Real Talk

Being “Good With Kids” Doesn’t Mean You Would Make a Good Parent

Some people mistakenly think that being good with kids equates to being good at parenting.

Parents know that every day is the luck of the draw. Kids can choose to behave like complete angels or unleash hell on earth as the gremlins they truly are. But there’s always that person who somehow “gets” kids. Someone who understands our kids’ references, has no trouble matching their energy, and appears to spend less effort in disciplining them because they willingly listen to what he or she has to say!

And let’s be honest: if not amazed, we’re a little envious of the hold they have over the kids. So much so that we can imagine them being a mom or dad themselves.

But in some cases, these people who are actually good with kids believe otherwise. They know they won’t be a good parent!

Parent and child

Not sure if it’s a compliment to take

“You’re so good with kids. I bet you would make a great mother.” Hearing this compliment on my end doesn’t sound offensive—at least as part of casual conversation or as an off-handed remark. But sometimes, being aware of the reality diminishes the value of that compliment. Even more so since I play the second parent in two different contexts: as a teacher and as an elder sister who has a 14-year age gap with her younger sister.

As a teacher, the bare minimum goal is simple: to make sure that kids remember their lesson. But as a second parent, there’s an extra step to knowing how they can apply that lesson in their realm of interests. That extra step was only possible after I spoke with my student’s parents before taking on the job. Their insights about my students were something I couldn’t have gotten based on short, school-based conversations with the kids themselves. It’s teamwork!

The situations change as the elder sister with seniors for parents. The generation gap is obvious—especially with the use of technology and the language associated with it. My job was more on being the translator for both parties—which is only just one of the hats a parent has to wear.

Then, there’s toughening my sister up because my parents aren’t getting any younger and aren’t ready to “let her fly” yet.

But that’s just one or two aspects of parenting.

If parenting were more of a systematic and sequential laundry list, it would be feasible. But everyone knows that many things happen. That perfect laundry list for parenting usually has steps one to five all happening at the same time! While breakfast is cooking, parents have to wake their kids up so they won’t be late for school, dress them up, and then wake up whoever’s bringing them to school.

But that’s just the executive part of the list and that assumes that everyone’s a morning person. Some children are grouchy when they wake up from the wrong side of the bed. Some need a thirty-minute boot-up time like a desktop and will stare blankly at the ceiling before moving. Others will fight, hiss, and scream bloody murder if parents so much as touch their blankie.

The success rate of resolving all those problems also depends on how calm parents are throughout the ordeal. We know that Gentle Parenting is ideal and we’re sure every parent does too. But, when the kids make The Exorcism‘s Emily Rose look like an angel, it’s very difficult to keep the kiddie gloves on.

Older sister with little sister

Some of us remember how socially difficult it was for us when we were kids.

While some of the scolding was deserved, there were other days that it didn’t teach me anything. Looking back, it’s probably those moments that proved that patience was not a virtue—but a skill. I’ve also realized that kids shouldn’t be punished for failing to meet expectations.

But the ability to remain cool under fire, especially when the kid is already flipping out or not doing what we expect from him or her isn’t easy. However, what helped me—as a teacher and an elder sister—was recalling how I felt as a kid in that situation.

“Is the question I’m going to ask stupid?”

“Do they even want to help?”

Committing that to memory allowed me to constantly “advocate” for the kid and to easily trace their line of thinking. But looking after a kid isn’t as polar as being a hero or a villain. It’s knowing that there’s a barrier. The generation gap, the experiential gap—parents may have lived in the world longer, but the world they know doesn’t have the technologies of today.

Unfortunately, that kind of realization isn’t instant. It’s a slow learning process, requiring years of experience and hours of processing to piece together.

It’s a compliment, but not one that should undermine the parenting experience.

Besides the Psychology degree, perhaps it’s recognizing there are still parts of myself that are “a child.” As a child, the world does look big and scary. There are so many uncertain things and even then, there’s no telling what parenting will be like twenty or many years from now. Maybe now, it’s squatting and talking to kids at an eye level. Two decades or more later, maybe disciplining kids will be in the form of text messaging. Who knows? Kids of tomorrow will always be different from the ones of today.

Thank you for the compliment, however. But, to the many parents who said this to me, thank you also for doing your best to raise your kids right.

More about kids?

Trust the Process: What Parents Can Teach Their Kids About Conflict Resolution
Little Things That Can Overwhelm Kids and Why
Pillow Talk For Kids: Things We Can Talk To Our Kids About Before Bed

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