Today’s question actually came from a friend several month’s ago. “Rick” and his wife have an infant son. Rick is a great guy but tends to worry (like many parents) and sometimes that worry leads to asking loaded questions. Rick’s specific question to me was “How do I know if I am doing a good job (being a father)?” Though today’s answer applies to fatherhood, women should take note. Many of the things I am going to talk about applies to mothers as well. Therefore, I am going to direct my answer to Rick towards parents in general.
The reason I call this a loaded question is it depends on what one’s definition of a good parent is. I gave him an answer that sufficed for the time being. I wanted to share that answer but I also wanted to expand on it because I’ve had several months to think about it since. Keep in mind this is a blog not a book. I’m certain to leave out some important details and that’s where you come in. If you believe after reading this I left something out, feel free to add it to the comments section at the bottom of the post.
One of the keys in assessing Rick’s “job” performance occurred when he questioned himself. Reflection is a big theme in my Tantrums, Troubles, and Treasures book and it certainly applies here. I wonder if Rick is trying to model himself after someone else and if so, how is he doing? Before I get any trailblazers piping up, remember that parenting has been going on since the beginning on man. Odds are most of your good (and bad) ideas with kids have probably been used by someone before you. As for me, I’ve modeled myself after specific men and women from St. Joseph Children’s Home. It is a good thing I listened and learned because I did not grow up with a father.
Another key is what are you providing to your child to help him/her grow? I’m sure there are many things but some that come to mind are religious beliefs, time, finances, love, caring, education, understanding, discipline, sympathy, and direction. Generally speaking, parents would claim they provide these things so let’s push the idea. Which areas are your weakest and should be attacked now? When you figure out that answer and attack it, you’re doing a better job as a parent already.
The truth, in the end, as to how you are doing as a parent can be seen in the eyes of your child. As they are growing up, are they reflecting the values you are teaching them? Are they someone to be modeled by other children; or someone to be avoided? Are they respectful to all adults and specifically, their mother? These answers can be found quickly. All a parent has to do is pay attention. Another piece of the puzzle is once you find the answers, do you settle or do you continue to parent and build upon these traits.
Image via WikipediaPossibly this story will sum it up best. I remember hearing about a 1964 Supreme Court case (Jacobellis v. Ohio) where they were talking about whether a movie was pornographic. I am paraphrasing but Justice Potter Stewart said, “I can’t define pornography; but I know it when I see it.” When you see good parenting occurring, take mental notes and apply them when the time is right. Many times, the “job” of a parent is to read, react, and regroup. I’m sure if you can accomplish this, not only are you a good parent but you’re going to get better every day.
My next blog will be posted Monday and it will focus on an educational theme. Until then, have a great weekend!