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Essential Traits for Parents to Possess

Being a parent is perhaps the most challenging job a person can have. But, of course, we don’t apply, and we certainly don’t undergo an interview with our baby-to-be.

In addition, every child is different, making the job even more challenging because what your first child needs to succeed is likely entirely different from what your second or third requires. However, regardless of our parenting situation, there are a few skills we should all possess to maintain our sanity and parent successfully.

There are hard skills parents need to master. For example, being able to change a diaper half asleep at 3 AM, holding a squirming toddler in your lap while eating at a restaurant with one hand, and managing a calendar that involves two birthday parties, baseball practice, and dance class all in one weekend.

But more importantly, I think, are the soft skills which allow us to parent and simultaneously pass on valuable lessons effectively. So, even though there isn’t a guidebook for parenting and you don’t apply for the position of parent, if you were to write your parenting resume, I believe the following soft skills should be at the top of your list!

  1. Humility and Self-Awareness
  2. Patience
  3. Empathy
  4. Gratitude and Self-Love
  5. Flexibility 

Practicing these skills regularly will help them become second nature as you navigate the parenting journey.

How Practicing Humility and Self-Awareness Looks

Being humble means accepting your faults and shortcomings and being mindful of your strengths. It also involves understanding that one doesn’t and can’t possibly know everything.

By accepting parenting is going to be hard, and trust me, it is, then we are open to challenges when they occur.

We teach our children humility by admitting our mistakes and apologizing when appropriate. However, apologizing doesn’t mean saying we’re sorry for dishing out an appropriate consequence or when our kids become mad or upset with us. Instead, it’s recognizing when we’ve made a mistake and taking responsibility.

  • “I lost my temper early because I was very frustrated. It was inappropriate for me to yell like that, and I am sorry.”
  • “I am sorry my work ran late and made you late for soccer practice. I will manage my time better the next time you have somewhere to be.”

Take stock of your strengths and self-reflect on how to use them advantageously.

I also recommend evaluating your weaknesses with a journal so you can reflect on situations that didn’t go smoothly and problem solve how to improve. Remember, we are all works in progress.

How Practicing Patience Looks

Patience is key. Patience allows us to accept our children’s mistakes and use them as teachable moments instead of becoming frustrated.

Patience also means being kind and patient to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up when you lose your temper or feel you handled a situation the wrong way. Instead, reflect, forgive, and then move on.

Patience also means you should slow down and take things at your child’s pace.

  • Give them ample time to complete tasks
  • Don’t rush them or make them feel anxious
  • Give yourself enough time for tasks

Lastly, stay in the moment, and keep work and other distractions away. Electronic devices mean we can access emails, work projects, and voicemails within seconds. But I challenge you to set those items aside when spending time with your kids and slow down and enjoy the little moments.

“Why is patience so important?” “Because it makes us pay attention.” –Paulo Coelho

How Practicing Empathy Looks

Empathy is the ability to understand and share others’ feelings. While you may see your child display moments of empathy in their early years, it doesn’t truly begin to take hold until around six or seven. Since each child develops differently, it may take even longer to show up; however, our children are always watching and learning from us. Empathy, therefore, is one of the most important skills we can apply to ourselves and demonstrate to our kids.

Empathy doesn’t mean allowing your child to behave any way they like or agree with everything they say. But it does allow us to meet them where they are developmentally. Life is like a see-saw; it’s rarely 50-50; if your child’s developmental or emotional level at a specific moment is a 30, you need to come 70% of the way to meet them.

When we apply empathy, we can understand our child is growing and learning, and they simply can’t do some things due to their emotional, physical, social, cognitive, or linguistic development.

To practice and demonstrate empathy, we can:

  • Talk about your feelings, their feelings, and others’ feelings – even the dog’s feelings!
  • Present situations from different angles.
    • How do you think Jaxon felt when you broke his toy?
    • What do you think you could do to make him feel better?
  • Discuss the feelings of the characters as you read books.
  • Use language that reflects empathy

How Gratitude and Self-love Looks

Practicing gratitude and self-love shows your children that you value yourself and teaches them to value themselves. You must make time for yourself and time for you and your partner as a couple. Couple time keeps your bond strong and enables you to support one another.

Speak kindly about yourself in front of your children. We often complain about our hair, weight, clothing, and abilities in an off-hand manner, but our children hear these comments. While it’s healthy to openly discuss your mistakes and areas of improvement with your children, you should also make positive, self-affirming statements.

Eating healthy, exercising, and getting adequate rest are other forms of self-love; they are beneficial to you and set up healthy habits for your child too!

Practicing gratitude allows us to reflect on all our good, especially when facing tough situations.

  • Talk about what you’re grateful for with your children.
    • Discuss the two best things that happen each day at dinner
  • Keep a gratitude journal to reflect on, especially when things are tough

How Flexibility Looks

We all love schedules, especially children. But, unfortunately, with children, things don’t always move according to plan. So we must plan for hold-ups, spills, forgotten items, and sudden moments of independence where they want to tie their shoes or need to use the bathroom. If you notice the same hold-up happening consistently, it may be time to tweak the schedule or routine.

Flexibility also means spontaneity. We get so bogged down with schedules and life we often forget to create moments of spontaneity.

  • Let’s get ice cream!
  • Who wants to go to the movies?

It is also essential to understand and accepting change will happen. Our children are constantly morphing; as soon as you think you’ve figured your kid out, they seem to change again!

Flexibility is also working together to solve problems. Reflect on stressful moments and consider what you could have done differently. How can you plan ahead, so the same situation doesn’t happen again?

Try playing the “What If?” game to discuss what you could do if X, Y, or Z happened. The game provides the opportunity to talk about potentially anxiety-inducing moments in a calm, safe setting.

We cannot predict who our children will be, what type of parent we will be, or how we will handle situations until they arise. However, by filling our parent toolbox with the essential soft skills and honing them with practice, we better prepare ourselves for a wide variety of situations that pop up, which enable us to parent at our best!