What Does It Mean To Be a Good Parent?

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I love a good question. And this is a great question. We all have such strong beliefs about what good parenting is and looks like. Here were a few answers I was given my other parents recently:

– Keeping my kids safe

– Being open and available to my kids.

– Being a good partner to their dad.

– Loving my kids no matter what.

– Putting my children first.

Yes, yes and yes.

I don’t agree or disagree with any of the above statements. It doesn’t matter what I think it means. What matters is what it means to you.

There is no “right” way to be a parent. In fact, many of the parenting books I’ve read have led me to thoughts that did not serve me or my relationship with my children. These thoughts were the source of guilt, fear, and anxiety. I frequently had thoughts such as:

– I’m not doing this right.

– “Amy” is doing a better job at this than I am.

– My child is behind so I must be doing something wrong.

– I need to do more.

– This isn’t working. There is something wrong with me

– My child shouldn’t be… (gay, trans, left of this party, coming in last…)

These thoughts did not serve me in any way. From a place of fear or inadequacy, I was unprepared to make good decisions, support myself or my kids. When I changed my thoughts and therefore my feelings, I learned what it meant for me to be a good parent. Here is how I got my own answer:

My mom has Alzheimer’s disease. Throughout my life, she was “my person.” You know what I mean- my cheerleader, my role model, my shoulder to cry on. She was present for the births of my children, saw me through my marriage and divorce. She was the first person to believe in me as a parent. And although she doesn’t know my face or call me by name anymore, my mom is an incredible parent.

I didn’t say she was an incredible parent. I said that she is. So what it means to be a good parent must not be in doing more, doing a better job, or spending so much time figuring out what is the right thing.

We spend so much time answering the question of whether or not we are being good parents that we don’t question where those answers are even coming from. Society ingrains in us so many of the beliefs about “good parents” yet we never wonder why we believe they are true. Did you know in Denmark they leave babies in strollers outside of restaurants? And in Japan, children go unsupervised on trains around the age of 6? Is this good or bad parenting practice? And who decides?

You do! You get to decide. Not in a way that is draining of your energy but in a way that is powerful for both you and your child.

This year my child turned 16. He wanted to get his nose pierced. On that glorious birthday, we went to the professional piercer and had it done. While I suspect I shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was, I got many interesting comments about this, particularly about how others would never allow their child to do this before 18. Ok. Great. For you and your child. But for us, this was fabulous fun. I loved allowing him to make a decision that truly only affects him and getting to be part of this growth in his self expression. I love that he loves it in the moment of now. I believe it is not my job to hold him back from experiences with minimal consequences, or even larger ones where he can learn from the amazing experiences of life.

For me, being a good parent is just being. It’s allowing myself to grow and know that everything is just as it should be. Kids fight. Kids lie. Kids get bad grades on tests. Kids are gay. Kids are transgender. All kids don’t hit their developmental milestones at the same time. Beautiful! So now when those thoughts creep back in, I remind myself that they are just thoughts. Just because I have a thought doesn’t mean it is true. Instead I can choose:

– I am the perfect parent for my children.

– We are all in this together.

– Love wins. And I know how to love!

– I am enough.

– I am in a constant state of growth.

For me these thoughts bring feelings of contentment and surety. From that place, I am much more able to act in a way that is consistent with what I believe for myself is a good parent.

What do you think it means to be a good parent? And what do you need to think in order to be that person?

Whatever you answer, I say yes! Because your answer is exactly what it means to be a good parent.

These shifts don’t necessarily come easy after generations of family and cultural influences. This didn’t happen for me in a moment nor without the help of many tools. I can guide you on this process. Just email me at sarah@sarahkennedycoaching or hit the contact me button at www.sarahkennedycoaching.com. It’s my honor to connect with you and be part of your journey.

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