The Science of Happiness. Register Today
   

Raising Happiness

 

Mirror Mirror on the Wall: Who’s the Best Mom of Them All?

May 7, 2012 | The Main Dish | 0 comments

Just in time for Mother's Day, Christine Carter offers her top ten tips for being the best mom you can be.

Last year, Tiger Mothers were superior. This year, French mommy-hood has been deemed a cut above. Are other mothers generally better than us at producing high-functioning and high-achieving kids? And do they enjoy parenting more than we do?

Maybe. Tiger mothers, soccer mothers, French mamas, working mothers, stay-at-home-mothers: We each have our strengths. We don’t have a lot of empirical evidence about what brand of mommy is “best,” but we do have a lot of data about what makes for good parenting. I’ve spent the last 10+ years deep in that research. In honor of Mother’s Day, here are my Top 10 qualities of a “good” mother. (Two notes about this: 1. These are also qualities of good fathers, of course, without exception. 2. We don’t need to embody all of these things all at once to be good parents—see #10.)

1. She’s happy. There are scores of reasons that a parent’s happiness matters for their children’s well-being (and achievement) across the board. Happiness helps us all fulfill our potential. When we mothers are happy, we are better mothers.*

2. She’s not stressed out or over-busy. The ability to be present—and patient—with our children is one of the greatest gifts that we can give them. It is hard to be a skillful parent when we’re freaking out about, oh, all the things we generally freak out about. The best mothers both plan stress out of their lives, and cope with stress actively, using techniques like meditation, mindfulness, and yoga.

3. She’s in a happy romantic relationship. Little is more important for our happiness than our love lives. When we are in a low-conflict and fulfilling relationship, our children learn have a healthy example for their own relationships. Great mamas model passionate, long-lasting, and joyful romance.

4. She’s unconditionally warm and affectionate. This means that when her children aren’t behaving well, she doesn’t withdraw her love and comfort—she has other disciplinary tools in her belt. My grandmother was the ultimate in this department: She once told me that she’d still love me, even if I turned out to be “an axe murderer.” She’d put me in jail where I belonged, but she’d still love me.

5. She sets firm boundaries. Kids need their mom to be their parent, not their best friend. This means saying no, even when it is excruciatingly difficult. Good mothers set rules, and they enforce those rules, consistently and with warmth.

6. She embraces mistake-making. Though it is natural for us to want to protect our children from making mistakes, we handicap them when we compensate for them or prevent them from falling down.

7. She’s supportive without being a helicopter parent. She promotes her kids’ independence. She lets them hear their own voice, so that they might know better who they are and what they want in life—rather than who their mother is, and what their mother wants for them.

8. She creates good family habits that routinely evoke positive emotions like appreciation, confidence, and compassion rather than entitlement or obstinence. Some examples: a dinnertime gratitude practice, a morning routine that doesn’t rely on yelling or bribery, a bedtime routine that leads to connection, and an after-school routine that allows for the unstructured play that children need to develop skills for happiness and empathy.

9. She’s a proponent of hard work in the pursuit of mastery, even when it is boring or uncomfortable. And she uses a growth-mindset to praise effort rather than innate talent.

10. She’s not perfect, in any realm, and she doesn’t expect perfection from her children, either. Perfectionism is a particular form of unhappiness; it is a life driven by the fear of not being enough. The best parents give their children the room they need to be messy, mistake-making children. AND they allow themselves, perhaps with some humor, to be messy, mistake-making mothers who love life and their children with an open heart.

Are you a great mama? Do you have a great mom? Are you married to one? At the very least, I know you know a great mother. Which of these qualities are your—or her—particular strength? Which are you still working on? What other important qualities do you think should be on this list?

Often I think that what we want most for Mother’s Day is to know that we are good-enough mothers. Or even that we are GREAT mothers. This week, express your gratitude to the mothers in your life: Which of the things on this list do they do best? Forward this email, post it on a mom’s Facebook wall, or leave a comment here.

* This doesn’t mean that you aren’t a good mom if you’ve struggled with depression, as many moms do, or that your children are going to be scarred forever. It does mean that it is important—and not selfish—to take care of yourself, and your own happiness.



—-

© 2012 Christine Carter, Ph.D.

Become a fan of Raising Happiness on Facebook.
Follow Christine Carter on Twitter
Sign up for the Raising Happiness monthly newsletter.

Tracker Pixel for Entry
 
 
 
 
  

Like this post?

Here's what you can do:

Donate
 
  
 
  

Buy the Book!

Learn more about the science of raising happy kids in Christine Carter's popular book.

BUY
 
  
 
blog comments powered by Disqus
 

Subscribe to this Blog

Every time a new Raising Happiness post is published, get it as an email or via RSS feed.

Subscribe

 

Most...

  
  
Is she flirting with you? Take the quiz and find out.
image

Greater Good Articles

  
  • When Does Power Hurt Romance?

    October 2, 2014

    Four new studies reveal how having power affects your willingness to walk in your partner's shoes.

  • The Right Way to Get Angry

    October 20, 2014

    Anger is a tool that helps us read and respond to upsetting social situations. But how can you stop it from getting out of hand?

  • The Battle Between Success and Compassion

    October 17, 2014

    If adults want to raise caring kids, research suggests they might need to start by examining the mixed messages they’re sending to kids.

  

Twitter

 

Greater Good Live

  

The Evolutionary Roots of Compassion

The Evolutionary Roots of Compassion

Dacher Keltner explains why Darwin thought compassion is humans’ strongest instinct.

Watch
 

The Greater Good Guide to Mindfulness

The Greater Good Guide to Mindfulness

This invaluable resource, a special benefit for GGSC members, offers insight into what mindfulness is, why it’s important, and how to teach it.

Get the Guide
 

Self-Compassion & the Cultivation of Happiness with Kristin Neff

International House, UC Berkeley campus
November 7, 2014
Self-Compassion & the Cultivation of Happiness with Kristin Neff

This day-long seminar led by self-compassion pioneer Kristin Neff, will offer strategies for cultivating self-compassion, boosting happiness, and reducing stress in yourself and others.

» All Events

 
  

Sponsors

The Quality of Life Foundation logo Special thanks to

The Quality of Life Foundation for its support of the Greater Good Science Center

 
thnx advertisement