Guest columnist Gaby Satarino’s reflections on the ultimate parenting question
Am I a good parent? At some point almost everyone with young children asks themselves this. Many silently search for answers in parenting books, podcasts, blogs. They will compare themselves to other parents, measuring their child’s academic or extra-curricular achievements, and endlessly question if they made the right choices for their children. However, by limiting evaluation of parenting success to these approaches, one might overlook the invaluable experience that comes from ordinary moment-by-moment interactions with one’s child. It’s paying attention and nurturing the ordinary that leads to an extraordinary parent and child relationship. A relationship based on attunement, respect, and love.
Attunement is putting yourself in your child’s shoes and then meeting their needs with sensitivity and wisdom. There will be times when children’s emotional reactions to life events may seem magnified: a preschooler’s popsicle melts, a toddler’s favorite toy is missing, a pre-teen’s best friend moves away, or a teenager’s break-up. Offering genuine empathy in these situations strengthen a secure and loving relationship. This is done by talking about their feelings and validating difficult emotions. By practicing attunement, you are supporting your child’s social and emotional development. Most importantly, your child will believe it when you say, “I am here for you.”
Awe is a synonym for respect, and a crucial way to be in awe of our children is to be mindfully present. In a world that is fiercely competing for our attention, being “in the moment” is quite challenging. Purposefully make time to show up. Here are some tips: validate their feelings while maintaining eye level contact, listen without judgement, be genuine, and show interest in their world. By being present, you create a space of undivided attention. Resist the temptation to use this time for an educational moment or discipline. This is your child’s time to share and your time to listen with your whole self.
“All You Need Is Love” was released by the Beatles several decades ago, and its message is still clear. But can it really be that simple? Love entails many positive qualities, skills, and virtues which make bonding and secure attachments possible. In the complexity of parenting, remember to simply love your child’s uniqueness, messiness, gifts, struggles, character flaws, temperament, and unruly hair. Truly see your child for who he/she is and not who you at times may wish him/her to be.
Focus on the ordinary to cultivate an extraordinary relationship with your children based on attunement, respect, and love. This is what it means to be a good parent.
Gishela (Gaby) Satarino is a licensed professional counselor supervisor with a private practice in Dallas, Texas. For more information contact Gaby at 214.280.3664.