Parents have one of the toughest jobs out there.
And since moms and dads aren’t handed a how-to manual upon childbirth, it’s perfectly normal to worry about how to be a good parent that consistently meets your kid’s needs. (In fact, wondering how to improve your parenting skills is a sign that you’re already doing a great job!)
The good news is that children are constantly giving us clues about what they need. It’s learning how to decipher them that’s the tricky part!
Even as newborns, children show us what they need with little signals: a certain cry that calls out for a diaper change, or another cry that signifies “I am hungry.”
But as they get older, children’s codes and requests for mom or dad’s help are harder to crack.
When you ask your kid directly, “How are things going?” you will often get very little information. Your child may shrug or say she’s “fine” in a monosyllabic response to your inquiry.
But don’t worry! It’s normal to struggle with decoding what your child needs because your child’s signals are often unclear.
For example, your daughter may want your help navigating a fight with a friend at school — but then want to never speak of it again. Or, your son may want to cuddle on the couch, and then the very next day call the same act “babyish.”
As a parent, it’s your job to balance these competing — and rapidly evolving — desires. It’s a parenting dilemma as old as time:
Moms and dads are challenged with trying to figure out how to give their kids the space and independence they want, while making sure to be the parent their child needs, too.
So if you want to learn how to be a good parent that consistently meets your child’s needs, these 5 pieces of parenting advice can help moms and dads succeed in raising healthy, happy kids:
1. Embrace your child’s interests.
By embracing their interests, you are showing your child that you care about what is important to them.
Just think how you would feel if your spouse or partner never asked you about the most important things going on in your life!
By paying attention to your child’s interests and desires, you are nurturing your relationship with them and showing that you’re both present and engaged in their life.
Doing this will empower you to be the parent your kid needs because you’ll understand your child on a deeper, more fundamental level.
2. Listen when your kid speaks.
While you may be tempted to interrupt your child’s dialogue with parental guidance, make an effort to listen to your child and not judge what he or she has to say.
Think about it this way: How would you feel if people chastised you and brought up every mistake you ever made when you tried to talk to them?
By holding back your comments and choosing instead to listen without critique at first, you create open and easy communication between you and your kid.
Not only are you more likely to get honest information by using this approach, but your child is also more likely to come to you again the next time he or she has a problem, too.
3. Look at your child’s problems from his or her perspective.
Try to understand your kid’s point of view, and make an effort to step into his or her shoes from time to time.
Remember how frustrated you felt as a child when it seemed like no one would validate your point of view on a subject, or even really listen to it for that matter?
The more you step into your child’s shoes, the more you are able to give them what they need. Understanding your kid’s perspective allows you to better interpret their signals and be the quality parent you want to be.
4. Give your child empathy.
No matter how small or inconsequential your child’s problems or concerns may seem to you, it’s important to validate your kid’s worries with empathy.
When you empathize with your child, it helps you understand their why — why something is important to them, why something was hard for them, or why a certain situation made them feel a specific way.
And once you understand their reasoning a bit better, it empowers you to be the parent your child needs in that scenario.
5. Remember, your kid doesn’t have your wisdom … yet.
Your child has had limited life experience, so his or her perspective is limited. That’s why your child needs to help them develop his or her understanding of life and to shape his or her approach to any situation.
By accepting your child’s limitations, you are being the parent your kid needs. Because only then can you help him or her learn, grow, and develop into a healthy, happy individual.
But being a parent is no easy task. Even trying your hardest, you won’t get it right all of the time — but that’s OK! If you keep working at it, eventually you’ll realize the difference your parenting is making in your child’s life.
Caroline Maguire is a certified professional coach with a Masters in education, and the director of the Fundamentals of ADD Coaching for Families at the ADD Coach Academy. Sign up for her newsletter at necoaching.com.