Over the years, I have sat with many parents who described themselves as a failure. They said they felt like they let their kid down, or failed them in some significant way. Children don’t have to be in therapy for parents to question whether or not they are doing a good job in the parenting department. So how do parents judge their success at parenting?

I can’t cite a source, but the following is how it was explained to me long ago. Many parents I have shared this with have agreed wholeheartedly as they nod their heads while hearing it described. Proof or not, judge for yourself.

Mothers judge their success by the relationships of their child. Do they have friends? Are they a good friend to others? Do they have a best friend or a close group of friends? Do they have friends who will support them when they need it? Do they have a good social network among their peers?

Dads judge their success on competency. Can my child get things done? Can they get a job? Can they manage money well? Get the oil or tires changed on time? Are they resourceful enough to find someone who can do it if they can’t? Can they manage living on their own?

Since parents are intrinsically driven to parent toward different goals, you can see where conflict between the parents can arise as to what may be most important in a parenting moment. And not only between the parents, but between a parent and an opposite gender child. When mom is focused on little Johnny’s relationship with a friend and he just wants to “get the job done,” there’s a reason for that. Conflict is baked in at that point… unless the parent is aware of and understands the differences in hard wiring and motivation of each gender. Being aware of these differences can help parents support each other while parenting, and smooth out potential conflicts with children.


Todd has been a therapist for over 20 years in a variety of settings. An unconventional therapist who tells the truth, Todd has taught undergraduate and graduate level courses, and authored his first book, Simply Relate.

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