What Makes a Good Parent

Parenting is not an easy job. While there are many books out there on the subject of parenting, there really is no one book of rules for parents to follow. As a parent myself, I’ve had to learn the hard way what good parenting is all about. I’ve discovered there are three “P’s” involved in good parenting. They are: Patience, Perseverance, and being Positive. Let’s begin with the first one…

Patience

As a parent, it’s important to have patience. Pick up any newspaper or turn on any television news channel and you’ll find countless tragic tales of child abuse, some even going as far as to be fatal. Children test our patience and they sometimes do it on a daily basis.

I remember my very first experience as a parent whose patience was put to the test. My daughter was such a good baby the first couple weeks, but then she went through a period of about a week or two where she cried and cried and cried… She wasn’t hungry, she wasn’t wet… It was totally frustrating because nothing I seemed to do soothed her inconsolable sobbing!

I had lost my mom to a stroke two months prior to the birth of my daughter. I was still suffering bouts of depression trying to cope with the loss of my beloved mother, I was going through a slight case of postpartum depression, as my hormones raged out of control and my body tried to get back to normal, and I was suffering from lack of sleep because let’s face it… getting up every three or four hours to feed a baby can leave one feeling totally depleted. Needless to say, my patience was wearing thin.

Part of me wanted to just pick my daughter up and shake her, to scream at her to shut up! I could feel my blood boiling and my fists clenching as I tried to fight these urges. I never shook my daughter, screamed at her, or hurt her in any way. I just walked away. I took a few minutes to step away from the situation, to take some deep, calming breaths, and then I returned to her and picked her up. Shaking her and screaming at her would have been wrong, and I felt a tremendous sense of guilt for even having experienced such feelings and thoughts.

Before you snap and lose control, you need to step away from the situation. There’s no harm in leaving a baby in her crib to cry while you take a few moments to gather yourself, take some deep breaths and just calm down. It sure beats the alternative of losing control and harming your child.

Take a moment and consider how blessed you are to have your child and how much you love him or her. Realize that a baby isn’t crying just to provoke you, but rather their cries are their only form of communication with you right now. Is she wet? Is she hungry? Maybe she wants to be held and comforted? Maybe she has a tummy ache? Maybe she needs to be burped? It’s one big guessing game for you, but that baby has no other way to tell you what’s wrong. Once you realize this it will certainly help you maintain your calm.

Perseverance

Babies grow into toddlers and toddlers enter the “terrible twos”. Suddenly your baby learns to communicate through language but …It doesn’t make things any easier! You ask your child to do something and get told, ‘No.” Your child starts asking for things in the store. Your child starts repeating things you say so you have to watch your words, especially when your patience is being tested!

Welcome to the wonderful world of discipline. Finding a method that is going to work for you and your child can be like finding a needle in a haystack. There are a vast array of parenting books out there, each with it’s own insightful ideas of how a child should be disciplined. But each child is different and the method that worked for your friend’s child might not work for yours. This is where perseverance comes in. Your child will reach that wonderful age where he/she is trying to gain independence and he/she is going to test you. That once sweet little bundle of joy is going to push every button you have. They are going to try to manipulate you. Test their boundaries. See how much they can get away with. Try to discover your breaking point. No matter what ploy your devious little pumpkin comes up with, it’s up to you to persevere. For example, no means no regardless of how much of a tantrum the child might throw.

No one likes to be out in public and have their child throwing a fit, causing stares and disapproving looks from fellow shoppers, but hey…that’s all part of being a parent. If you give in to quiet the child down then that child is going to associate that behavior with the reward of getting what they want and what you’re doing is reinforcing that behavior. So stuff those ear plugs in your ears and put on your blinders so you won’t see the other shoppers looking in your direction, and continue about your business. Or if you’re that self-conscious, you can escort your little screamer out to the car to ride out the tantrum.

Perseverance is easier said than done. It’s going to feel like you have one nerve left and that child is getting on it and all you want is for the screaming to stop! .After all, what harm is there in giving in just for the sake of peace and quiet? The harm is….you’ll have to deal with it all the time if you don’t persevere! Sometimes you just have to “ride the storm out”.

