I would never claim to be a great parent. I think most parents have their lingering little doubts about how good they are at raising their children and if the things they are doing will serve their children in the long run. Though I can not claim to be a great parent, I do believe I am serviceable one. I am like a beat up old car you can use to get from point A to point B but never want to be seen driving around in; I can parent when the need arises, though I think my son would usually prefer that I keep quiet and out of sight in the garage until I am needed in those desperate times that he needs me to open a jar or buy him gum.
And though I may not be great, I understand that parenting a child is never an easy ride. There are bumps and bruises and detours and complete derailments and hair pulling moments of utter exhaustion. It can be a thankless, heart wrenching job and it is sometimes difficult to see the fruits of our labors reflected in our children because we are in the trenches – doing the hard work of saying no or cleaning wounds or managing their little lives – and we can not see all the things that they do that validate our influence as parents.
But if you take the time to step back and watch your children, really watch them when they don’t know that you are, I think there exists some tell-tale signs that you are doing this parenting thing right and recognizing these signs can help you relax into enjoying the moments you have with your children more, because you are confident they are going to grow up to be ok.
So what are some of the signs of a child who has a parent that is doing something right?
They share without being told.
If your child usually shares his toys, his sweets, his stories or his smiles with others, then you are doing something right. Everyone seems to evolve a natural affinity towards serious possessiveness and borderline greed and teaching your children the value of sharing sets them up for a lifetime of empathic and compassionate thinking. Considering the needs of others, the strength of his own having and his ability to make other people feel good by sharing, even just a little of the things he has, are qualities that every child should have. Sharing is caring, after all!
They shake off some of the pain of life.
Whether it be physically or mentally, children are going to go through some pain in life and the ability to shrug some of that off and keep going is going to create a lifetime of powerful resilience that will see them through the eventual darkest days we don’t want to imagine for them. I am not suggesting you shouldn’t be there to pick your child up, brush them off, comfort them and kiss some boo boo’s when they happen. I am saying you should teach your children that not all pain is created equally and some pain should be used as motivation. You embrace it, shake it off and let it make you stronger. Teach them that valuable lesson and your children will thank you profusely when they get beat up later in life and have the strength to power through, despite the frequent pains of living.
They teach you things you didn’t know.
Raising an inquisitive child can be annoying sometimes. Why? Why? Why? But why? It’s hard to support all that curiosity when you are knee-deep in a shitstorm of groceries, bills, work, school, whatever, but if we do it right, we can raise a child who is self-sufficiently curious most of the time and if you do that, those damn kids will blow your mind with fun, sometimes trivial, but often times amazingly useful, facts they discovered on their own. I love it when my son throws some nugget out there and I actually have to turn it all around on him and say, why or make him defend his position or fact. He doesn’t have the luxury of pulling out the, “because I said so” card so his argument has to work in some critical thinking and fact based reasoning and the world always needs more of that in everyone.
They are not afraid to get crazy.
One of the best ways you know if you are kicking ass at parenting is if your child is out there kicking ass at life. Children shouldn’t be afraid to try new things or do fun, random things without fear. And they do this because you, as a parent, have given them confidence, support and a free pass to sometimes get spontaneous and wild with life. They aren’t afraid to face plant off the monkey bars because they know you will be there to help them up. They aren’t afraid to throw down on an impromptu foam sword fight in the pouring rain because they know that there are few things as fun as playing in the rain and getting wet for no reason.They are not afraid to sneak up on you and drop you to your knees with a burst of unexpected tickling that gives you the hiccups because you laugh so hard. If you see spontaneity and a little bit of crazy in your children, you are doing something right with raising them, because those are the fearless dreamers that will change the world.
If you see spontaneity and a little bit of crazy in your children, you are doing something right with raising them, because those are the fearless dreamers that will change the world.
They aren’t afraid to challenge you.
This one might be contentious to some parents, but it’s a trait that I value in my son, if only because I think a little rebellion is healthy and leads to a unique, strong personality. I honestly don’t want my son to just accept everything I, or anyone else, says. I want him to find his own ways of doing things and his own way of thinking about things because, just like there is evolutionary strength in distributing our DNA, there is an intellectual strength that can be gained from distributing your own ideas and thoughts about things. What we should try to do as parents is create children that aren’t happy running with the status quo and would never willingly let some terrible errors in thinking or action go unchallenged, no matter where or who it comes from.
They don’t hurt things for fun.
I am not talking about hunting or fishing or whatever. Those things have a deeper value for most people outside of a simple fun activity. I am talking about squashing bugs, just because you can. Pulling the wings off butterflies. Pegging helpless birds with a bb gun. Letting your children derive pleasure from the act of harming things, especially things smaller than them, is not acceptable. We should teach our children that nearly everything has a wish to not feel pain. It’s not a strictly human thing to not want to be hurt or destroyed. We especially need to protect the things smaller than us. If we do this right, our children will grow up with an empathy towards all living things that will see them caring more than harming, and I dare you to pick up a newspaper or turn on a newscast and not think to yourself that this world would be better if more people just cared more about all living things.
They know what it means to break a sweat.
If your children know what it feels like to be exhausted at the end of the day. If their muscles ache from play and their faces are slick with sweat. If they can run around outside for hours at a time without ever claiming to be bored, then you are kicking some serious parental ass. The lost art of serious play is something that children need to be re-taught, especially in this world of sedentary technological stimulation. Getting out there into teams sports teaches the value of sportsmanship and team play. Running around outside with some friends, inventing games, fosters a deeper imagination and creativity. Just getting those kids off their asses and running around with them is a great way to show the value of physical activity as a bonding experience and well-being creator. No matter what you do or how you do it, raising kids that value physical activity is always going to make them better in nearly every way.
So there you have it. 7 ways you know you are doing the parenting thing right. I am not saying that if your child doesn’t display these traits that you are doing anything wrong and I know not everyone is going to agree with them. I also realize I did not cover all the ways we can know that we are parenting properly. These are just the observations and experiences of a beat up jalopy of a parent so help me out and add your ways to know you are parenting correctly to the comments below!