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"Am I a Good Enough Mom?"

Use ammo from the experts.

Your instincts are your best handbook to mothering. But it doesn't hurt to arm yourself with informed guidance. Read a book or two — but not 20. Consult your pediatrician. Talk to friends whose parenting styles you admire. "Mix and match to arrive at your own style," says Debbie Glasser, Ph.D., founder of newsforparents.org. "When you find out what works for you, you won't be so vulnerable to the push and pull of outsiders."

And when you really want to get the quibblers off your back, never underestimate the power of these three words: "My pediatrician says...." With that preface you get instant cred, even if you say that your baby is allergic to mauve. Seriously.

Get your guy on your side.

Most nights, around 8 p.m., you'll find me issuing orders like a traffic cop: "Put your homework in your backpacks. Take a shower. Brush your teeth." Some nights everything clicks, and by 8:30 everyone is ready to go night-night. But other nights, my husband derails my system by offering horseback rides, telling jokes, or regaling the kids with stories about his childhood. Sometimes I find this kind of sweet. But most of the time, it just eats me up.

"Spousal sabotage is a big complaint from moms — who often play 'bad cop' by default when dads just want to have fun," says Simpson. Avoid chastising your partner in front of the kids in the heat of the moment. "That kind of squabbling undermines both parents' authority and teaches kids to play you against each other," she explains. Instead, pull your guy aside and quietly explain that his actions undercut your efforts. Then suggest alternatives to his rowdy behavior, such as reading a book with the children or participating in what you're doing so he's not sabotaging you. Later, follow up with him — make sure you're still on the same page about house rules and remind him how crucial it is that you maintain a united parenting front.

Meanwhile, it's also critical to remain somewhat flexible — especially when your kids are at a friend's or relative's house. "When you model flexibility, children learn positive lessons about problem-solving," says Elizabeth Berger, M.D., a child psychiatrist and the author of Raising Kids with Character. Gina Williams, 41, a mom in Glenn Dale, MD, is adamantly against TV and video games, and so far her strident house rule has held up. But when her two sons — Zion, 6, and Dylan, 2 — visit Grandma, they're treated to a screen-time bonanza: television, video, handheld games, you name it. Instead of fighting with her mother, however, Gina softened up her rule. "I focus on the things I can control in my own house," she says. "I just say, 'What happens at Grandma's stays at Grandma's.'"

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