How to Be a Good Parent

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Remember To Be Yourself and Share the Love

Whether you're pregnant for the first time, or dealing with a parental transition like divorce, being a good parent takes lots of time, effort, hard work and love. The good news is that the most important component is love. You probably already possess the skills you need to be a good parent, so cut yourself some slack. No one is perfect, and if you’re asking how to be a good parent, you probably already are.

Prepare to Become a Parent

Just as you prepare for meetings, interviews and career moves, prepare to be a parent. Do your homework before the big day and stay up-to-date with the latest advice from the experts. The “What to Expect” books are a good place to start, but also don’t be afraid to get some help from people who are already really good parents: your own.

Parenting a Newborn

On some days, you may wish he came with instructions, because each little guy has his own unique personality and temperament. Some sleep through the night after a few weeks; other babies take months and months. Some seem happy-go-lucky from the get-go, while others have colic. No single source is going to provide you with all the answers, but here are a few common questions new parents ask:

  • How do I hold her?
    Support her head and neck. When picking her up, put one hand under her bottom and another under her head and neck. Gently lift. Cradle her in your arms, with her head against your chest. When allowing a child or elderly family member to hold your infant, make sure he or she is sitting down and gently guide the process, keeping a hand on your baby until she’s secure.
  • What do I need to know about diapering?
    Whether you use cloth or disposable diapers, you’ll need to change them frequently to prevent diaper rash and keep her clean and dry. Make sure you have all your supplies within easy reach before you change her: fresh diaper, wipes, ointment and a fresh onesie if necessary. Lay your baby on her back and remove the dirty diaper. Gently wipe her genital area: front to back for girls, back to front for boys. It’s a good idea to have a handy cloth diaper to cover your son,so he doesn’t shower you during the change. Apply ointment to prevent or heal a rash followed by the fresh diaper.
  • How do I treat diaper rash?
    Most diaper rashes can be easily treated with over-the-counter ointment. Frequent diaper changes can help prevent diaper rash, but every baby will get rashes at one time or another. Don’t worry; it doesn’t make you a bad mom. Keep the area as clean as you can, use ointment and consider letting him go diaper-free for a bit. If the rash persists, though, make sure to contact your pediatrician. Some diaper rashes are caused by fungi and will require medication.
  • How do I swaddle?
    Swaddling can be an effective method to calm and soothe your newborn. It’s like wrapping your child in a burrito, and it keeps him warm, while giving him the feeling of being held. Use a square blanket large enough to envelop his full body. Fold one corner down and lay him diagonally on the blanket, with his neck on the fold. Tuck his hands into the fold and pull the right side of the blanket across his body, tucking it into his left side. Fold the bottom up and pull the left side over, tucking it into the right side.
  • Why won’t she sleep through the night?
    She will. Aside from her own personality, she needs to pass some baby milestones before she’ll make it to six or seven hours of sleep. Adequate weight gain and the ability to take in enough nourishment so she can get through the night without being hungry are signs she’s ready for a longer stretch. Babies who can self-soothe are also able to put themselves back to sleep when they wake up. This is where pacifiers can come in handy. And a decreased Moro reflex, which usually happens after 4 months, will help her react less to sudden movements and loud sounds, so she’ll stay asleep.

Parenting a Toddler

The terrible 2s don’t necessarily happen only at 2 years old. Toddlers are funny little people, full of curiosity, eager to explore and ready to assert their independence. You should let them be independent as best you can, provided they are safe.

Be Consistent in Your Parenting

It’s the simplest, but best parenting tip. If “no” always means “no,” your child will always know what to expect from you. That doesn’t mean he won’t challenge you, frustrate you or make you wonder why he just doesn’t get it. But if you remain consistent, he will come to respect your authority. He’ll understand natural consequences, but also that good behavior earns natural rewards.

Distract Your Child Away From Bad Behavior

Toddlers can be accommodating or stubborn depending on the hour, the day and their mood. Don’t opt for all-out confrontation if you can distract her from what she’s doing wrong. She’s touching something she was told not to; give her something else. She’s involved in an activity you’d rather she not be; find a different one to keep her occupied.

Pick Your Parenting Battles

You’re not perfect, and neither is your child. It’s OK to let some minor infractions slide as long as you’re consistent where safety and behavior matter most. So if she wants to wear the same pajamas to bed every night, let her. If she insists on odd outfits for school, don't stop her. Decide what’s most important to you and your family, and answer “yes” as often as you can. Kids who only hear “no” will tune it out rather than respond.

Use Positive Discipline

Giving positive discipline lets your child know the clear expectations of good and bad behavior while always acknowledging her place in your home and in your heart. Because she is a member of your family, seek out opportunities to show how her behavior—both good and bad—affects the people who love and care about her most. And provide easy ways to discipline that also acknowledge her individuality. For example, instead of telling her no, give her choices. She needs to wear socks because it’s cold, but she gets to choose which ones. Or, when she does something wrong, but not too wrong, ignore it. Again, no one is perfect. Pay more attention to all the great personality traits she has, and it will be easier to overlook the bad.