The concept of this post came a while ago as we were on a road trip. While the kids were doing their own thing, my husband and I came up with this list of how to be a good parent from A to Z. We jotted our ideas on the back of a Starbucks bag, and I’m finally getting around to bring you our thoughts. I’m sure there are plenty more things we could all add, and I’d love to hear what you would contribute to the list. Further, I want to let you know that parenting is hard, and I fail at all of these number of these often. So while this post is titled, “How to be a good parent from A to Z,” know that you can be a good parent and yet continually make mistake in all of these areas. We are not perfect, but these are some of the traits I strive toward and want to see our parenting exhibit.
ABC’s of Parenting
Accountability – I don’t know what I would do without friends holding me accountable. All you need is one friend willing to challenge you, ask the right questions, give you grace and use encouraging words and guidance. I would encourage you to not just surround yourself with “yes people” who will tell you what you want to hear. You want people who will, in love, urge your forward to do better.
Biblical – Some of you don’t believe this. I respect that. Stick with me for a second. Even if you don’t believe the Bible, you might like this concept. We want our parenting to recreate the gospel message. What is that? We are people far from perfection. We are going to mess up over and over, but we have a Father who loves us and wants us to come into relationship with Him. This relationship leads to repentance and goodness – not because we are trying to earn anything but out of love of the relationship. We want our kids to experience the kind of love and grace we have been given while pointing them to what is good and right.
Consistency – Kids need to experience consistency. They need consistency in your relationship, a rhythm to life and in discipline. They need to know your expectations and know the consequences of their actions. They need you to follow through on your words.
Discipline – Discipline can have a negative connotations, but I disagree. In Brain Rules for Babies (affliliate) by John Medina, leading brain specialist, he agrees that the best parenting style in Maccoby and Martins’ Four Parenting Styles is a Authoritative and Responsive parenting model. Studies have show it. This describes a very involved and engaged parent who has high expectations in terms of behavior and maturity. Discipline will benefit your child. We need to have discipline to be effective adults as well.
Emancipation – We cannot hold on to our kids forever. Our goal needs to be emancipation. If you could picture a graph with the y-axis titled “control” and the x-axis titled “age,” there should be a straight, diagonal line from the bottom left corner to the upper right corner. We need to be letting go of control little by little as our children age and demonstrate responsibility. If we are too controlling or too lenient, there is a danger for our kids.
Flexibility – When I entered parenting, I was pretty sure I had it all figured out. However, then I discovered that kids come with certain things called personalities. There is no one recipe for parenting that will work for all. We must get to know our children, try things and adapt when we see things not working or working well. We get stuck in our own way when we are not willing to adjust.
Grace – We have been given a lot of grace from our heavenly Father, so we need to extend that grace to our kids. Like I mentioned, parenting is a reenactment of the gospel. A great book to read on this topic is called, “Give Them Grace,” (affiliate). It is a whole different way of interacting and talking to them, reaching their heart rather than trying to get them to be “good.”
Humor- Parenting takes a sense of humor…a big one. Kids are disgusting and weird. They are “creative” and ridiculous. They are loads of fun, but they are incredibly frustrating at time. It takes a sense of humor to handle the kid who stuck a marble up his nose or decided to give ALL their stuffed animals a bath. It takes a sense of humor to receive their crazy messages like, “I wish I were a skunk or a porcupine so I could spray or poke you” (Yes, I was just told this). From the letters I receive from them, the faces I’ve been given or the messes I’ve encountered, things go much better when I approach it with a sense of humor.
Intentionality – I began Meaningful Mama because I wanted to be intentional. I was surviving rather than thriving. I had a bunch of parenting goals that I wasn’t accomplishing because it’s hard, and we are distracted. It takes a lot of intention to parent well and make mothering meaningful. It takes being present.
Joy – To be honest, I have somewhat felt that parenting has, at times, robbed me of my joy. I wrote a post called, “I Have Everything I Ever Wanted, Why am I so Unhappy?” reflecting on this. Our joy doesn’t come from parenting, a good job or being married. Our joy is found in the Lord, and I know I need to constantly be going back to that place, change my perspective and change my attitude to embrace joy more fully.
Kitchen – So much revolves around the kitchen. Meals together make a difference. People gather in the kitchen. It is a time of bonding as a family, and it feeds both bellies and souls. It is one of the reasons Meaningful Mama brings you a recipe section with all my favorites. It is why I have greatly promoted getting kids cooking and baking with you. There is so much to be learned in this pivotal space. The Family Dinner Project reports that eating dinner together leads to the results we want to see in our kids: We see “lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy and depression, as well as higher grade-point averages and self-esteem. Studies also indicate that dinner conversation is a more potent vocabulary-booster than reading, and the stories told around the kitchen table help our children build resilience. The icing on the cake is that regular family meals also lower the rates of obesity and eating disorders in children and adolescents.” Take your family back into the kitchen together.
Love – What is love? The agape love described in the Bible is agape love – a selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love, the highest of the four types of love found. 1 Corinthians 3:4-8a says, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” Easier said then done, in my experience. It’s something we strive for in parenting.
Modeling – “Do as I say not as I do,” is not going to fly in parenting. Kids will do as you do. Anyone else seeing their own sins creep up in their kids? I see their own lack of patience and irritability mirroring my own actions. Use the words, actions and tone of voice that you want to see them using with others. You will rub off on them…good and bad.
