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  • Writer's pictureElizabeth Reitz, PhD

Parenting -- Am I doing this right?

This is a big question, so I’ll cut right to the chase: the answer is yes. That is, if you’re taking the time to read a blog post from a psychologist about how to be the best parent you can be, you’re doing it right. You could probably stop reading now if you’d like. Go play with your kids and be satisfied you are indeed doing it right. But, if you’re choosing to keep reading, then let me tell you why I’m so confident. You’re here! Over the course of my ten-plus-year career in psychology, I’ve worked with parents and children in many different settings: community clinics, hospital-based clinics, acute inpatient mental health settings, and the NICU of a large academic hospital. Some families have been assigned to my caseload due to their needs, while others have sought out my support and expertise. One common thread links the families who show the best treatment response: parents who have the motivation to be good parents! This isn’t just my observation – it’s backed by science. Parent motivation to parent well is not only related to general mental wellness in children, it can bolster positive effects of therapy in children with existing mental health diagnoses. When parents are interested and engaged, their kids do and feel better (Pereira & Barros, 2019; King, Currie, & Petersen, 2014). You, the parent reading this blog post, have chosen to sit down, find a blog about how to parent, and keep reading. That is motivation. For that reason, you’re doing it right. Kids are complex, but their needs are simple Kids come into this world as complex little creatures, each with one-of-a-kind features and personalities. Some are “strong-willed” and persistent, others are quiet and reserved, others have unique and idiosyncratic ways of interacting with their worlds. And there are millions of amazing variations in between. Despite these differences, children really have fairly similar needs. Research on Attachment Theory has documented this for decades. You might be thinking, “Food, clothes, housing...” While these basic physiological needs certainly are essential, I’m talking about emotional care and love. In your search for information on how to parent well, you probably have read all sorts of “rules and regulations,” some of which may have led you to fear you actually might be doing it wrong! “Was I doing it wrong when I got frustrated and sent my kid to his room?” “Was I doing it wrong when I let my child eat a whole pack of crackers for dinner with no vegetable in sight?” Through all of these moments, ask yourself the simple question, “Have I acted in love for my child?” If so, you’re doing it right. That said… Showing up, being motivated, and engaging with your children is a key first step in doing it right. Yet, as parents, we know our families and our children are going to face hardships - some common (having tantrums in the grocery store) and some less common (being victims of abuse or experiencing other traumatic events). Regardless of the hardship, it can be hard to know how to best help our children. Working with a therapist can provide parenting tips and strategies and general support to get through those common daily challenges and those bigger life stressors. Finding a therapist who uses evidence-based treatments individualized for your family system is one way to ensure you are doing it right! Stephanie Fox, PhD Licensed Psychologist

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