We all have days where we worry about being less-than-perfect parents. In fact, with the rise of the parenting influencer or ‘mumfluencer’ as they are now called, you may find feelings of inadequacy or worry about your parenting style creeping in a little more regularly.
Even after a doozy of a day, there are some sure-fire ways to know if you’re winning at parenting your toddler or pre-schooler. Spoiler alert: You’re probably acing them all already!
7 signs you’re winning at parenting
1. Your child can talk about how they are feeling
Abstract concepts are challenging for little ones to wrap their heads around and feelings are no exception.
By talking about feelings from an early age you will equip your child with the vocabulary they need to express their varying emotions (very useful during those tantrum years) and allow them to begin to understand the feelings of others too.
You can do this by naming your child’s feelings whenever you see them. For example:
- “I can see that you feel angry. You are angry because it’s home time and you don’t want to leave the park.”
- “I can see that you’re feeling excited. Birthday parties make me feel excited too.”
Try to talk about these emotions in a level-headed and, interestingly, unemotional way yourself. This will help your child to tune into what you are saying and take on board the new vocabulary.
Keep on doing this and over time, your child will become an expert at identifying their feelings.
My three year old often elicits smiles from strangers when he talks about emotions in public. On a recent trip to the supermarket, he announced (very loudly) that he was feeling upset because I wouldn’t let him try beer! Bad mother I must be!
2. Your child tells you when they have a problem
Being your child’s confidante is a status that we should all try to aim for as parents. If your child openly talks about their problems or seeks advice from you, however minor it may seem, it is a sign that you are doing an awesome job.
The fact that your child confides in you shows that not only do they value your wisdom but that they know that you will offer non-judgemental support.
Whether it is dealing with a bully in the playground or retrieving a lost toy from under the sofa, your child needs to know that you are always ready and willing to help them with any problem.
3. Your child sees you as their safe place
If your child has tantrums when you collect them from childcare, if they seem to only act out on your watch, or call you nasty names, or if they are incredibly clingy with only you...guess what? You just won the ‘Parent of the Year’ prize!
While it may seem that these things would indicate your child doesn't much enjoy your company, it actually means precisely the opposite. Your child feels so safe and so secure in your presence that they feel free to be truly and unequivocally themselves.
While this can sometimes seem like a negative part of being the preferred parent, it’s actually a huge honour and a great teaching opportunity.
Because your child feels safe when they are around you, it means that they will open up about their feelings and come to you when they need help - all fantastic foundations to build as they grow.
4. You encourage your child to pursue their own interests
We all know the value of not pushing gender stereotypes onto our young children. You know the sort: dolls are only for girls, cars are only for boys. Allowing our children to pursue their own interests is much broader and actually far easier than this.
Rather than worrying about stereotypes or what a ‘good’ parent would do, you’re winning at parenting if you just relax and let your child be whoever they want to be. Maybe your girl adores dolls, maybe your boy only does want to play with cars. Guess what? That’s ok!
Aside from stereotypical gender play, letting your child pursue their own interests also means allowing them to play with items in whichever way they choose.
I specifically say ‘items’ rather than ‘toys’ because following interests through play might mean your toddler favours a wooden spoon and pan over their new trike.
However your child chooses to play, one thing is for certain. If you get down on the floor with them and play along in whichever way they choose, you are knocking it out of the park.
One on one playtime is one of the most important activities we can do with our growing children and has multiple benefits from creating strong bonds to improving their vocabulary and reasoning skills. Just 10 minutes a day will make a huge difference.
5. You value open communication
Communication is key when it comes to raising your little one. If you value communication above all else, then you are doing an absolutely stellar job.
Usefully this point encompasses all the others on this list, and with good reason.
Talking openly to your child will not only encourage them to do the same but it will open the doors for a child who is confident, caring, empathetic, self-sufficient and a keen critical thinker.
Wondering how to achieve the best levels of communication with your child?
Talk to them about anything and everything throughout your day.
Narrate what you are doing as a running commentary.
Ask them their opinion and talk about feelings.
Read books together.
Go for walks around your neighbourhood and talk about what you can see and hear.
Model open communication by talking to the people around you.
6. You say sorry
Admitting we are wrong can be a tough thing to do. We know this, yet we often expect our toddlers and pre-schoolers to apologise the moment they have done something wrong.
Holding up your hands to your child and saying you are sorry makes you a wonderful parent. Set that example to your child that it’s ok to make a mistake and show them that it’s even more important to admit when you were wrong.
- “I am sorry I shouted. I was feeling angry. Next time I’ll try to take some deep breaths first.”
- “I shouldn’t have grabbed your arm. I’m sorry. I was worried you were going to run away and hurt yourself.”
7. You aren’t perfect
Parenting is tough. It’s heart-breaking, challenging, confusing, wonderful and downright exhausting. You know what makes you an absolute winner of a parent though? Knowing that it’s ok to be imperfect.
Did you serve a freezer meal for the third night running? You’re winning at parenting.
Did you lose your temper when your toddler just wouldn’t listen to you for the fifth time that hour? You’re winning at parenting.
Did you let your child watch too much TV over the weekend? You’re winning at parenting.
Why? Because being a perfect parent doesn't exist!
NONE of us know what we’re doing. Even the experts have a tough time when it comes to their own children - believe me! We’re muddling through as best as we can and that is the most important part.
You aren’t perfect. I’m not perfect. And you know what that makes us? Complete and utter winners!
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