You don’t have to be perfect. Let’s build on your strengths!

By Dr. Laura Markham

“By taking the time to stop and appreciate who you are and what you’ve achieved – and perhaps learned through a few mistakes, stumbles and losses – you actually can enhance everything about you. Self-acknowledgment and appreciation are what give you the insights and awareness to move forward… – Jack Canfield

What are your biggest strengths as a parent? Don’t worry about humility; just be honest. What would an impartial observer admire if she could watch your best moments with your child or children? Maybe you’re a good listener. Maybe you keep things organized at your house so everything runs smoothly. Maybe you do lose it with your child sometimes, but you always apologize and reconnect. Maybe your child loves your family dance parties and laughs till he drops. Everyone has some things they do really well as a parent. We’re going to build on those strengths.

1. Make a list, in writing, of what you’re most proud of about yourself as a parent.

Include all those things no one else ever even notices. Make sure to mention the things that might look simple from the outside, but take extra effort for you.

And yes, include those moments when you don’t completely pull it off, but you’re able to notice things going downhill in the middle of an interaction and turn things around. Those moments are your growing edge, where transformation happens.

Keep adding to your list until you have at least ten things that you’re proud of about yourself as a parent. (Better yet, 20 or 30!)

2. Read through your list and give yourself appreciation for everything on it.

You may find your inner critic offering a counterpoint of all the things you don’t do as well. There will always be those things if you’re human, because there’s no way for humans to be perfect. Join the club. For right now, just let those things you’re still working on go. Today, focus on all the things you do right as a parent. Give yourself total appreciation and credit for all that hard work. Savor that feeling. 

Appreciating yourself lifts your mood and helps you feel more emotionally generous. But let’s take this a step further. What can this list teach you to help you be your best self more often? 

3. Consider what helps you be at your best as a parent.

I know, you’re a better parent when your child behaves — but you can count on children exhibiting childish behavior. Answer these three questions:

  • What helps you be your personal best as a parent, even when your child isn’t at his or her best? 
  • What support would help you to be that parent more often?
  • How can you give yourself that support every single day, until it becomes a habit?

4. Support Yourself to Grow With the Three R’s: Reflect, Repair, Responsibility.

The times you don’t feel so good about? Resist the urge to beat up on yourself. Use them as motivation to do better. What do cheerleaders say when their teams miss a goal? “That’s alright, that’s okay, We’re going to do it anyway!”

  • Repair with your child.
  • Reflect on what happened and replay in your mind how you wish you had handled things, to alert your subconscious to your plan for next time.
  • Take responsibility to give yourself the support you need so you can do better next time. 

Let those tough moments go, and move on to better interactions.

5. Be your own cheerleader.

Give yourself an internal hug or a high five every time you notice yourself acting toward your child in a way that makes you feel good about yourself. Yes, really. That doesn’t mean you have a swelled head. It means you’re working hard to be your best, and you’re valuing that effort. Notice how that helps you be your best self more often.

Not only will appreciating yourself make you happier with the way you parent, you’ll find you enjoy parenting more. See how long it takes your child to comment on the difference, or to begin cooperating more, or to become more affectionate. You made that happen, by supporting yourself!