Elizabeth Elizardi M.Ed., MAPP

Parent Pulse

The er-Factor: Becoming a Better Parent

What does it mean to be a better parent? Start with the here and now.

Posted Jul 21, 2011

In my profession as a coach, I work with highly creative, self-aware and resourceful people. On any given day these individuals lead high-performing teams at some of New Orleans most struggling schools or parent with finesse and pizazz even in the most difficult child-rearing situations. They seek coaching because they share an awareness of a specific behavior or skill that they want to change or learn, or a specific goal they want to be coached towards achieving.  Although they are supremely effective at what they do, they want to get better.  

But, what does "better" mean? The word itself suggests the need for improved accuracy or performance, further emphasized by the suffix "er."  The word "better" begs for individuals to compare their behavior to someone else- maybe "the best." Better means that there is something more to access-something desirable, but missing. Why be happy when you can be happier? Is it enough to work hard when you can work harder? And in the parenting domain, what does it mean to be a "better parent?" Before answering this question, it is important to consider the point of comparison.

Social comparison, the process of measuring your experiences against those of another person, can take a downward or upward slope. Downward comparison, or comparing your behavior or actions to another parent,can help you feel more confident about your present situation. When struggling with a specific parenting behavior or action, how many times have you thought, "It could be worse, look at how she parents" or "At least I don't spank my kids." However, if a parent wants to become better at a specific behavior or skill, or work towards a goal, downward social comparison could cause a parent to wear blinders and routinely confirm their own biases without looking toward growth and opportunity.   

Upward social comparison means becoming aware of people in your life whose skills or behavior you wish to emulate.  Looking up to another parent as a role model contributes to greater self-efficacy and overall well-being and it enables people to hone skills that build competence and confidence in abilities. But a word of advice about comparing up: Parents have the tendency to strive for perfection or the "er-factor", focusing on what is lacking, instead of building upon what is present. It is also important to note that social comparison is a subjective, external judgment. Beware!

So, what does it mean to be a better parent? First consider the comparison. Are you comparing up or down? Second, reflect on the strengths that lie within you now by asking powerful questions like, "You are here. Where is here?" When thinking about the changes you want to make in your life, reflect on what you have successfully done in the past and the personal assets or strengths that will push the change forward.    

Because you could be better than that
Don't let it get the better of you
What could be better than now
Life's not about what's better than

~John Butler

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