Yesterday I came across this question when I was wasting time on Facebook:
“I’m going to be a first-time dad in a few weeks… I’m quite nervous! Does anyone have some helpful tips on how I can be a great dad? “
About a million things immediately popped into my head.
It doesn’t matter whether you are a man or a woman. You could substitute the word mom or parent into that question and my thoughts would be the same.
And I’m not claiming to be a great parent. But being the best parent I can be is pretty high on the list of priorities.
So how can you be a great mom/dad/parent?
I’d start here:
1. Understand that a great parent is not synonymous with a perfect parent.
There is no such thing as a perfect parent. Regardless of what you see on Facebook and Instagram and Pinterest, all parents make multiple mistakes. Daily. You will fuck up.
All the great ones do.
2. Get your kid on a sleep schedule.
Whether you are an infant or an adult, sleep is crucial. Tired kids suck. Just like tired adults do. Think about how hard it is to focus and to remain patient as a grown up when you are exhausted. Now multiply that by four billion and you will know what your kid will be like. The more your kids sleep, the better they sleep. If you have to stay in your house for six months to get your kid on a sleep schedule, DO IT.
3. Ask for help.
If you are struggling, ask for help. If you are exhausted, ask for help. If you are unsure, ask for help. If you are worried, ask for help. It’s okay to want/ask for/ need help. We have all needed help at some point in our lives, and we will all need it again!
4. Teach your kids about mental health. And take care of yours.
This one is so important! So many parents are misinformed/ashamed/embarrassed when they are affected by a mental health issue or when their kids are. Depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, whatever mental health issue… they are all real things. They all suck. But they mostly suck when you feel you are alone or you feel like you are the only one affected by them. In one form or another, we have all dealt with one of these things. And if we haven’t, we have a family member or very close friend who has. You are not alone!!! And you have nothing to be embarrassed about.
5. Make your marriage (if you are in one) a priority.
Your marriage is the foundation for your whole family. The stronger it is, the stronger your family is. Maintain it. Spend time on it. Focus on it. Strengthen it.
6. Give your kid responsibilities.
Your kids need to learn the value and importance of hard work, manual labor and contribution to the family unit! They need to have respect for your time. They need chores. They need to know they are part of the family. Kids need to help out. Start young. A two-year-old will not clean to your standards, but he can do something! He can pick up toys. Two-year-olds love to vacuum! (They pretty much vacuum the shit out of one spot, but like I said, it’s a start).
Older kids don’t need to be rescued! If they forget their homework or their saxophone or their lunch (YES! Even their lunch!), don’t bring it to school for them. Kids will never learn to be responsible if you are constantly coming to their rescue.
And when kids aren’t responsible that’s when being a parent can really be sucky. And when parenting is extra sucky, it’s extra hard to be great.
7. Teach independence.
Let your kids dress themselves. Who cares if they aren’t coordinated? Teach them to tie their shoes and zip their jacket and put on their snow pants when they are young! Teach them to pack their lunches when they are in elementary school (yes, they are capable of this!) Give them the skills and the confidence to know they’ve got what it takes to navigate the world as early as you can.
Don’t worry, even when you teach them to be responsible and independendt they will always be your babies, and they will still need you.
8. Give your kids financial responsibilities.
Teach your kids how to earn and save money. Let them pay for the things they want with their own money. Your teenager can pay her own monthly cell phone bill (YES! SHE CAN!). You do not owe your children these things. But you do owe it to them to teach them the value of a dollar and how you have to work to make one.
9. Build a big net.
It can feel good, especially for moms, to be needed. But when you put yourself in the position to be the only person your kids goes to for help/comfort/whatever, you are creating an unhealthy and codependent relationship. You are putting a tremendous amount of stress and responsibility on your shoulders, and you are creating a very, very small circle of support for your child. The more adults your children know and feel comfortable with, the bigger the support system they have available to them, and that is super comforting, not only to your child, but to you.
No matter how many grown ups your kid has a relationship with, you will still be their Number 1. Except for those times you hold them accountable and that makes them angry and they tell you they hate you. But that doesn’t last for too long.
10. Take risks.
Growth happens outside of your comfort zone. Model this for your kids. Let them see you take a chance and succeed. And let them see you take a chance and fail! Teach your kids that there is no such thing as perfection. Teach them that failure is inevitable, it’s okay, and it’s how you become a stronger, smarter, and more well-rounded human being.
11. Acknowledge your mistakes.
You will fuck up. You will do some stupid shit. It’s okay. We all do it. Teach your kids that we all make mistakes and that when this happens, they are great opportunities to learn! This doesn’t make you any less of a person. It makes you more relatable, more respectable, honest and human. Mistakes help us to learn about ourselves and to ultimately feel empowered!
Your brain needs this. Your body needs this. Your children need to see this behavior modeled for them. Your children need to learn the importance of exercise.
Plus if you wanna keep up with them, you’re gonna need some stamina.
13. Make yourself a priority.
Take care of yourself.
Sure, now that you are a parent your kid’s needs come first.
But remember that your kid’s needs are much different than your kids wants. Secondly, remember that one of your kid’s needs is a healthy and balanced mother and father. You cannot be well balanced and healthy if you don’t take care of yourself.
14. Be consistent.
This doesn’t mean be a drill sergeant and never ever be spontaneous or break the rules. Great parents are also flexible. But kids need structure and consistency and predictability.
15. Encourage your child.
Be an asking parent. Not a telling parent. Get in the habit of asking questions that encourage your child to think and help them to feel and be more capable. Instead of Pick up your toys, try What is your responsibility when you are done playing with your toys? Instead of Clear your plate and put your dishes in the sink, try What did we decide about what to do with the dishes when we are done eating? You might be surprised at how empowering this is for your kids, not to mention how effective it is to help them be responsible.
16. Give hugs.
You can never give (or get) enough hugs!
17. Respect the mother/father of your child.
Yes, even if you are divorced or not married or not on speaking terms or whatever. I know there are some extreme cases where this may be impossible. Trust me. I know. But you are modeling how a to treat your husband/wife and just human beings in general by how you speak about the mother/father of your child.
18. Spend one-on-one time with your child.
When you have more than one child, this becomes more challenging. It doesn’t have to be hours every day. Even a five minute check in with your kid is important, though. Sometimes, it’s tough. But do what you can to consistently make this happen!
19. Be open to change.
It’s inevitable. You can’t fight it. Accept it. Make the most of it. Embrace it.
20. Relax, have fun and don’t sweat the small stuff.
Being a parent is hard. But it’s also the most rewarding thing you’ll ever do. Twenty years from now, no one will remember what your daughter’s hair looked like that day you sent her to school without brushing it. They won’t remember what your son’s batting average was when he was ten years old. They won’t remember what your first grader did for that fucking 100th day of school project.
Those very forgettable details don’t make you a great parent.
What makes you a great parent is that 1) you care, and 2) you realize you are always a work in progress.
And as in life, being a great parent is a journey, not a destination. Make the most of the journey!
Anita Moffett says
an awesome list! Definitely printing and sharing
Anujoy / Tinystep says
Great post Susie! 😀
And i think you’re completely right. It doesn’t matter if you’re a mom or a dad, the battle remains the same.
You’re post reminded me of this: https://www.tinystep.in/blog/8-parenting-rules-you-will-break
Would love it if you checked it out 🙂