Are you a good parent?
This can be a nagging question for lots of parents. In my practice as a psychotherapist, I’ve heard a lot of LGBTQ parents also wonder if other people think we are good parents. LGBTQ parents often feel scrutinized in public situations. Perhaps you feel that you have to be a perfect parent in order to just be seen as competent in our hetero-normative world?
The truth is there is no way to be seen as a good parent by everyone, so it helps to feel grounded in your own parenting style. This starts by identifying the parenting style that fits you and your family.
One way to become more secure in your parenting is to begin to identify your core parenting values. You probably have some values that are so important to you that they feel as if they are in your bones. If your child could inherit just a few qualities or values from you, what would they be? Some examples are: respect, education, generosity, family bonds, cultural pride, sensitivity to others, creativity, and tolerance. With your list in your awareness (or even on your fridge door), you may find it easier to identify your internal compass that helps you make your parenting decisions.
Still, even with a great compass, you will mess up. I believe that making repairs to our mistakes, rather than being perfect, is a central ingredient to good parenting. Apologizing to our children when we have made a mistake such as losing our temper or speaking in a way we wish we hadn’t shows them respect. This is a key to staying close and connected. Rather than confusing children, repairs can help them understand that it’s okay to be imperfect. When parents apologize, they model responsibility.
Feeling good about parenting comes from within. We all have inner dialogues, some benign or helpful, and some self-critical. Identifying our inner dialogues gives us a chance to compare them to our core values and see which ones actually serve us, and which ones come from old, outdated stories. For example, a gay male friend of mine has a close relationship with his two-year-old daughter, and he expressed worry that he was “smothering” her. When we talked more, he realized that his mother had been unable to let go when he started needing independence. He then understood that he was right to respond to his daughter’s needs for closeness and affection, and that he would adjust when his daughter’s needs changed.
When we feel confident in our parenting based on our core values, we help our kids feel safe and clear about what’s most important in our families, and help them develop compasses of their own.
Recommended parenting books:
Becoming the Parent You Want To Be, by Laura Davis and Janice Keyser
Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child, by John Gottman, Joan Declaire, and Daniel Goleman
Parenting from the Inside Out, by Daniel Siegel, M.D.
Annie Schuessler is a Marriage and Family Therapist in San Francisco, California. She specializes in helping parents build confidence and find the right parenting tools for their families. She also helps couples move through difficult patterns and heal from betrayals. Annie provides an Accelerated Intensive Weekend Program for Couples as well as couples workshops and weekly couples therapy. To find out if her services might help, call 415-317-0816 or visit http://www.annieschuessler.com to schedule a free 30 minute consultation.