Much has been said about what it takes to be a good or effective parent. But despite our best intentions, some of the things we do can actually harm our kids.
In other words, although most of the things you do often come from a place of love, they can actually have a negative impact on your child’s development.
This article will look at:
- What qualities makes a good parent
- The traps of good parenting
- “Good parenting” tips
- 28 things that you need to do less of or to completely stop doing to become a better and more effective parent
What are the qualities of “good parenting”?
Donald Winnicott is known for, among other things, developing the concept of the “good-enough parent”.
He felt that the pressure on parents led them to perceive “perfection” as a component of good parenting, meaning that they often felt frustrated and ineffective when they were unable to respond to parenting challenges.
Winnicott spoke of the need for “more realistic parenting”, meaning the need to allow children to experience real-life experiences such as frustration without always trying to shield them.
Feeling of ineffectiveness are common in parenting. They are so common that they have led to the development of the concept of “parenting efficacy”.
Parenting efficacy refers to the extent to which you believe yourself capable of effectively managing the challenges your child encounters. Several studies suggest that this has an impact on how your child manages life’s transitions.
It involves issues such as how far you are willing to go to solve challenges, your stress levels, how you promote your kids’ self-efficacy, and the overall satisfaction you derive from parenting.
Some of the characteristics associated with high self-efficacy involve perseverance, motivation, low self-doubt, and low parental anxiety
There is no easy response to the question “what does being a good parent mean?” Different people have different values, different cultures and traditions, and different expectations of their children. All these affect their perception of what good parenting means.
According to Winnicott, all children need is a “good-enough parent” who is able to adapt to their needs and who knows when to let go as they grow older in order to let them learn about the realities of life.
The traps of good parenting
As parents, it is normal to ask oneself what good parenting means and whether or not we would be described as good parents. But “good parenting” is just a label and like all labels, it can easily lead to frustration.
One of the challenges of parenting today is that many parents strive to reach unattainable perfection for personal or even social or cultural reasons.
This could look like doing too much for your kids, expecting your kids to be perfect, expecting to be the perfect mother, the perfect wife and the perfect homemaker, doing certain things because of your fear of being judged, and so on.
But here’s the thing: although most of the acts you do to be the “best parent possible” are done out of love, some of them actually end up harming you and harming your kids.
To be an effective parent, here are 28 things that you need to do less of or completely stop doing.
Becoming a good parent: 28 things you need to do less or to stop completely
1) Stop shielding your child from frustration
Good parents do not shield their children from frustration, they teach them how to deal with that frustration because they will meet frustration over and over again in their daily lives.
As the researcher Martin Seligman says, being able to overcome frustration is what builds your child’s feeling of self-worth.
2) Stop over-indulging your child
Children who have over-protective and over-indulgent parents find it harder to regulate their emotions. They are more likely to become dependent adults and to struggle with leadership roles, feelings of helplessness and with poor problem-solving skills.
Take this quiz to find out whether you are an overindulgent parent.
3) Too much of anything is bad for your child
Doing too much for your child or giving them too much teaches them to be dependent on people or on things. Stop giving your kid too many toys, too many books, too many clothes or enrolling them in too many activities.
4) Putting yourself last does not make you a “good parent”
When was the last time you did something for yourself? Parenting is not supposed to be “all-consuming”. You will not parent the same when you are stressed, irritable and worked up, as you would if you were calm and relaxed.
Before you can fully care for others, take care of yourself first. Put yourself on your priority list.
5) Stop “smothering your child with love”
You do not always have to be present in everything your child does. You do not have to participate in all their activities. You do not have to be constantly calling your child to find out what they are doing.
Smothering has nothing to do with love. It has everything to do with control and lack of trust.
6) Stop expecting too little of your child
Children benefit when they are given responsibilities and held accountable for accomplishing them. It is by overcoming challenges that your child’s confidence develops. Stop expecting less than they are capable of.
Assigning age-appropriate chores is an easy way to get started.
7) Stop comparing yourself to other parents
The grass always looks greener on the other side, that doesn’t mean that it is. Comparing yourself to other parents will only lead you to doubt your capacities.
Focus on your values and parent with those values in mind.
8) Stop fighting losing battles if you want to be a good parent
It takes two to get into a power struggle. Your child will challenge your authority: that’s how they learn about things such as limits, consequences, choices, autonomy, and so on.
Good parenting is about knowing where your priorities lie and understanding what matters and what doesn’t – your negotiables and your non-negotiables.
Don’t turn everything into a big deal. Pick your battles.
9) Stop using harsh discipline practices
Harsh discipline practices work, but not in the way you expect them to. They teach your child fear, transform them into liars to avoid being punished, and can cause them to become bullies or to view being bullied as “normal”.
These practices can also damage your parent-child bond.
Instead of using punitive discipline strategies, learn more about positive and effective discipline strategies that will help transform your child’s behavior without ruining your relationship.
10) Stop hiding behind the “myth of no time”
Everyone has 24 hours in their day. How they use them comes down to priorities: who are you spending your time on? What are you spending your time on? Who should you be spending your time on?
There is enough proof that spending time with your kids reduces bad behavior, makes them want to “do good” and strengthens your parent-child relationship. That said, quality trumps quantity.
Scheduling 15 minutes to hang out with your kids every day will do wonders for them and for you. Here is a free 30-day challenge with 15 to 20-minute activities to get you started.
11) Stop overlooking bad behavior
Overlooking bad behavior is actually a proven effective discipline strategy, but not when inappropriate bad behavior is unconsciously ignored. Here are five behavior problems that you should never overlook.
