Whatever practical skills a mother has, the defining ones are really emotional, of which the key ones are listed here. Everything else should fall into place if these are at the forefront:
1. Love and Affection: This is an obvious one to many of us, but it is most likely to be missing or in short supply in many households. It is not such an obvious commodity to mothers who were not loved themselves, who were perhaps treated in a detached way, who were never outwardly shown that value. Thus many parents find it difficult to really love their children in every sense of the word, to display warmth and genuine affection, regardless of how they feel inside. They feel uncomfortable with those feelings. They tend to hold back in affection, being critical instead. Children need to be hugged often, to be told how much they are valued and significant and to be shown as much love as possible, especially between the parents themselves as examples.
2. Understanding and Empathy: It is very difficult to understand kids, especially teenagers who seem to want their own way in a rebellious and uncaring manner. But understanding and being able to empathise with them come from remembering our own childhood, and how we felt then with oppressive and controlling parents. Children need to be understood, not doubted, in order to develop into trusting, confident beings. That understanding should enable an empathy with how they might feel. Giving some slack to teenagers who are likely to be going through a difficult time of transition and maturity, a bewildering time where they are no longer children, though not yet adults, is crucial at this stage. Their needs have to be addressed while at the same time emphasising their role in the household to ensure everyone involved feels fairly treated and emotionally fulfilled.
3. Firmness and Authority: Any parent needs to be gentle but firm to maintain authority and respect. Often when kids appear to be going wild it is really difficult to keep that authority intact. The more they misbehave is the more they are seeking that boundary and that clear line of authority. However, we come back to the love again because ALL kids want to be loved, appreciated and secure. Discipline is best maintained by the threat of that love and the home security being withdrawn for any time. Children will always push the boundaries. Effective parents with good parenting skills will make sure those boundaries are elastic, but quite firm to maintain their authority and avoid manipulation.
4. Flexibility: This is an exceptional skill with teenagers, in particular. A mother has to know when to be there for her growing child, and when to hang back and not be intrusive. To know when to encourage and to chide, but not to nag or be oppressive in rules and controlling desires. A child is only 50% of its parents. The other 50% is a unique being struggling for expression and emergence. Flexibility is very important for a parent because it means discretion will be used a lot and, most important, decisions will be context-driven instead of being set in immovable stone. The youngster then gets the message that a lot depends on how/he she behaves and that there is always hope of getting a YES, instead of always facing a NO in a frustrating discouraging way.
5. Reinforcement and Affirmation: How often do children go through their day without ever being affirmed or reinforced as wonderful, unique human beings? They are likely to be criticised often, told what they are NOT doing but hardly affirmed or reinforced for who they are and their aspirations. In fact, often their dreams will be knocked as unrealistic. But daily they need at least 5 positive things about them to every negative one to help build their confidence and self esteem. For example, a child will have 6 straight As in a grade report, yet he/she will still be barracked for the one C they get. Yet no one is perfect and that C is really a reminder of the potential within that child to achieve even more. There should be great rejoicing with the hope of better things to come.
With these five skills, any mother is armed to do justice to her job as a parent in the home because she would have the foundations for everything else that will be required of her from her demanding, unpredictable children - but I'm sure this is not the definitive list!love