3 Questions That Tell You If You Are A Good Parent

Parenting is a perfect example where you need to practice satisficing (being good enough) rather than maximizing (being perfect). (For a lengthier discussion of satisficing versus maximizing, see “The Paradox of Choice“)

Some people consider me an “admirable” father because I work sane hours, handle all the transportation for the kids, do most of the cooking, and shun business travel* as if it were a contract with the Devil.

*Side note: I have a lot of friends who are extremely successful in business and are fathers. They feel the strain of trying to balance constant travel with being a dad. One recently commented to me about the subject, “I feel like the proverbial frog in the slowly boiling pot. It didn’t seem so bad when I first started, but now I’m definitely getting cooked.” I would argue that constant business travel is one of the most stressful thing for dads. For more on this, you can check out my post on being a global business leader:


Yet does that make me a good father? I could do all those things, and still be a lousy father who constantly berated his kids and put them down. (I’m not saying that I am–obviously I try to give them unconditional love–I’m just making a point).

Ultimately, I think you judge parenting by asking yourself three simple yes or no questions:

1) Am I a non-abusive parent? That is, do I avoid verbally or physically abusing my children?

2) Do I give my kids unconditional love in a way that they recognize? That is, if someone asks them if Daddy loves them, do they unhesitatingly and joyfully answer yes?

3) Are all of us (including my wife and kids, not just me) happy with the way our family runs? Because it the end, it doesn’t matter if I think I have the perfect life if the other people who share it are miserable.

If you answer “Yes” to all three of those questions, consider yourself a good parent AND STOP COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHERS. The time you spend worrying about your parenting would be better spent playing with your kids.

This post originally appeared as a comment on Penelope Trunk’s blog. My thanks to Penelope for starting this discussion.

3 thoughts on “3 Questions That Tell You If You Are A Good Parent

  1. Great stuff Chris. It’s so hard because, for example, #1 is about breaking a cycle if you are in one. If a father wasn’t beatent or abused as a child, he is so much less likely to do so. But it’s clear that if you do abuse your child you are damaging the child.

    2. Sometimes, a child is conditioned to understand that they better answer yes to this one…or else. But I suppose that goes back to #1.

    3. This one is right on. Honestly answering this question is key.

    I wonder if maybe one more could be added. Do you love yourself? I know when I was going through my addiction, I didn’t and I was not the father that I wanted to be.

    Today, I feel much differently about it, I love and accept myself and I feel like it’s made me a better father.

    Interestingly, the questions you are asking yourself were the same ones that someone at Pixar was asking one day walking around a lake with his son….and it ended up with the movie Finding Nemo.

    I think, no matter what the answers to the questions are, comparison in child rearing is extraordinarily confusing. I’ve found great peace talking with other parents, like yourself, and being honest about the fact that we love our children and are doing our best.

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