It is the one job that does not come with a manual.
Or instructions. Or a training program. Or a trial period or even a flipping HR department for when things go belly up.
No, parenting is a job in which you are expected to learn as you go – and only those who have been a parent will know how truly scary it was that day they let you walk out of the hospital with your very first baby – as if they thought you were now a fully-fledged parent and would know what to do next.
Spoiler: None of us do. We just plough on – and learn on the job. Little by little, amateur hour after amateur hour, we get better, slowly starting to feel like maybe we can do this, picking up tips and tricks as we go.
Such is parenting. Until a new phase begins and you feel totally back to square one again. The good news? We are all in the same boat, all wondering about whether or not we are making a total mess out of this parenting thing, worried we are not doing our best to raise them into kind, successful, decent human beings.
However, according to Nadene van der Linden, a US-based clinical psychologist, modern parents often hold themselves to a higher standard than our own parents or grandparents ever did – and it's causing all sorts of anxiety.
However, van der Linden explains, she has some signs she looks for that tells her us parents are doing a pretty stellar job – no matter how much we are doubting ourselves. In her own words, here is what she looks for:
1. Your child displays a range of emotions in front of you
Your child’s ability to express anger, sadness, or fear in front of you is a good sign that she feels emotionally safe with you.
It worries me greatly when children hide their feelings from their parents. Often, this is a sign of big problems in the parent-child relationship. Avoid shutting down or distracting your child out of her feelings. Instead, pay attention and show appreciation for them.
2. Your child comes to you when hurt or facing a problem
I know that a parent is doing an awesome job when their child comes to them as a first port of call for their problems. This means you have provided a secure base that your child can return to when they need help.
3. Your child can discuss thoughts and feelings – without fearing your reaction
This is a positive sign of an accepting, open and flexible parent-child relationship. Some parents unwittingly restrict communication with their child through their behaviour, such as over-reacting to thoughts or feelings they don’t like or those that question their behaviour as a parent.
Other parents appear so fragile to their children that they don’t want to burden their parent with their thoughts and feelings. I get concerned when parents say, “My child is my rock.” Parents are the rocks, children should never be their parent’s rock.
4. You create boundaries on behaviour to keep your child safe
Awesome parents guide their child’s behaviour by setting considered boundaries and limits. Children without limits and boundaries often end up in a lot of trouble or lost.
Boundaries help children feel loved and valued, even if they don’t like the boundaries some of the time. Some examples of helpful limits include a bedtime routine, respectful language towards family members, and not permitting teens to attend parties where alcohol is supplied.
5. You repair your mistakes
Being able to repair relationship ruptures with your child is a sign of being an awesome parent. If you yell, over-react, or call your child a name, it is important to repair that rupture with your child.
Talking to your child about how you wished you had handled the situation can help.
Explaining that your big feelings got in the way of you being able to respond in the way you should have also helps.