Become A *Much* Better Parent By Asking Yourself This One Big Question

Answering this question can tell you all you need to know.

Last updated on Feb 04, 2023

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The quality of your life is determined by the quality of the questions you ask.

And the quality of your parenting follows the same rules. Every time you ask a question, your mind goes seeking the answers and in so doing, shapes your reality.

To that end, we often worry about the details of our children’s lives, but we seldom stop to focus on the bigger picture.

There is one parental duty that we all share, though, and it can be encapsulated with this one, big question: Am I doing enough to empower my child?


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When parents ask the wrong questions 

Now, as parents, we are often plagued by questions that arise from our own sense of self-doubt and our fears for our children. 

We tend to ask things like:

  • "Am I doing the right thing?"
  • "Am I messing up my child?"
  • "Why can’t I get through to them?"
  • "Where am I going wrong?"
  • "Why don’t they just listen?"
  • "Are they safe?"

Our concerns tend to be around how they’re behaving now, what marks they’re getting in school, if they are healthy, if they have enough lunch, if they've tidied their rooms, if they're learning their manners, and if they are becoming socially acceptable enough, if they're making the right decisions.

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How involved should parents be today?

As modern parents, we tend to be very involved in our children’s lives. It wasn’t always like this.

Hunter-gatherer societies leave children from the age of four pretty much unattended by adults. Up until their teen years, children are left to do what they like all day long with nobody fussing over them, worrying about them, or interfering with their fun.


Children are allowed to play with dangerous objects — machetes and bows and arrows and fire.

Children are trusted and so become trustworthy. They are treated as capable and so engage in the world with confidence.

Even when I was growing up, from the first grade onward, we were walking to school on our own, going to the local pool with our friends in the afternoon, cruising the neighborhood on our bikes, and coming home at sunset.

We had both freedom and responsibility and we learned to manage ourselves and look out for each other.

Now, I realize that this level of freedom is not possible in most places in the world today, but I believe that our parenting questions are also at fault.


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Overcoming fears inherent to parenting

In truth, we live in the safest time in the whole of human history. We need to start focusing on the bigger picture of what that kind of freedom would bring to our children, even if the circumstances don’t change.

I see too many young adults in my practice who are absolutely ill-equipped to cope in the world. They have loving mothers and fathers who did everything for them and protected them and worried and fussed over them and made them into ineffective adults.

The questions we are asking tend to be around micro-managing their lives.


I believe the kind of big questions questions we should be asking instead are things like:

  • "How can I give my child more freedom?"
  • "Are there things that I am doing for them that they could do for themselves?"
  • "How can I allow my child to fulfill their destiny without my interference?"
  • "Am I allowing my child to make meaningful choices?"

Our job as parents is not to be so involved in our children’s lives that they cannot live without us. Our job is to provide the basic structure for them to learn about the world and to find their own way in it.

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The real (and simple) task for parents

Parenting actually is a hands-off job. The simple task of providing a safe space for mistakes to be learned from and messes to be cleaned up. 


We empower our children by letting them figure things out as they go.

The parental home is the place where children can experiment, learn, and explore, trying out different emotions, behaviors, attitudes, and character traits in a safe and loving space. If they do not have this freedom, they will try these things out once they’ve left home and the safety net is no longer in place.

So is what you are doing right now going to empower or disempower your kids to go out into the world as authentic, confident human beings?


Keep asking that question — it will make a difference to the quality of your parenting and the quality of your children’s lives.

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Mia Von Scha is a transformational parenting coach, author, and counselor who helps parents overcome the fear of failure and navigate anxiety, as well as other mental health issues.