The er-Factor: Becoming a Better Parent

What does it mean to be a better parent? Start with the here and now.

Posted Jul 21, 2011

But, what does "better" mean? The word itself suggests the need for improved accuracy or performance, further emphasized by the suffix "er."  The word "better" begs for individuals to compare their behavior to someone else- maybe "the best." Better means that there is something more to access-something desirable, but missing. Why be happy when you can be happier? Is it enough to work hard when you can work harder? And in the parenting domain, what does it mean to be a "better parent?" Before answering this question, it is important to consider the point of comparison.

Upward social comparison means becoming aware of people in your life whose skills or behavior you wish to emulate.  Looking up to another parent as a role model contributes to greater self-efficacy and overall well-being and it enables people to hone skills that build competence and confidence in abilities. But a word of advice about comparing up: Parents have the tendency to strive for perfection or the "er-factor", focusing on what is lacking, instead of building upon what is present. It is also important to note that social comparison is a subjective, external judgment. Beware!

So, what does it mean to be a better parent? First consider the comparison. Are you comparing up or down? Second, reflect on the strengths that lie within you now by asking powerful questions like, "You are here. Where is here?" When thinking about the changes you want to make in your life, reflect on what you have successfully done in the past and the personal assets or strengths that will push the change forward.    

Because you could be better than that
Don't let it get the better of you
What could be better than now
Life's not about what's better than

~John Butler