Did a teacher ever ask you to grade your own schoolwork? Or did you have a chance to say what grade you thought you earned in a course? Some students would say they thought they should get an A. Others would be more modest. They might say a B. Almost no one would choose to get an F. What would you have said?
What if someone asked what grade you should get as a parent? Do you think you deserve an A? Do you think you are an average C parent? Does it depend on what day it is? Some days you might feel like a total failure as a parent. Many parents do. Other days you might feel like a total parenting success. Does it depend on which child you are caring for?
Studies Show That…
It is important to feel good about yourself as a parent. It is helpful to feel self-confident. Parents who feel that way do a better job with their children. There are several ways that self-confident parents do better.
- Confident parents make good decisions. They believe in their parenting decisions, so they follow through. They do what they say they are going to do. That means their children know what to expect. That helps the children learn.
- Confident parents believe they can learn new things. No parent starts parenting with all the information that will be needed. All parents will need to learn new things. Some parents will need to learn lots of new things if a child has special needs. Confident parents believe they can learn those things. Being open to learning helps parents grow as parents.
- Confident parents enjoy parenting. They have fun with parenting. They enjoy their children. They don’t worry as much as parents who are not confident. Confident parents have a good time caring for children!
- Confident parents help their children become confident. Parents who believe in themselves are good role models. They teach their children how to believe in themselves. That helps their children learn and grow.
Studies show that there are several reasons that parents might not feel self-confident.
- Some parents don’t feel like parents. This can be a problem in the first steps of parenting. They are just getting used to the idea. And it can be worse if people did not plan to be parents. Or maybe they didn’t want to be parents. It also can be a problem for stepparents or foster parents. They just don’t feel like parents. They have not “embraced the role.” So, they are not confident.
- Some parents do an OK job, but they do not take credit for it. They do not believe they are good enough to get credit. Maybe they think they are just lucky. They do not believe in themselves. This is sometimes called the “imposter phenomenon.” They think they are pretending to be good. They think they didn’t earn their success. Many of these people had parents who protected them too much. Their own parents did not let them ever fail. They told them everything they did was good, even if it wasn’t. So, these people didn’t know if they could really do anything on their own. That means they don’t trust themselves as parents.
- Some parents set themselves up to fail. These parents do not think they can do a good job as parents. So, they make sure they don’t do a good job. Then they can blame something else for their failure. This is sometimes called “self-handicapping.” They are afraid of failing by accident. So, they fail on purpose. Then they are in control. Studies show that these parents might not have learned how to handle failure in a healthy way. Their parents might not have given them much support. So, they learned to control their failures.
Next Steps For Parents…
Parents and parenting figures can learn to feel more confident. They can learn to feel better about themselves. They can learn to give themselves fair credit for what they do well. A lot of the next steps involve how you talk to yourself.
First, for now, don’t worry about “becoming a parent.” That doesn’t matter for parenting self-confidence. Let’s worry about “doing parenting” right now. Focus on the actions of caring for children and their needs. Anyone who cares about and for children can do that. You might become a parent. Or you might not become a parent. But you can become self-confident as you “do parenting.”
Next, let’s pay attention to how you talk to yourself about parenting. Self-talk is central to self-confidence. Self-talk is the voice in your head. It tells you how you did whenever you make a decision or finish a parenting job. That voice can say, “Hey, that went well! I’m good at this parenting thing!” Or it can say, “That was a disaster! I hope I never have to do that again!”
Let’s talk about some ways to get that voice in your head under control! How can your self-talk build parenting self-confidence?
- Praise Yourself. Think about your inner voice saying, “That went well! I can do it!” Then think about your inner voice saying, “That was terrible! I don’t know what I am doing!” Which voice gives you energy? Which voice makes you ready to move ahead? You can be in charge of that voice. You can give yourself energy. You can praise yourself! Self-praise is different from bragging. The voice in your head can say positive things. Focus on how you feel, not how good you are. You can tell yourself, “I am proud of how I handled that.” Or “I think that was a good way to talk with my child.” Or “I feel good about the way we solved that problem.” You can praise yourself quietly. Or sometimes you can praise yourself out loud.
- Compare yourself to yourself. Look at how you have done in the past. See if you are getting better. Don’t compare yourself to a perfect parent. That perfect parent doesn’t really exist. And don’t compare yourself to other parents. Other parents have their own goals and needs. Think about the past when you praise yourself. You can say, “I did a better job with keeping my temper today.” Or “I can understand my son’s homework better now.” Set goals. Reward yourself when you reach those goals. Give yourself a pat on the back!
- Balance failures with success. Sometimes things don’t go very well. Parenting isn’t easy. Sometimes you feel like you made a mistake. That is normal. Try to find something that went right. Maybe you were late for your child’s ball game. But you said you were sorry. Your child seemed to be pleased that you said you were sorry. And you have a new plan for getting there on time. Focus on what went right, not what went wrong. Or maybe you tried to give your children a new healthy food for supper. The children would not eat that new food. You can focus on the good parts. You tried something new. That is good. And you learned something that they don’t like. That is good, too. And maybe all the children agreed on something at suppertime instead of arguing! Focus on what went well!
- Set a goal to improve. Remember you are not done learning as a parent. No one is perfect. You can still grow. How can you get better? Look at how you have gotten better. Look at how you will keep growing. Look at the failures and successes. Decide what you want to do next.
- Help your children learn these skills. Help your children praise themselves. Teach them how to talk about how they feel, not how good they are. Teach them to compare their behavior to their own past behavior. Teach them to balance failures and successes. You can use these skills with parenting. But you can use them in other areas, too. You can show how you use the skills by talking out loud. Let your children hear how you praise yourself. Good self-praise makes everyone feel good. You are not bragging or comparing people with each other. Everyone can get better. Everyone can use self-praise.
Goals For Parents…
How can you take fair credit as a parent? How can these skills fit in your life? A first step could be to practice self-praise.
Write down 5 positive things about your parenting. What are 5 things you think have been successful for you? Focus on how you feel. Compare your parenting today to the past. How have you gotten better with those parenting skills?
Choose one skill. Tell yourself how you have grown in that skill. Maybe write it down on a Post-it note. Put it on your bathroom mirror. Or put a note in your phone. Or put it in your dresser drawer. Put it somewhere to remind you each day. Look at it and remind yourself every day that you can do some things well.
Choose another skill. Repeat the process.
Think about your goals. Reward yourself when you reach each goal. Remind yourself that you can learn new things as a parent.
Give yourself fair credit in your parenting!
Fasanghari, M., Masoumeh Kordi, M., & Asgharipourm, N. (2019, Jan 29). Effect of maternal role training program based on Mercer theory on maternal self-confidence of primiparous women with unplanned pregnancy. Journal of Education and Health Promotion, 8(4). DOI: 10.4103/jehp.jehp_202_17
Vance, A. J., Brandon, D. H. (2017, October/December). Delineating among parenting confidence, parenting self-efficacy, and competence. Advances in Nursing Science, 40(4), E18–E37. DOI: 10.1097/ANS.0000000000000179.
Want, J., & Kleitman, S. (2006). Imposter phenomenon and self-handicapping: Links with parenting styles and self-confidence. Personality and Individual Differences,40(5), 961-971. DOI: 10.1016/j.paid.2005.10.005