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Why You're a Great Mom, No Matter How You Mother


Trace the roots of your parenting style.
No matter how hard you try to forge your own unique path as a mom, there's a good chance you're raising your kids the same way your parents raised you — for better and worse. "When you feel a little pain in your stomach because you've triggered a bad memory from growing up, it's a good sign that maybe this is one behavior you don't want to pass on to your kids," Borba says. I got this wake-up call a few months back when I screamed at my 3-year-old — for some trivial infraction — and saw a look of primal fear on her face, as if I were a T. rex coming in for the kill. I had an instant flashback to my own mother's constant yelling — while she always apologized after an episode, I'd feel hurt for days. One of the great gifts you get from being a parent, though, is the chance to right the wrongs from your childhood. "You spend 18 years in your parents' home, so their ways become normal for you," Dunning says. "But if it doesn't feel right, you can make new rules." You can also go overboard compensating for your parents' missteps, however. To tap into whether your style is working, ask yourself, Are my kids responding to me the way I want? If not, examine your choices in certain situations and tweak them to meet your kids' needs and your own.

Celebrate your style.
It's not often that your kids will tell you what a great job you're doing at being their mom. Borba recommends recording your parenting triumphs and wisdom in a log. You might write, "When I lower my voice, it diffuses Will's tantrums." Says Borba, "It gives you confidence because you're not only tracking successes but also making an effort to improve — and both are signs of a good parent." Add to this journal the compliments from teachers and other parents that have made you feel good about your parenting style. Ariel Zeitlin Cooke, 46, felt really proud when her daughter's principal told her, "Your kid knows right from wrong. She won't be swayed by other kids to go along with the crowd." Says the Montclair, NJ, mom, "I thought that was a ringing endorsement for a 7-year-old — and by extension, for my liberal parenting style. I've given Eve room to make choices, so now she trusts her own judgment — and I do, too." Don't forget to also record the delicious things your child tells you, like what my 3-year-old said recently: "Mommy, I love you the best."

Understand that your kid is unique.

Kids are not robots that you can program. "Children are born with different temperaments that determine how easy or challenging they're going to be to parent," says psychologist Howard Paul, Ph.D., a professor of clinical psychiatry at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. And since the exquisite skill of good parenting is meeting your child's specific needs, no one is better equipped than you are — whatever your style — to parent your child. A few years ago, Laurie Hurley, 50, of Newbury Park, CA, was an easygoing mom to then 8-year-old Hannah, but her style changed after she adopted a daughter who had attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. "I went from being spontaneous to sticking to a schedule," Hurley says. "I'd never naturally be that regimented, but it made my daughter's life more peaceful." Yes, you're the mom, but parenting is always a give-and-take proposition. Researchers have recently discovered that even in the newborn period, the baby likely has more impact on Mom than they once thought. Apparently, infants — by communicating through cries and other signals — influence not only Mom's actions (getting her to change a diaper, for example) but also her brain, actually stimulating new neurons, enhancing existing ones, and prepping her to become the particular kind of parent that child will need.

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