Parents hear a lot about the importance of adopting the right parenting style. If we tend toward discipline, we risk being too strict, harping on our children’s behavior but neglecting compassion, encouragement, and grace. On the other hand, some of us try too hard to make our children happy, catering to their whims to the detriment of grit, determination, and strong character. We are always walking a tightrope between too much and too little, fearing that no matter how we parent, somehow we’ve missed the boat.
But what if the boat isn’t a parenting style at all? What if we dismissed the parenting style labels and recognized that parenting requires both leniency and authority? We serve our children well when we shift our primary focus from how we parent to who we parent. No matter how textbook perfect our parenting decisions may be, nothing replaces a genuine connection with our kids and a heartfelt commitment to their well-being. Keeping our minds on the following will help us stay on track regardless of our tendencies toward type A or BFFs. Here are the 3 ingredients to being a good mother:
Nothing matters more in parenting than the relationship between parent and child. When we have a strong bond with our children, our influence is formidable. We have a powerful voice in the decisions our kids make and the values they adopt. We also have a strong indirect influence—on our child’s health, development, IQ, social skills, and academic performance. But when we jeopardize the relationship in the name of enforcing rules that may not make sense, we weaken the critical foundation of a strong bond and diminish our influence as a confidant and guide. Overlooking inappropriate behavior in an effort to garner our child’s approval also jeopardizes the relationship, though we often won’t see the results until further down the road. If the unruly behavior is consistently ignored, you will end up with an ill-behaved and disrespectful child. Character growth and an attitude of contentment take time to develop; if we make their happiness our top priority we can be sacrificing meaningful growth, and we’ll pay the price for it at some point. Our relationships with our children matter far more than any one rule, discipline technique, or circumstance. Keep the relationship central.
When it comes time to exercise whatever parenting style we’ve chosen to practice, flexibility becomes paramount. We all need to hold our children accountable sometimes and at other times, allow for grace and compassion. If we remember our goal is to foster a healthy relationship with our kids, we’ll be more flexible in implementing different parenting styles as the situation demands. We can choose our battles wisely, determining when disobedience requires discipline, compassion, or deciphering if an overbooked schedule requires perseverance or a complete change of course. Every new season will require new skills and techniques to parent our children well. Adapting to the changes is a constant challenge, and flexibility isn’t always easy, but the benefits are worth it. Staying flexible allows us to assess the situation and choose the best parenting style for any given moment.
We all need to hold our children accountable sometimes and at other times, allow for grace and compassion.
It’s hard to imagine any discipline requiring more humility than parenting. From the moment these little ones come into our lives we are confronted with our own shortcomings, doubts, fears, and unwanted habits. More important than how we handle any one moment or season is our ability to swallow our pride and be willing to learn. We are all going to make mistakes as parents. We will punish when we should have hugged, laugh when we should have comforted, or let something slide when we should have cracked down harder. Learning as we go is our saving grace because it means we can use the mistakes we made yesterday to help us parent better today. Be teachable. Admit when you make a mistake and ask forgiveness from those you have hurt, even if that means humbling yourself to a three-year-old. Seek help if you need it. These are not signs of weakness but of wisdom. In practicing them we become better parents, and we leave our children a legacy of wisdom upon which to build.
Readers, when have you experienced a positive outcome from putting your relationship with your kids ahead of your intention to be the “perfect parent?”