Noticing – We need to be observant as parents. Watch for changes in your children. Try to get to the root of what is going on and how to best be there for their child. Notice how they respond to correction or words of affirmation. Figure out their love language. Watch for their passions and help feed into those. Feeling known will speak volumes to your child.
Optimism – Optimism is such a great quality to model for the kids. It shows them that despite life’s circumstances, they can see the positive and make lemons out of lemonade. Optimism also helps you, as the parent, keep a good perspective about the parenting process. It keeps you looking at the positive characteristics of your child, which only builds their self-esteem and outlook on life.
Patience – If there were one of these traits that I would say I need the most, it would be this one. A good parent is patient. Does that make me a bad parent? Trust me, I’m working on it. I hope that “working on it” is the trait of a good parent too. Parenting takes patience. It takes patience in teaching over and over again. Kids are learning everything from scratch, so there will be loads of repetitive clean-ups, teachable moments, tantrums, destructive behaviors and the volume of your house will probably be louder than ever…at least that’s how my kids role. Join me in working on this important character trait.
Quiet – Does this feel like an oxymoron? We already established my children are loud. You know, I always considered myself an extrovert until I became a parent. Once I became a parent, I desired to be alone and quiet more than ever. I think blogging is part of my outlet. It gives me the opportunity to reflect and be creative. Quiet gives you the time to just be. Quiet gives you the time for prayer, meditation and reading. Being quiet is a time to refuel. Where do you find your quiet time? I’m a night person so stay up way later then I should. You might like the wee hours of the morning to watch the sunrise. Carving out time in the middle of the day (nap time or an established quiet time) might be your solution. I do believe you will be a better parent if you find your time of quiet.
Role Models – I don’t know what I’d do without the role models in my life. My parents and my husband’s parents obviously have had a great influence. I also have been appreciative of the Pritchards who I call with so many of my parenting questions. I thought this parenting gig would come more naturally to me since I have always enjoyed and taught kids. It hasn’t. I have families that I respect, and I watch them carefully and ask my questions. Try and find those role models in your life. I feel like we have lost the village, and it takes a lot more intentional actions to find it. I find it in my church. Parenting can feel very lonely and isolated, but you need to have people you trust who can give you wisdom and perspective.
Simplify – Here’s another area I’m not so good at – simplifying and slowing down. We pack our lives full of stuff. We keep ourselves and our children busy, busy, busy. It’s hard to know what is important to keep and what is important to remove. We buy more stuff. Our discontentment is on the rise. We often need to remove the goods in our lives so we can make room for the greats – the things that really matter.
Time – Be present. You’ve probably heard that message from a lot of angles. There’s a quote that says, “The best thing that you can give to your children is time.” ~ JD Ghai. At their sporting events, put away your phones. Watch. While driving in the car, utilize that time for conversation and positive interactions. Spend more time in their classrooms. Disconnect from your devices so you can connect with your kids. It’s a message I need to hear too. Time is something we cannot get back.
Understanding – Empathy is one of the super important things you can do for your child. I wrote a post about the importance of showing empathy to kids. John Medina, author of “Brain Rules for Baby,” (affiliate link) says it is one of the top two predictors of social competency. While we want to teach them how to regulate their emotions, we first need to help them verbalize and identify their feelings through listening and understanding.
Voice – Using a good tone of voice is important in parenting. Have you become a yeller? I never was, until I had kids. I do it rarely, but it has reared its ugly head and has not been effective. I am most effective when I teach and discipline in a gentle and calm voice. Going back to the importance of modeling, kids will mimic what they see in us. If we can remain under control and have a better attitude, I believe we will be more effective with our kids.
Wisdom – It takes a lot of wisdom to raise children. For some, this seems innate. For others, it takes seeking it out. The best source of wisdom is found in reading the Bible and talking to God. Once you have done that, you can examine man’s wisdom through conversation, books, blogs, etc. and weigh it against truth. Because children’s personalities differ, and our challenges are different, we will seek out studies, topics and books that relate to our personal needs in parenting. Continue to grow and learn in this important role you’ve been given.
eXamine – Self examination is another important component of parenting. I am constantly self evaluating the job I’m doing and trying to adjust those areas that don’t line up with what I know to be true and right. I can’t always go off emotions but have to really look at myself from an honest perspective. There has been no bigger mirror to my own sin than being a mom and a wife.
You – There is no comparison to you. God made no mistake when He placed your child under your care. As mentioned, it’s healthy to have good role models, but the comparison game doesn’t help anyone. Bring you into your parenting. Some people have written articles about trying to get away from being the Pinterest mom. They are so over that. Perfect. If that’s not you, don’t do it. If doing parties and crafts doesn’t breathe life into your family, stay away. Some of you are going to be the sporty moms out with your joggers and coaching the soccer team. Others of you are going to be taking your kids to the library or to the symphony. What makes you unique? What are your talents? Introduce those to your kids. Chances are, they’ll end up with some of those in common. Sometimes they’ll have their own interests you will want to have them pursue. Just continue to bring you to the table. If this resonates with you, I’d encourage you to read the article, “I Once Was a Super Mom.”
Zelaous – This job takes passion and drive. It isn’t for the faint of heart. We want to be zealous in our role – striving to get better and passionate about loving our kids. Keep your goals for your children and family in mind. Give it your all while maintaining a healthy balance – God first, then spouse and then kids. Keep at it, Momma. Keep at it, Dad. You’re doing a great job.