What Are the Essential Characteristics of a Good Parent?

Mother sitting with son (9-11) on decking
Being a good listener is an essential characteristic of a good parent. (Image: Digital Vision/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Being a successful parent helps develop qualities in children such as honesty, empathy, self-control, self-reliance, cooperation, cheerfulness and kindness, and instills in them the motivation to achieve, according to author and Temple University psychology professor Laurence Steinberg. The role of a good parent is also to protect their child from developing psychological problems, such as depression, anxiety and anti-social behavior, which increases the risk of substance abuse.

Loving and Affectionate

A study of 2,000 parents conducted by psychology professor and researcher Robert Epstein that was published in a 2010 issue of "Scientific American" found that being loving and affectionate while still providing parental guidance was most important in raising happy kids. Loving parents choose to respect, encourage and nurture their children rather than judging and blaming him. They constantly affirm their love and affection, both verbally and through their behavior. By using positive reinforcement, they build self-esteem rather than tearing it down with criticism. When their child makes an achievement, they're quick to offer enthusiastic praise. A loving parent might say, "It's great that you cleaned your room without being asked" or "I'm so proud that you made the basketball team."

Skillful Communicators

Parents who are skillful communicators show genuine interest in all areas of their child's life and are always available for him. They demonstrate respect for their child by explaining the reasons behind rules, rather than simply ordering him to "do as you're told." To become a skillful communicator, encourage your child to express his feelings and then listen with understanding. Being an interested listener shows him that his feelings and opinions are appreciated and valued. Instead of belittling his feelings by telling him he's "wrong" to feel a certain way, show empathy by saying, "I can understand why your little sister made you upset" or "I'm sorry your best friend made you so mad."

Ability to Manage Stress

Another essential characteristic of a good parent is the ability to manage their stress and temper, which leads to well-adjusted children, according to Epstein. Children often handle stress by mirroring how their parents manage emotions during stressful situations. Parents who come home and complain about their job, boss, use foul language, argue or take out their frustration on their kids, set a poor example for healthy stress management. If parents are unable to cope with stress, it also causes their kids to feel anxious and less secure. But if your child watches how you're able to manage your emotions even during heated circumstances, he'll follow your lead and learn how to handle stress himself.

Respectful of Autonomy

Rebellion on occasion is a healthy part of your child's attempt to develop his autonomy. Parents who value their kid's emerging independence choose to nurture it rather than attemp to tamp it down. Instead of dictating rules, they ask for their child's input and make setting rules a joint project. Children who are allowed to participate in making decisions become more motivated to carry them out, according to the KidsHealth website. If your child refuses to stop playing a video game and go to bed, you might agree to a compromise by saying, "You can play for an extra 15 minutes, but then it's bedtime." Remaining flexible shows you're honoring his needs, but still setting limits.

Positive Role Model

Being a positive role model for appropriate behavior is more effective than specific disciplinary measures or training in raising your children, according to a 2010 article at PsychologyToday.com. Children learn through observation and often mimic the behavior of their parents. When they watch their parents arguing and losing control, they feel less safe. They might try to resolve conflicts by fighting and arguing, just like their parents do. But parents who are able to work out their conflicts and disagreements through calm discussions rather than heated arguments become healthy role models. Be those traits you hope to develop in your child, such as kindness, compassion, honesty, respectfulness, tolerance, patience, honesty and unconditional love.

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