Feeling discouraged about motherhood? You CAN be the best mom to your kids—learn how to be a good mom with these important tips and reminders!
We’ve all had those days.
Those days when you yelled at your toddler just because he kept turning the light switch on and off. When you wake up delirious in the middle of the night with the baby and think, “What have I gotten myself into?!”
When you resorted to doing everything you swore you’d never do, like giving your kids junk food or letting them watch an extra hour of television. And other times, those days happen when you feel guilty for working and being away from them, or conversely, staying home when you wish you didn’t have to.
The worst part? Not only do you feel awful as it is, but you feel doubly worse for even thinking this way. You feel bad for constantly berating yourself or second-guessing your decisions. You start wondering why you can’t seem to love motherhood the way you want to.
How to be a good mom
Trust me, I can relate. All those examples above (including the silly light switch)? Yup, that was me. I’ve shooed my kids away because I was busy on the computer. I’ve stood in the kitchen packing yet another round of school lunches and realizing I’m going to be doing this for years on end.
We all have those days.
The danger is when we dwell in this place too long. You see, after years of talking about parenthood, I learned that a “good mom” isn’t some lofty goal that hardly anyone will reach. It’s certainly not the perfect birthday parties and daily craft curriculum you sometimes see.
Instead, it’s the simple things—things you probably already do but don’t really give yourself credit for. In fact, pediatrician Dr. Harley A. Rotbart says it’s not about having the right parenting approach or philosophy. Instead, it’s the very fact that you’re even showing up. She writes in The New York Times:
“The parents who read books about raising children are not the ones I’m worried about. Whichever approach they pick, their kids have a good chance of turning out fine — just by virtue of having parents concerned enough to read a book on the subject. It’s the parents who aren’t worried that I’m worried about, the ones who don’t consider the impact their actions or inactions will have on their kids. I’m worried about the parents who don’t have the time, or don’t take the time, to parent.”
The fact that you’re here already speaks volumes, regardless of the piles of laundry at home or that you yelled at your toddler (out in public, no less).
That said, there are a few things I’ve found that moms who feel fulfilled tend to do. And it’s not about finding that elusive “work-life balance” or giving their kids nine servings of vegetables a day. Take a look at these simple things you can do to be the good mom you want to be:
1. Pay attention
One of the best gifts we can give our kids is our attention. Now, this doesn’t mean the time spent with them, but how much you observe and listen.
For instance, does your newborn like to use a pacifier, or do you find he sleeps better in the swing? What triggers your toddler to throw a tantrum, and is that something you can prevent and avoid? How comfortable is your child in social settings—does she feel drained or energized by large groups of people?
Then there’s the attention that happens by listening, the kind that goes beyond hearing their stories and words.
Do you take their point of view into consideration, or is it your way or the highway? Can you read between the lines and see that your toddler’s whining is her way of saying she needs you right now? Do you understand that her grievances and anxieties are real for her, even if it’s about a lost toy?
Paying attention is one of the best tips on how to be a good mom — and it goes beyond the hours of the clock, but how attuned you are to your child.
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2. Give your child space
Do you get the sense that parents these days are more hands-on than even just one generation ago? You’re not alone.
These days—even with the best intentions—we hover over our kids, micromanaging their every move. We shield them from disappointment and try to provide the best opportunities. We’re more involved in their lives than ever before.
The trouble is, this doesn’t exactly help kids become independent, self-sufficient, or responsible. They can’t entertain themselves, have little sense of self, and are terrified of making mistakes. After all, when have they been given the chance to?
Yes, you should provide guidance and support, but don’t feel like you need to be with your child 24/7. She’ll make mistakes and feel disappointed and frustrated. But this is the perfect time for her to “practice” recovering from these inevitable situations at an early age.
3. Help your child make good choices
At the end of the day, our job is to raise future adults. And, hopefully, future adults who make choices not out of fear of punishment or for reckless ambition. Rather, future adults who make good choices based on what they feel is the right thing to do—even if it’s not easy, and even if it’s not popular.
A good mom helps her child do just that, starting in childhood. This is why getting kids to listen using rewards or punishment might “work” for a while, but not when you have the bigger picture in mind.
