Peggy O’Mara, editor and publisher, Mothering magazine
“Help your family thrive by getting curious and compassionate every day. Curiosity is a powerful cornerstone of empathy, which in turn is the foundation for trusting, loving relationships and parenting in line with your values. When your children act in ways you don’t like, get curious instead of reacting from habit. Open your heart and reach for connection and understanding, building trust that everyone in the family matters and is loved no matter what. I also invite you to treat yourself to that same curiosity and compassion that you want for your children, modeling for them the relationship you want them to have with themselves.” – Inbal Kashtan, author of Parenting From Your Heart: Sharing the Gifts of Compassion, Connection, and Choice
Where Do I Start?
My personal journey of self-development began when I discovered I was pregnant with my first daughter. I was overwhelmed with excitement about this new soul inside of me, but also nervous and apprehensive about the responsibility of being a mom. I began asking myself questions such as, “Who am I?”, “Where have I come?” and “How do I want to serve as a mother?”. I realized that being a good mother meant knowing myself, and finding a personal sense of purpose and balance in that role. By being conscious of my choices and intentions as a mother, and listening to my daughters (their questions!) and being present with them, the journey of parenthood has been the most rewarding one of my life. – Mallika Chopra, founder of Intent.com and author of 100 Promises to My Baby and 100 Questions from My Child