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Health & Parenting

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

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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."

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