I remember one time I took my daughter to the playground to play. It was a comfortable early spring afternoon and we were only wearing light sweatshirts. Well, after a couple of hours, as the sun started to sink on the horizon, the temperature started to drop too. My daughter was having so much fun, running around and sliding down the various slides and swinging on the swings, but I was started to get cold. “Ok Sweetie, it’s time to go,” I said. What was the response from my child? “No.” And off she went, continuing to play. I braced myself for I knew I was going to have a war of wills on my hands.

“Mommy’s leaving, let’s go.”

“Bye!” was her response, and off she went.

I tried to reason with her, saying if she left now we could come back tomorrow…I even resorted to bribery, offering up her favorite treat. I was desperate to leave without causing a scene but that wasn’t to be my fate that dreadful day. I hung around for half an hour more, as the sun started to set, waiting for as many people to vacate the playground as possible. The less of an audience I had, the better. Finally, I had to put my foot down. “Ok, it’s time to go. Let’s go.”

“No.”

“Mommy is going to leave without you,” I’d say, and start to walk off.

“Bye Mommy!” and without so much as a backwards glance she was off, once again climbing up the ladder to the slide. I gritted my teeth and firmly grabbed her hand and tried to lead her to the car.

“It’s time to go,” I scolded. And then it happened…

She tried to yank free, twisting, turning, fighting me every step of the way and then the screaming burst forth.

“No! NOOOOO! NOOOOOOOOOO!”

I avoided looking at the remaining parents and children, setting my sights on my car…my destination, my escape. I scooped my daughter up into my arms, kicking and screaming bloody murder, and carried her to the car. She put up a fight and would not even get into her car seat. I finally just shut and locked the door, hopped in the driver’s side and drove over to the farthest parking lot where I waited for her to calm down enough so I could buckle her into her seat properly and drive home without the distraction of a screaming, kicking monster in my backseat.

I was angry. I probably said things that I shouldn’t have said. I’m sure I told her what a bad girl she was and how we may never come back here if she was going to behave in that way. When you’re seeing red, words that slip out of your lips are like steam escaping a tea kettle. That probably wasn’t the first embarrassing moment I’ve dealt with but I knew it wasn’t going to be my last. Oh, the joys of parenthood!

Being Positive

And last but by no means least….the third P for successful parenting is being Positive. Don’t focus on the negative behavior all the time. Give credit where credit is due. Reward good behavior and you’ll see more of it. Children seek attention and if all they get is attention for being bad then they are going to misbehave on a regular basis. Feed your child words of encouragement and love and you’ll nourish his/her soul.

A lot of times we don’t realize all the negativity we spew at our children on a regular basis. Words can be as harmful to a child as physical blows, sometimes even more so. A child’s mind is developing and absorbing everything like a sponge. Their personalities and self-esteems are developing, and as parents we play a very major role in how our children see themselves as well as the world around them. If you were to carry a little digital recorder with you all day and record everything you said to your child for the course of one day, you might be surprised at the depth of negativity you express. How many times, in any given day, do we tell our child they are bad,? Stop that! No! Don’t do that. Why can’t you behave?, What’s wrong with you? Shut up! Be quiet. Leave me alone, I’m busy. Go play. Why don’t you ever listen? Why don’t you ever do as you’re told?, Don’t touch that! Be good, etc…. How often do we tell them how good they are, how proud we are of them, how much we love them, how smart they are, or yes? When children are being good, they don’t get our attention, and that’s what we should be focusing on….reinforcing the behaviors we want them to exhibit. It’s only when they are misbehaving or doing things we disapprove of that we pay any attention to them. So if they want our attention, they know how to get it….simply by doing things we don’t like and acting in ways we discommend. Try feeding your child a regular diet of positivism and see what happens!

Being a parent is truly one of the most rewarding jobs in the world, but also one of the hardest! It’s a mountain of responsibility looming in front of you each and every day. You’re only human so you’re going to mess up. We all make mistakes but the important thing is to learn from those mistakes. Love your child unconditionally and always practice the three P’s of parenting; Patience, Perseverance, and being Positive.