A good mom also understands that kids will make plenty of mistakes, the kind that makes you say, “I already told you not to do that a hundred times!” The kind that makes your heart break as you see them disappointed, or even embarrassed when they say something mean to someone.
The kind of mistake—like knocking over your vegetable seedlings that had been growing for weeks—that forces you to see that it was an accident.
It’s all part of childhood. Except your role is to help your child understand the consequences of her mistakes, and what she can do better next time.
4. Do what’s best for your child
What your child wants isn’t always what’s best for her, whether it’s sleeping in your bed yet again or getting every toy she asks for.
This goes for what you want as well. As much as you want to tune out on social media or feel tempted to raise your voice, you know that neither is what’s best for her, at least right now.
So, it’s all about finding that balance, and thinking in the back of your mind whether the choices you make are what’s best for her. For instance, that bag of potato chips isn’t going to damage her forever, so long as you’re giving her a healthy diet overall.
and between the two of you, you’re the adult, the “bigger person” who sometimes has to put her pride, needs, and wants aside because she needs you to. You’re the one who makes the best decisions for your family. Bowing down to her demands doesn’t do anyone any good.
5. Learn from your mistakes
No doubt about it, we’ve made our share of mistakes… and will continue to. Don’t see this as a bad thing, but as an inevitable fact of life we can actually use to our advantage.
You see, motherhood gives us so many chances to improve ourselves. Instead of feeling down or wallowing in self-pity, we can learn from these experiences. We can use them to find better ways to raise our kids in a way that works best for our families.
Yes, you goofed by taking your child on an errand when you knew she was cranky and already exhausted. But guess what—that epic meltdown she threw now serves as a lesson on prioritizing her sleep, or perhaps helping her cope with frustration.
Yes, you yelled at her for hitting her brother, but you also learned that sibling rivalry triggers your temper, and what you can do the next time it happens.
A good mom doesn’t just move on from these experiences, or worse, blame others or her circumstances for why they keep happening. Instead, she finds all the ways she can change for the better and help her kids as well.
6. Think of how far you’ve come
Think about all the things you tell yourself that aren’t helpful: I’m not a good mom. Why am I always scrambling to catch up with the mess at home? I can’t seem to get my kids to listen.
With these messages on repeat in your mind, no wonder you start to feel down about yourself. Instead, remind yourself of just how far you’ve come.
Perhaps just months ago, your baby was still waking up multiple times a night and you could barely get a shower in. Think of how much calmer you’ve been, or how your kids have learned to work out their conflicts on their own thanks to your help.
As I say in my book, You Are Enough:
“With every age and stage, new challenges will pop up, making it easy to feel like you’re not getting anywhere. But when you look back at all you’ve overcome, then you realize, you’re one heck of a mom.”
Every mom has wondered whether she’s doing a good job at this parenting thing. But like Dr. Rotbart said, the very fact that you’re here means you’re already on the right path. And that learning how to be a good mom is less about finding the right parenting method, as it is about being intentional with your choices.
It starts by paying attention—listen and observe your child so that you can get to know her and her needs. Give her the space to make mistakes, find her sense of self, and develop into the future adult she’ll be.
Help her make good choices, not by rewards or punishment, but by guiding her through the family values you support. Allow her experience the consequences of her choices instead of saving her from her mistakes. Do what’s best for her, even when it’s hard for both of you.
Use the mistakes you’ve made to improve yourself, and always remember just how far you’ve come. It’s easy to feel discouraged when all you see are the struggles and challenges. It takes looking back at where you used to be to see the amazing mom that you are.
You’re a good mom. I’m not sure when the last time was that you heard that sentence, so I’ll say it again: you’re a good mom, and your kids will turn out more than all right. Yes, even if you yelled at them just for playing with the light switch.
Get more tips:
- 8 Qualities of a Good Mom
- 7 Reasons You’re Not Enjoying Motherhood
- What to Do When You Feel Like You’re Failing as a Parent
- 7 Reminders That You’re Doing Fine as a Mom
- 6 Reasons Motherhood Is Hard
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