Most people would probably say they consider themselves to be pretty good parents. But then there are those power couples who seem to master PTA meetings, bake sales, birthday parties, soccer games, and every other parent-child related activity with ease. (And they do it all without butting heads.) But how do they do it all and make it look so effortless? I, for one, am lucky if I can successfully make it to the grocery store in real pants. So what are the habits of couples who make great co-parents?
You may be left scratching your head, wondering how some parents manage to bring Pinterest-worthy cupcakes and well-behaved children to an otherwise chaotic birthday party. Do they know something you don't? Why do some achieve effortless balance in their partnership while others are struggling with the ways a relationship changes after having a child? Sure, great co-parenting could be the result of luck, nannies, or some other mystery factor, but there are actually some very specific things these parenting phenoms do (or don't do) to have such a health and happy home life. So if you're curious as to what makes these powerhouse couples tick, here are the top habits of highly effective parents.
1. They Don't Sweat The Small Stuff
Whether you have a tyrannical toddler or a house full of rambunctious children, it can be difficult not to get frustrated or worked up when things inevitably go wrong. But for many great parents, they know when and how to pick their battles. According to The Academy of American Physicians, couples who ignore small problems have better parenting results. Did your child accidentally spill their chocolate milk? Just exhale and move one. And knowing when to worry is key, too. Great parents know when to walk away and when to act.
2. They Follow Through
In many ways, parenting is a lot like having a job. Imagine if you told your boss or clients that you were going to do something, and you didn't follow through. Keep that kind of inconsistency up, and you'd either get fired or lose your clients. The same can be said for parenting. Dr. Erica Reischer, a psychologist, parent coach, and author, told Psychology Today that great parents are known for following through on their words and actions, which builds respect and trust. This is a habit that is healthy for both your children and your partner.
3. They Are Proactive
Many problems, parenting-related or not, can be avoided if you're proactive. So it's no surprise that one of the top habits of couples who are great parents is that they are always thinking ahead. According to Parenting Special Needs, the parents who don't take a backseat to their child's needs are more confident and more likely to think outside of the box when they encounter a challenge. It's key to remember that you can take control if and when problems arise for you or your family.
4. They React Slowly
I'm not suggesting that if your child is about to run out into traffic that you take your sweet time getting to them. I'm talking about controlling your emotions when engaging with either your partner or your child. In The Ten Basic Principles of Good Parenting, author and adolescent psychologist Laurence Steinberg talks about the importance of not reacting in the spur of the moment because your children are watching your every move. You may not realize it, but their little eyes see everything, and great parents remember that.
5. They Don't Expect Perfection
When you emphasize and reward the journey over the result, you're building a healthy and less stressful behavioral habit for the whole family. According to Time, rewarding effort rather than aiming for perfection is definitely a good practice of many great parents. It also helps your child understand how the real world works, too. If they only ever focus on absolute perfection, they'll often be left feeling unfulfilled.
6. They Trust
Author Annalisa Barbieri told The Independent that neither discipline nor respect is what makes a parent great; it's actually all about trust. And that makes sense, too. If your child trusts you and your partner, feels safe to communicate with you both, and values your input, then you're already on the path to being an awesome parent.
7. They Listen Mindfully
As much as I'd like to say that my husband and I are super attentive as soon as our toddler son begins speaking, that's not always the case. But when my partner and I do take the time to get down on his level and really listen to whatever rambling, seemingly odd things our 2-year-old has to say, there's no denying that his eyes absolutely light up.
Janice MacAulay of the Canadian Association of Family Resource Programs in Ottawa tells Today's Parent that great parents allow their child to genuinely be heard, which sends the message that they value their child. When you ignore them or correct what they're saying mid-sentence, you're giving them the impression that what you're doing or thinking is more important than them.
8. They Take Time Apart
You might think this sounds counter-intuitive to being a great parent, but trust me, it's not. Lisa Firestone, clinical psychologist and director of research and education for the Glendon Association, told Psychology Today, that you're a role model for your children and if you set the example that taking care of yourself is a top priority, then your children will adapt that habit, too.
9. They Advocate For Adventure
Though this may not always be easily achieved, great parents know how and when to encourage exploration. Sure, work and school can make it difficult to carve out time for creativity, but it's such a very necessary part of great parenting. Craig T. Ramey, psychologist and director of the Georgetown University Center on Health and Education told Parents that encouraging exploration has teaches your children resilience and fearlessness. This is one habit of great parents you might want to add to your skill set ASAP.
10. They Are Age-Appropriate
You probably understand that big words will fall on deaf ears for a toddler or that treating your teen like a little kid is a recipe for disaster. According to The American Academy of Physicians, setting age-appropriate boundaries and using language your children can comprehend is a prime habit of great parents. It sets the foundation for healthy communication among the entire family.
11. They Know When To Say "No"
This is from a page in my own parenting handbook, and it took me a while to truly put this into action, too. I tend to cave in to our child's demands more than my husband does and we realized, both as a couple and as parents, that the inconsistency with which our son heard the word "no" wasn't great for him.
I've learned not to say "yes" or "no" solely out of obligation or because I think it's what society expects of me as a parent. When both parents are on the same page and are regular in their discipline habits, children seem to respond better to structure and stability.