What makes a good parent: a doctor’s perspective

“What makes a good parent?” I asked my seven-year-old son last night. I was curious to hear his response.

“Good parents don’t yell and they take their kids to birthday parties,” he promptly responded. “Oh and they buy their kids toys and take them on vacations. And they snuggle with them.”

I smiled as I listened to his responses. Simple, genuine answers from an innocent little boy. But the more I pondered his answers, the more I realized the truth hidden in his words.

As a pediatrician, I see families from all walks of life. I may care for a family living in a homeless shelter one day and a multimillionaire’s child the next. But because of this dichotomy, I have become keenly aware that parents, truly good parents, have character traits that remain steadfast, no matter the size of their bank accounts or the clothes they wear. Here are five truths from a pediatrician’s perspective that apply to all good parents:

  • Good parents keep their emotions in check. They do not overreact to every temper tantrum, bad attitude, and eye roll. They know when to just let things go and when to offer consistent correction without losing their cool, whether it be a terrible toddler or a testy teen.
  • Good parents freely give affection. Studies have shown that children who receive more positive touch and affection in infancy turn out to be kinder and more empathetic adults. Good parents do not withhold hugs, and in turn their children feel more safe and secure, which boosts their self-esteem.
  • Good parents provide consistent boundaries to make their children feel secure. Some parents fear that enforcing boundaries will lead to power struggles, whether it be toddler or teen. In reality, good parents realize that if children know where the boundaries lie, they will not need to constantly test them.
  • Good parents allow their children to become independent. Just as the teetering toddler should not be held back when learning to walk, the older child needs to be given the freedom to fall as well. As tempting as it may be to try and hold onto the reins, good parents know that making mistakes only leads to independence.
  • Good parents have fun with their children. Often parents become more concerned with raising a “perfect” child, rushing them from piano lessons to tutoring to basketball. With only 24 hours in a day, there is often no time left over for fun. While children may indeed become well rounded in the world’s eyes, they suffer when their parent does not make the sacrifice of quality (and quantity) time. They miss out on the joys of time alone with their parents, which builds unbreakable bonds that last throughout childhood.


Children innately know what they need in order to feel safe and secure. Oftentimes, parents look to the latest parenting books (or even blogs!) for advice on how to raise children. No matter what type of parent you are, be it helicopter, free-range, or attachment, there are underlying threads tying all good parents together.

Perhaps you should just ask your children what makes a good parent. You just might be surprised to hear their answer.


  1. YES. YES. YES.


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