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Relationships • Parenting

What Makes a Good Parent? A Checklist

Some people assume that you can’t really say what a good — or indeed a bad — parent actually is.

Photo by Gift Habeshaw on Unsplash

But we don’t agree. So we’ve designed a checklist of what we think makes up a good parent.


Firstly and most obvious, a good parent adores their child. They’re simply overjoyed that they exist and don’t mind telling the offspring that fact, in direct and indirect ways, at small and large moments, pretty much every day. There is no risk of spoiling anyone like this: spoilt people are those who were denied love, not those who were regularly bathed in its calming waters. 


Secondly, the good parent is attuned to their child; they listen — very closely indeed — to what the small person is trying to say. This means getting down on their knees and calmly paying attention to certain messages that may sometimes sound extremely weird or frustrating. Maybe the child is saying that they are very sad, even though it’s their birthday and the parent has gone to enormous trouble with the presents. Maybe they are saying that they are angry with the teacher, even if education is in principle very important and the school was difficult to get into. Children are filled with complicated emotions; a good parents allows these room.


A good parent isn’t envious of their children. They are strong enough to allow them to have a better life than they did. 


Good parents are on top of their issues: they don’t think it’s a good idea to make someone very unhappy because maybe someone else made them miserable long ago.


Good parents know about boundaries. The game was hilarious for a long time, but now it’s the moment to wind down, to put the paints away, to get back to work or to go up to bed. The good parent doesn’t mind being hated for a time in the name of honouring reality.


Good parents don’t mind seeming a bit boring and predictable. Small kids don’t need excitement and drama from their parents. They want a secure base from which to explore the world.

Now we might think back to our pasts and give our carers a score out of ten to measure how things went. It isn’t unfair or mean sometimes — in the privacy of our own minds — to hold people to account.

Pick up a pen and paper as we run through a list — and score each option out of 10.

We don’t need a score of a hundred and twenty to be robust, but if things were to drop much below sixty, there might be grounds for a good deal of reflection and sorrow. 

The best thing, if you haven’t had a great childhood, is to be as knowledgeable as possible about what went wrong and why.

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