How To Be The Parent Your Kid Needs At Every Age

Learn to read your kids' needs.

Mother and daughter Camila Hikaru | Canva 

Parents have one of the toughest jobs out there. And since moms and dads aren't handed a how-to manual upon childbirth, it's perfectly normal to worry about being a good parent who consistently meets your kid's needs. (In fact, wondering how to improve your parenting skills is a sign you're already doing a great job!)

The good news is children are constantly giving us clues about what they need. It's learning how to decipher them that's the tricky part!


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Here's how to be the parent your unique kid needs at every age

1. Embrace your child's interests.

By embracing their interests, you show your child you care about what is important to them. Just think how you would feel if your spouse or partner never asked you about the most important things happening in your life!

By paying attention to your child's interests and desires, you nurture your relationship with them and show you're both present and engaged in their life. Doing this will empower you to be the parent your kid needs because you'll understand your child on a deeper, more fundamental level.




2. Listen when your kid speaks.

While you may be tempted to interrupt your child's dialogue with parental guidance, make an effort to listen to your child and not judge what they have to say. Think about it this way: How would you feel if people chastised you and brought up every mistake you ever made when you tried to talk to them?

By holding back your comments and choosing to listen without critique, you create open and easy communication. Not only are you more likely to get honest information by using this approach, but your child is also more likely to come to you again the next time they have a problem, too.

parent comforts upset teen


Photo: fizkes via Shutterstock

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3. Look at your child's problems from their perspective.

Try to understand your kid's point of view, and make an effort to step into their shoes from time to time. Remember how frustrated you felt as a child when it seemed like no one would validate your point of view on a subject or even really listen to it?

The more you step into your child's shoes, the more you can give them what they need. Understanding your kid's perspective allows you to better interpret their signals and be the quality parent you want to be.

4. Give your child empathy.

No matter how small or inconsequential your child's problems or concerns may seem to you, it's important to validate your kid's worries with empathy. When you empathize with your child, it helps you understand their why — why something is important to them, why something was hard for them, or why a situation made them feel a specific way. And once you understand their reasoning a bit better, it empowers you to be the parent your child needs in that scenario.


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5. Remember, your kid doesn't have your wisdom yet.

Your child has had limited life experience, so their perspective is limited. That's why your child needs to help them develop their understanding of life and shape their approach to any situation.

By accepting your child's limitations, you are being the parent your kid needs. Only then can you help them learn, grow, and develop into a healthy, happy individual.


Even as newborns, children show us what they need with little signals. A cry that calls out for a diaper change or another cry that signifies “I am hungry.” But as they get older, children’s codes and requests for mom or dad's help are harder to crack.

When you directly ask your kid, “How are things going?” you will often get very little information. Your child may shrug or say she's “fine” in a monosyllabic response to your inquiry. But don't worry! It's normal to struggle with decoding what your child needs because your child’s signals are often unclear.

For example, your daughter may want your help navigating a fight with a friend at school — but then want to never speak of it again. Or, your son may want to cuddle on the couch and then the very next day call the same act “babyish.” As a parent, it's your job to balance these competing — and rapidly evolving — desires. It's a parenting dilemma as old as time:


Moms and dads are challenged with figuring out how to give their kids the space and independence they want while making sure to be the parents their children need.

Being a parent is no easy task. Even trying your hardest, you won’t get it right all the time, but that's OK! If you keep working at it, eventually you'll realize the difference your parenting is making in your child's life.

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Caroline Maguire, ACCG, PCC, M.Ed. is a personal coach who works with children with ADHD and the families who support them.