What makes someone a great parent? Is it a matter of knowledge, common sense, or endless patience? Is it a certain style or form of discipline? Does it depend on the right books, the right schools, the right activities? Not necessarily.
After years of observing parents in their natural habitat, I have had some interesting revelations: Great parents come from all walks of life. Whether you are a pro athlete, a single parent struggling to make ends meet, a stay-at-home parent or the CEO of a major corporation, you have the qualities to become a great parent.
What Makes a Great Parent Great?
As I talked to, observed, and interacted with scores of parents throughout my life, I noticed some characteristics that were common to them all, in one way or another:
First, a great parent has an open heart. This seems obvious, doesn’t it? An open heart means that you can accept the fact that your child’s interests, talents, and capabilities lie in areas completely different from your own. It means that your child can feel comfortable telling you s/he doesn’t really want to play tennis, no matter how much tennis means to you.
Second, a great parent a clear set of values. You should have a solid belief system that serves as a framework for your life. Transmit those ethics to your children. For example, the simple phrase “we treat others with respect, because…” can cover a multitude of situations, from taking others’ toys to inappropriate tweeting.
Third, you have a well-thought-out discipline plan. You and your co-parent have a set of boundaries and consequences, and you both feel comfortable with them. If someone else is providing childcare for you, be sure that their discipline style is compatible with yours.
Many parents struggle with this one: Consistency. Consistency applies to routines as well as discipline. Your children need a consistent routine. For younger children, bedtimes and nap times follow a regular schedule; curfews for teenagers are consistent and reasonably enforced. Also, consequences should be predictable (If I leave my bike out in the driveway, I won’t be allowed to ride it tomorrow). Predictable outcomes make your child feel more secure.
Finally, you must have a sense of humor. I was lecturing my teenaged daughters about their misbehavior one evening. While I presided over the dinner table at our favorite taco stand, my eldest teenager was playing with a packet of taco sauce. Just as I made a particularly stern proclamation, the packet of sauce exploded into my face and all over my shirt. It was classic! My girls and I still fall out laughing over that episode. I must have looked ridiculous, and not just because of the sauce!
There’s a popular meme going around that says something like, “no matter how big you are, when a 2-year-old hands you a toy telephone, you answer it.” You have it in you to be a great parent, and all you really need to do now is follow your best instincts.
God Bless You,