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What is the “right” type of parent?

When you apply for a job, what’s the first thing the employer wants to know? When you apply to a college or technical program, what’s the first thing the program wants to know? Typically, they want to know if you’re the “right kind of person” for the job and whether you have the skills to meet the demands of the position. And how do you get those skills? Training and experience.

But what about the most important job in the world? No, not the President, but another “P” word: PARENT. What are the skills and experiences that a new parent must have to be the right kind of parent? Certainly there must be intensive training and technical skill development involved in order to do the job correctly and successfully, right?

The truth is that after working in the behavioral health field with children and families for over 30 years, it’s become apparent to me that there is no single “right” type of parent. The training we receive to qualify as effective parents is primarily “on-the-job” training. The experiences we have that provide the foundation for our parenting style is what we observed and experienced as children growing up.

There is, however, a very basic skill set that is required to be the “right” kind of parent for the children we raise — the ability to give love, show compassion, be involved and interested in their lives, and provide appropriate discipline. It has become clear that there is no single “right” way to do these things. Regardless of personality style, education or income level; race, gender or any number of other variables; if we can provide, or improve our ability to provide these basic skills, both we as parents and our children will be successful.

And remember, being a parent is not easy; as Ed Asner said, “Raising a kid is part joy, part guerrilla warfare!”