Ever have those days where it feels like you’re failing miserably as a parent? Days when you’re wondering, “Am I doing this parenting thing right?”
Well, the good news is, the very fact that you’re asking this question is already a sign that you are.
As both a parent and a teacher, I know exactly how raising children can be such a wild ride. But I’m here to assure you that if you see these 11 signs in yourself, you’re a great parent. Even when it feels like you’re fumbling in the dark.
Let’s dive in!
1) You let your child fail
Do you know the term “helicopter parents?” It’s what we call parents who are overly involved in their child’s lives and have to control every little thing. To the point of not letting them fail.
If their kid is finding it hard to do a project, they’ll step in and be too hands-on (aka do the project themselves).
If their child got a low grade, they’ll zoom right to the school and argue with the teacher.
Sigh. As a teacher, I’ve got to say, helicopter parents really test our patience.
But even worse than that, they’re the ones who get in their child’s way, and they don’t even know it!
Look, it might feel counterintuitive to let your child fail. It goes against every instinct we have to protect them from disappointment.
But it’s absolutely necessary. Allowing them to fail and see the consequences of their actions is the best way to train them to be:
- Unafraid to make mistakes
Trust me, if you’re the type of parent who can step back when you have to, you’re already a great one, even when you don’t feel like you are!
2) You encourage your child to pursue their interests
Just as important as letting your child make mistakes is allowing them to explore their passions.
I know parents who had their kids’ whole lives mapped out, only to discover that their children had no interest in going that route.
I can imagine their frustration, but then it’s also kind of unreasonable to expect kids to like everything they’re told to do.
And if I may be honest, disrespectful, too. Because every child is unique, and we all need to respect their autonomy.
So, if your child is interested in the stars and planets, buy them a telescope. If they’re into sports, get them into an after-school sports club.
Nurturing their passions is one of the best ways to make them feel loved and respected, no matter how young they are.
3) Your child has their own identity
When you support your child in their interests, a wonderful thing happens. They develop their own identity that’s completely separate from yours.
That’s truly a sign that you’re a great parent, you know. Because it shows you understand that your child isn’t a mini-you. That they have their own thoughts and feelings.
I’ll give you an example. I once had a student who was into soccer at the start of the school year. Now, his dad was a soccer player back in his day, so he was all out in support of this.
But after a few months, the boy decided he wanted to join the school choir instead. I could see the parents’ disappointment, especially the dad’s.
Not only because they’d already bought the cleats and the uniforms, but because they’d really been looking forward to watching him at the games.
Surprisingly, they chose to respect his wishes. At the end of the school year, when the choir sang in the auditorium for the year-end program, I could see both parents clapping wildly in the audience for their son.
That was such an amazing display of respect for their son’s individuality!
4) You create boundaries for your child
So, we’ve talked about how important it is to allow your child to grow into their own person. However, as parents, it’s also our duty to create boundaries for them.
Many parents struggle with this. Some choose to let their child do anything and give them everything, under the misguided notion that this will make them happy.
Studies show that children need a sense of security and stability, and that’s what boundaries do. They need to know there are limits to everything, and that’s for their own safety.
Similarly, they need to know what you expect of them. It’s always wise to tell them of your expectations, such as:
- Kindness and respect for other people
- Responsibility in school and at home
- Responsibility for their personal belongings
- Good grades
If you can do that, good job! You’re doing what it takes to raise decent human beings!
5) Your kids have gotten mad at you
Ah, here’s something you can expect to happen once you set those boundaries. And while it may not feel good, it’s actually a sign you’re doing your job.
Look, kids won’t like it when you lay down the law. Of course they’re going to get mad if you ground them. Or if you don’t want to buy them that super expensive yet unnecessary gadget.
But hey, it is what it is – rules are rules, and as cliché as this will sound to your child…it’s for their own good.
Plus, you know what else those pouts and tantrums mean? It means your child feels safe enough with you to express their feelings. Which brings me to my next point…
6) Your child can talk to you
As we all know, open communication is essential in any relationship, and it’s no different with your child. So, even if you might not feel like you’re the best parent you can be, as long as you keep an open line, you’re doing great.
Can your kids count on you to listen, whether it’s about their day at school, a new friendship, or a problem they’re facing? Do they run to you when they feel upset or hurt?
As a teacher, I strive to create a safe, open communication environment in my classroom, and I do the same at home. My kids know they can come to me with anything, no matter how big or small, silly or serious.
And when they feel bad or hurt, it’s me or my husband they run to.
I like to think of it as an investment. I know that by staying open, they will continue to see us as their safe space no matter how old they are. We’ll eventually be their friends someday, when they’ve become adults!
7) You apologize for your mistakes
This is part of being open and communicative. I know it probably sounds crazy to be the one to apologize to your kids, when you’re their authoritative figure.
But why not? We do mess up, too, don’t we?
I think that apologizing when we make mistakes teaches our kids humility and respect. We’re modeling how to take responsibility for our actions.
So, the next time you yell at them or ground them for something that it turns out wasn’t their fault, don’t be afraid to say sorry.
I know it’s not easy, but you’ll be a better parent for it.
8) You learn from your child
How does that make you a great parent, you ask?
Well, because the fact that you’re learning from your child points to two things: 1) you’re interested in their mind, and 2) you are humble.
Both of which are signs you’re doing parenting right! You know that while you have plenty to teach your child, they also have a lot to teach you.
9) You can make the changes that you need to
Here’s another sign you’re nailing this parenting thing – you’re willing to change.
I’m not talking just about when you mess up. I’m talking about your whole parenting approach.
As I said earlier, each child is unique. Sometimes, a strategy that works for one child may not work with another.
That’s something I learned early on in my classroom. I learned how to be flexible and to pivot from an approach if necessary.
And you know what? I was so grateful for this training because later on, when I had my two children who were so opposite in temperament, that knowledge came in really handy.
So, if you’re being flexible in your parenting instead of sticking to a rigid set of rules, give yourself a pat on the back!
10) You question your parenting skills
I know I’ve said this in the intro, but I think it bears repeating. The mere fact that you’re feeling inadequate is, ironically, a sign that you’re more than enough.
It means you’re taking the time to reflect. And in every area in life, self-reflection is a powerful tool. By questioning yourself, you open up the possibility for growth and improvement.
So, no matter how many tough days you get (and there will be a lot!), as long as you’re thinking about how you can do better, you’re being the best parent you can be.
11) You are present
And finally, the last sign that you’re a great parent – you give your child time. Quality time. Time where you’re fully present and all eyes and ears.
There’s a lovely Humans of New York post that captures the importance of time in parenting so well. It’s about a dad who talks about how rich his relationships with his kids are, simply because he was always present in their lives.
For me, this is really the best gift you can give a child. Because you’re making precious memories.
And when they become adults and realize that time is a non-renewable resource, they’ll appreciate even more just how much you gave of it. There’s so much intentionality behind it.
So sure, you might have your off days when everything they do seems to grate on your nerves. Or you might feel like you’re shortchanging them because you haven’t been able to buy them the stuff they’d like to have.
But as long as you consistently show up, believe me, you’re being a wonderful parent. And your children are lucky to have you.