How to tell if you’re a good parent

Ok, I’m sorry I tricked you into clicking that headline. I don’t really have an answer. Not a definitive one, at least.

I used to think that it all boiled down to the kind of adult your child became. If they were kind, loving, compassionate and contributed to making the world a better place, then, as a parent you did a good job. Maybe if you were able to hover as a ghost at your child’s funeral and listen to the things said about them by their friends and family, then you might know with some certainty that your parenting passed the test?

How to tell if you're a good parentHow else can you measure the quality of your parenting? For me it’s about being conscious of my choices. It’s about caring about what I do in relation to my children. It’s about caring about them and being involved in their lives. Knowing what’s going on in their heads.

But as a friend and I sat at a café having lunch, discussing the (yet another) death of a woman at the hands of a man, we wondered what happens to a man, to a boy to turn him into a rapist, a murderer? Is it his upbringing? Is it the lack of good role models? Is it a life of abuse, lack of love, mental illness? Getting involved with a bad crowd? Drugs?

I really began struggling with this, because as a mother of two boys I suddenly realised that it was quite possible that no matter what I did as a parent, no matter how hard I tried to do the right thing by them, who knows what triggers a boy, a man into becoming violent towards others.

Yes it’s true there are some indicators we can go by in childhood and adolescence. Neither of my boys tortures animals, they don’t sneak out at night to maraud the neighbourhood with a gang, they are not in the least interested in drugs.

So does that mean that I’m safe? Does that mean I am a good parent? How much does my parenting really matter? Is it enough to overcome the genetic material gifted to them by the man I was married to? Will they grow up to be kind and emotionally mature, rather than cruel, manipulative narcissists?

I am told by those in the know that both boys are psychologically sound. They have some anxiety issues, but don’t we all? They don’t show any signs of disturbing thoughts or behaviour. Yet I worry.

There will come a time when I will lose control over who they hang out with, where they go, how they spend their time. Will something happen then to turn them into the kind of man I and others abhor?

Will they eventually drift towards their sperm donor and learn his behaviours and thought processes? Will the values groundwork I laid for them be enough to protect them from wanting to impress him?

It’s futile worrying about a future that may or may not play out.

Today, I am doing the best I can. I am conscious of my choices. I talk to my boys. They talk back. The teenager-in-waiting is beginning to give me attitude and the nearly nine-year-old still hasn’t grown out of his tantrums. But if that’s the worst I have to cope with, I will be truly grateful.

What do you think it means to be a good parent?

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  • Its such a hard question . As parents I think the majority of us do our very best. And that simply is enough. What I really hate thou is the guilt we load onto ourselves – there is no way that helps us be good parents. Very thought provoking.

  • I agree. Extremely thought provoking. I believe that all you can do is what you believe is best at that time. I helped raise my step son for 5 years until he went to live with his mother. It is only now 5 years after he left us that we are starting to see the benefit of some of the values we tried to instill in him.
    I am now bringing up a 4yo. I have stressed about the knowledge that ‘the first 3 years of their life is the most informative’. Stressed about childcare, which kinder to go to and most recently the primary school. I look forward to all the pressures that she will face as a teenager and young woman and hope that i show her a path of compassion, strength and empowerment.
    I Have also realized that the best thing to do is just be here in the present with them, laugh, live and give love as they need it 🙂

    • We can only make a difference in the present. Eventually so much is out of our control and we can only hope that the things we did were the right ones.

  • I am sure there are certain personality traits that neglected or not given the right attention can let someone become (or allow someone to get away with being) a bully. Yet that same personality provided with boundaries, nurture and good roll models will become a decent human being. Dorothy given your heightened awareness and determination to show your boys the right way, I can only imagine you are giving them the very best chance… if biology has other ideas then I reckon it’s out of your hands – but hopefully the nurture outweighs the nature in most cases… otherwise we’d still be living in caves no??

  • I think the only thing as parents we can do, is BE the best we can for our kids. Show respect to teach respect… show good habits, to teach good habits… Be good people.

    As a parent to teenagers (and foster kids), our kids will grow to be who THEY are going to be. All we can do is lay the foundation and hope our kids choose the right path.

  • As a Sole Parent of 4 . How I wish I could have put a sorting hat on them at birth that would have prepared me for the pitfalls ahead and given me a heads up to all the dangers and wrong turns they’d make. But wrapping them in cotton wool and helicoptering as much as possible. There have been some choices made I’d love to erase . My kids are fast becoming adults and requiring/taking less advice/help from me. Unfortunately when a bad choice is made I constantly hear what do you expect sole parent there’s no discipline there !! But there is as much as I try to stop things happening I’ve had to face the fact I can’t control everything and no matter how much I tell them of the dangers they’re heading towards I can’t stop them. And that’s a hard pill to swallow on any given day :'(

  • Who knows? I know that I’ve probably failed at times and flourished in other times. I’d hope that my 3 children aged 12, 10 & 3 grow up to be respectable, kind but strong individuals who will not learn the hard way that not every person you meet, is like you. To learn that a healthy relationship is about give and take. I so fair hopefully have supplied this role model.

  • Some times I’m good at parenting and other times I’m not so good at parenting … But I’m all good with that!
    I am not perfect and I am not trying to raise my children to strive to be either!
    I see my journey as a mother just as much about them teaching me to grow and learn from my mistakes as much as it is about me teaching them to grow from my mistakes and their own…my good parenting path comes from being mindful, heartful & respectful

  • I understand your worry too. I have three boys and am working hard to make sure my boys understand love, trust and respect as the only way to live. I worry that one day they will step into a thirty second window of stupidity abd hurt themselves or someone else. My worst fear. Great post. Mel xx

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