12) Stop avoiding setting limits
Setting limits is not about control. It is about providing a framework to guide your child’s behavior. Limits tell your child “how far they can go”. But not everything requires limits.
The limits that work best are those that are meaningful and take into account the fact that your child is an individual who has a right to make some decisions that concern them. This article has tips on setting appropriate limits.
Setting limits also means having appropriate consequences in place and making your child accountable for their behavior.
13) Stop focusing on bad behavior
Focusing on bad behavior makes it worse. But that does not mean that you should overlook that behavior.
What you need is to develop a positive discipline strategy that helps your child replace negative behavior traits with positive ones.
The Positive Behavior Kit has all the resources you need to help you change your child’s negative behavior.
14) Stop being inconsistent
If behavior for which there are consequences today is ignored tomorrow, you send your child mixed signals. Be clear on your non-negotiable behavioral expectations and consistently apply the consequences.
15) Stop yelling or reduce how frequently you yell
Yelling is good for no one, and it rarely works. If you are a parent who yells often, you have probably already noticed that to get your child to do the exact same thing, you have to keep yelling.
Yelling does not get your child to listen more, it actually does the opposite – it aggravates their behavior.
The good news is that it is possible to yell less by changing how you communicate with your child. Here are easy tips to help you get started.
16) Stop shielding your child from difficult emotion-provoking situations
If you have an anxious child, you are likely to avoid situations that provoke their anxiety. Or to avoid anything at home that will make your child anxious. This is referred to as family accommodation and it can actually make your child’s anxiety worse.
Instead of shielding your child from their anxiety, give them the tools they need to deal more effectively with emotion-provoking situations.
17) Stop punishing and start disciplining your child
Punishment has nothing to do with discipline. Punishment is about control, discipline is about teaching something. It is about making your child understand the relationship between limits, choices and consequences.
The next time your child breaks the rules or does something unexpected, ask yourself what your reaction is supposed to teach them.
18) Stop labeling your child
Labels can become self-fulfilling prophecies. A child who is always referred to as “aggressive” learns that aggression is an integral part of their nature.
Focus on your child’s behavior (“it wasn’t nice to grab Mike’s toy”) rather than on labeling them (“you were mean when you grabbed Mike’s toy).
Name-calling reduces your child’s sense of self-worth and these feelings can follow them into adolescence and even adulthood.
19) Stop treating all your children the same
Fairness and equity are not the same thing. You cannot treat all your children the same because they are not the same person. Being fair means parenting with your child’s personality in mind.
Also, your child’s personality influences their behavior and helps you determine the best parenting approach to adopt. Below is a free guide with the 16 different personalities, along with their strengths and weaknesses.
20) Stop setting inappropriate consequences
There is no good reason to “ground your child for three months” – there just isn’t. The most effective consequences are those that are meaningful and help teach important lessons. To make them even more meaningful, discuss them with your child.
Let them help determine the consequences when possible: “You said you would take the rubbish out every week. What do we do if your chore isn’t done? What privileges will you lose? For how long?”
21) Stop overfilling your schedule
Being a good parent does not mean that every second of your day must be filled with activities. If you’re always rushing somewhere and if your family hardly ever has any quiet moments, that might be a sign that you are taking on too much.
Make a conscious effort to slow down.
22) Stop making all the decisions for your child
Allowing your child to participate in the decisions that concern them increases the chances that those decisions will be respected. As your child grows older, including them in the decision-making process help them practice making good decisions.
Remember to provide a framework for younger children: “Do you want the red skirt or the yellow one”? “Will you take your shower now or immediately after your snack”?
23) Stop focusing on the past if you want to be a good parent
While it is normal to focus on the past, focusing on the future is a more effective parenting strategy. This means that rather than focusing on past mistakes or failures, you need to help your child focus on the future: “What will you do next time”?
This is a highly effective strategy that Carol Dweck refers to as growth-mindset parenting.
24) Stop invalidating your child’s emotions
You will not always understand your child’s emotional reactions – that does not make them less valid. Good parents teach their children that their emotions matter and that everyone has similar emotions. This helps them strengthen their emotional intelligence skills.
25) Good parents do not overlook important lessons
Children are not born “just knowing” certain things. They learn about things such as gratitude, empathy, acceptance of others, and so on from what they learn.
They also need to be taught about other important issues such as bullying, sexual abuse or sex.
Failing to talk about important issues means that they may learn about them elsewhere, and not necessarily from the best sources.
26) Stop undervaluing your child’s contribution
Asking for your child’s opinion helps them practice their decision-making skills: What do you think? What would you do? What would you change?
27) Stop trying to be perfect
Good parenting has nothing to do with perfection. The perfect parent is a myth. Trying to be perfect will only add to your misery. Focus on your priorities. Stop being so hard on yourself.
28) Stop shaming your child
There was a time in the past that parents thought that shaming kids was an effective behavior-control strategy. It is not. But some parents continue to do it.
Shaming children only increases their anxiety. It also leads to the development of other emotions associated with their shame, and your child could need years of help to get over these feelings.
Final thoughts on the qualities of a good parent
The definition of “good parenting” is different depending on different parents and different children. An outspoken extrovert will not necessarily thrive under the same conditions as a quiet thinker.
What this means is that good parenting is about respecting your child’s personality and showing them that they are loved just the way they are.
Good parenting is also about changing your parenting style as your child grow older. Babies need to be nurtured and they need to feel secure; older children need to be allowed to learn through their mistakes and to overcome challenges.
Being a good parent is often mistaken for being a perfect parent. As Leo Tolstoy once said, “If you look for perfection, you’ll never be content”. So, what do you need to do to be a good parent? Do what feels right, trust your gut and live by your values.
References and further reading