Some people think that a good parent is someone who has “good” kids. The truth is, however, that good parents can have any kind of kids-well-behaved kids, poorly behaved kids, calm and confident kids, anxious kids, mentally ill kids, super achievers, underachievers, kids with health problems, kids with learning problems, gifted kids, average kids and all other kinds of kids. Kids are a product of their genes, their communities, their schools, their culture, their family placement, their experiences and their parents’ guidance-among other factors. To claim credit or blame for a child’s outcome is presumptuous on the part of parents. What parents can claim credit or blame for, however, is their own behaviour.
Parents can do a good or poor job of parenting: socializing and educating their kids and providing a healthy model for them to emulate. Whether children successfully integrate parental lessons is irrelevant to the definition of a good parent; what is relevant is that the parent has done his or her part in the teaching-modeling process. Whether the impact of parents accounts for only 10% of the adult personality of the child or whether it accounts for 50% or more, also matters little. What matters is that the parent has done everything possible within his or her sphere of influence.
What is in the Parent’s Sphere of Influence?
It was not unusual for parents of earlier generations to think that their job primarily involved the physical care and practical education of their children. In this view, the parent succeeds at the task of parenting by virtue of getting kids washed, dressed, fed and out the door for school, then fed, washed, undressed and into bed at night. Deluxe versions of this model add frills like providing a clean and orderly house, help with homework, particularly nutritious or delicious meals and maybe even extra-curricular lessons or activities. Plus the occasional family vacation.
However, a quick look at the modern field of developmental...