Be the mother or father today that you want your children to be tomorrow (Dr. Tom)

One of the common problems I see in my family practice is when parents try to determine what makes them a good parent. Questions such as “am I doing the right thing,” “is it my fault,” and “what can I do better” are a commonplace questions in the family therapists office. Let’s face it, we don’t want to screw up, especially when it comes to our children’s lives being at stake. We want what is best for them. Furthermore, although a bit dark I guess, we want to avoid scenarios that would put us or them on the 5 o’clock news, at least in the negative light. So what is it that makes us a good or bad parent? Let us explore.

First, let me be clear, there is no true definition about what makes a person a good or a bad parent. Good versus bad parenting is a matter of subjectivity, is based in the eye of the beholder, and is highly influenced by personal, social, and familial value systems.  These systems are social in nature and relative to the time period we live. What I view makes me a good parent may in many circumstances not be good enough for how you view your own parenting journey. Secondarily, what I view as bad parenting behaviors may be seen as perfectly correct ways to raise a child in your household. As a psychotherapist, it is not my job to judge a parent’s behaviors. It is my job to help a parent define what they see as right and/or wrong behaviors when it comes to the highly personal journey of raising the next generation. With that caveat in mind, we will look at one core parenting proficiency that can help you and your child navigate the tumultuous journey of growing up.

Time: The number one thing you can give your child is time. Your child learns through your actions, not your words. As I alluded to above, there is no such thing as a good or bad parent. Yes, we can have good and bad days; but in a literal sense, it is the time that we spend with our children that counts. By spending time, you allow for conversation to take place; this in turn allows you to pass on your values, get to know your child on a deeper level, and steer them towards the direction of your mutual dreams. Without your time, your child is left on their own to determine their values, hobbies, and the people they will associate with; and you would be sadly mistaken if you don’t think they will soon begin to emulate the peer group they choose. Yes, they will individuate from you regardless of what influence you have over them, but wouldn’t you like to at least set the foundation for their Thou Shalt and Thou Shalt Not before their friends and social groups can influence their decisions? The choice is yours!

Your children are part of your life. But they are also their own independent beings. Get to know them. They may just surprise you. My son recently stood up to me and told me exactly what he thought of a problem that we had with each other. At nine years old, he actually addressed a problem with me instead of repressing or suppressing it. I welcomed this. He learned negotiation skills and at a minimum found out that his dad was willing to listen to his opinion. This option became available to him, only because I make it a point to spend time with him, get to know him, and let him know about who I am as a person, not just a father. Remember, be the same mother or father today that you wish your child will become tomorrow.  Until next time, I hope you Advance Confidently in the Direction of Your Dreams.

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