In the current issue of Scientific American Mind, child psychologist Robert Epstein discusses his recent study on the important components of parenting.
Epstein and his colleagues perused the parenting books out there (according to him, there are 40,000 parenting books listed on Amazon) and distilled a list of qualities commonly thought to improve kids’ lives — gold standards of parenting.
Then he surveyed 2,000 parents and ask them questions about their parenting style, as well as questions about their kids’ well being, and tried to make connects between parenting traits and behaviors, and how adjusted and happy kids are overall. Here’s what he found:
#1 Lots of love. No surprise here. This was the number one predictor of healthy kids.
#2 Parent’s ability to manage stress. A mom or dad’s ability to take care of their own mental health was rated number two.
#3 Parent’s relationship skills. Epstein says this means how well the parents take care of their own relationship to each other, friends and family.
We have to take it with a grain of salt, because the study is based on self-report. We’re not the best at seeing ourselves and taking an accurate reading on our own behaviors, and we might also have a hard time rating our kids clearly.
But nonetheless, I think it’s interesting, the notion that two of the three most important qualities of parenting have nothing to do with the child themselves, but rather how the parent takes care of his or her own happiness and well being, and the health of relationships.
It makes sense to me. Parenting doesn’t just mean following around after our kids and responding to their needs, it’s also about providing a model and a safety net of healthy connections to others.
And our kids need us to take care of ourselves too — this is part of healthy attachment, because it provides them with a safe, stable base from which to come and go. If we’re in a good place ourselves, we’re more open and attuned, and less reactive to ups and downs.
What do you think? Self care and relationship quality crucial to happy kids?
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