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7 signs you’re parenting right, according to a clinical psychologist

Parents often worry that they are failing their kids. Modern parents hold themselves to higher standards as we guide our children to adulthood. It’s easy to get caught in a comparison trap with other parents or look for outwardly measurable signs of our success.


In my work as a clinical psychologist, there are seven signs I see that tell me a child has an awesome parent.

1. Your child displays a range of emotions in front of you

Sometimes the timing of our child’s big emotions is difficult. We may not wish to see as much of the big emotions as we do, but your child’s ability to express anger, sadness, or fear in front of you is a good sign that she feels emotionally safe with you.

It worries me greatly when children hide their feelings from their parents. Often, this is a sign of big problems in the parent-child relationship. Avoid shutting down or distracting your child out of her feelings. Instead, pay attention and show appreciation for them.

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“I can see from how you’re kicking the wall that you’re very angry. And you’re telling me this is because your sister won’t let you play.” This tells your child you can handle her feelings and you understand her perspective.

2. Your child comes to you when hurt or facing a problem

I know that a parent is doing an awesome job when their child comes to them as a first port of call for their problems. This means you have provided a secure base that your child can return to when he needs help.

A good way to encourage this is to welcome your child with open arms and listen to his problems, even if small or the problem seems petty to you. This sets up the relationship to be open to communication about things that are difficult in your child’s life.

3. Your child can discuss thoughts and feelings without fearing your reaction

This is a positive sign of an accepting, open and flexible parent-child relationship. Some parents unwittingly restrict communication with their child through their behavior, such as over-reacting to thoughts or feelings they don’t like or those that question their behavior as a parent.

Other parents appear so fragile to their children that they don’t want to burden their parent with their thoughts and feelings. I get concerned when parents say, “My child is my rock.” Parents are the rocks; children should never be their parent’s rock.

You can support this by accepting your child’s thoughts and feelings without making it be about who you are. If you need additional support for your feelings, do that with another adult—not with your child.

4. Your feedback is non-critical and non-labeling

Awesome parents give non-critical feedback about behavior and avoid labels such as ‘bad’, ‘naughty’, ‘greedy’ and ‘lazy.’

If your child eats all the chocolate biscuits before anyone else has a chance to share them, an awesome parent focuses on the behavior: “You ate all the biscuits without sharing. It is important in our home that you share with your siblings. How do you think you could make this up to your family?”

This is very different from saying, “You greedy girl. Go to your room.”

5. You encourage your child to pursue interests and talents

Pursuing interests and talents helps children feel a sense of mastery and achievement. It can positively engage children through the teen and young adult years, teaching persistence and helping protect against risk-taking behavior. It’s a wonderful thing to excel at something you love.

Sometimes, I see parents directing children’s interests to fulfil unmet dreams and needs of their own. When you force a child to excel for your own reasons, all sorts of things can go wrong, even when they look like they’re going right. This can set children up for feeling like a failure, feeling intense levels of pressure and feeling controlled.

Also, if they fail and a narcissist parent’s ambition is behind it, children wear the burden of disappointing their parent on top of their own disappointment.

6. You create boundaries on behavior to keep your child safe

Awesome parents guide their child’s behavior by setting considered boundaries and limits. Children without limits and boundaries often end up in a lot of trouble or lost.

Boundaries help children feel loved and valued, even if they don’t like the boundaries some of the time. Some examples of helpful limits include a bedtime routine, respectful language towards family members, and not permitting teens to attend parties where alcohol is supplied.

7. You repair your mistakes

Being able to repair relationship ruptures with your child is a sign of being an awesome parent. If you yell, over-react, or call your child a name, it is important to repair that rupture with your child.

Talking with your child about how you wished you had handled the situation can help. Explaining that your big feelings got in the way of you being able to respond in the way you should have also helps.

Although it’s tempting to look for signs of successful parenting, such as reading levels, whether they eat the “right foods,” or win on the football field, successful parenting is about providing a secure base for your child. This creates a place from which your child can thrive. It consists of an ongoing lifelong relationship not contingent on external results, but rather on love, respect, and connection.

That’s what being an awesome parent all is about.

Originally posted by Nadene van der Linden on Parent Co.

Nadene van der Linden is a clinical psychologist in private practice who writes regularly Parent Co and PsychCentral. Join the Unshakeable Calm facebook group today for science-based tips to help women live calm and confident lives.

When I was expecting my first child, I wanted to know everything that could possibly be in store for his first year.

I quizzed my own mom and the friends who ventured into motherhood before I did. I absorbed parenting books and articles like a sponge. I signed up for classes on childbirth, breastfeeding and even baby-led weaning. My philosophy? The more I knew, the better.

Yet, despite my best efforts, I didn't know it all. Not by a long shot. Instead, my firstborn, my husband and I had to figure it out together—day by day, challenge by challenge, triumph by triumph.

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The funny thing is that although I wanted to know it all, the surprises—those moments that were unique to us—were what made that first year so beautiful.

Of course, my research provided a helpful outline as I graduated from never having changed a diaper to conquering the newborn haze, my return to work, the milestones and the challenges. But while I did need much of that tactical knowledge, I also learned the value of following my baby's lead and trusting my gut.

I realized the importance of advice from fellow mamas, too. I vividly remember a conversation with a friend who had her first child shortly before I welcomed mine. My friend, who had already returned to work after maternity leave, encouraged me to be patient when introducing a bottle and to help my son get comfortable with taking that bottle from someone else.

Yes, from a logistical standpoint, that's great advice for any working mama. But I also took an incredibly important point from this conversation: This was less about the act of bottle-feeding itself, and more about what it represented for my peace of mind when I was away from my son.

This fellow mama encouraged me to honor my emotions and give myself permission to do what was best for my family—and that really set the tone for my whole approach to parenting. Because honestly, that was just the first of many big transitions during that first year, and each of them came with their own set of mixed emotions.

I felt proud and also strangely nostalgic as my baby seamlessly graduated to a sippy bottle.

I felt my baby's teething pain along with him and also felt confident that we could get through it with the right tools.

I felt relieved as my baby learned to self-soothe by finding his own pacifier and also sad to realize how quickly he was becoming his own person.



As I look back on everything now, some four years and two more kids later, I can't remember the exact day my son crawled, the project I tackled on my first day back at work, or even what his first word was. (It's written somewhere in a baby book!)

But I do remember how I felt with each milestone: the joy, the overwhelming love, the anxiety, the exhaustion and the sense of wonder. That truly was the greatest gift of the first year… and nothing could have prepared me for all those feelings.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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I don't mean thinking and planning about the lack of sleep, feeding schedule, or just the overall changes a new baby is going to bring. I'm talking about how we're going to handle excited family members and friends who've waited just as long as we have to meet our child. That sentence sounds so bizarre, right? How we're going to handle family and friends? That sentence shouldn't even have to exist.

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