If Your Partner Can’t Do These 11 Things, Experts Say They May Struggle As A Parent
While you it can be tough to predict whether or not your partner will be a good parent, you can keep an eye out for certain clues, in order to get a better idea. If, for example, your partner isn't the best at putting other people first, they might have a hard time doing so with future children. And since empathy and selflessness are important when raising a kid, that could be a sign they'll struggle.
It's important not to get too down on each other, though, or assume the worst. "Truth be told, no one knows exactly how they're going to be as a parent until they actually are one," therapist Michelle Terry, MA, LMHC, tells Bustle. And anyone can be motivated to change and grow, in order to rise to the occasion.
If you're interested in getting an even better idea, you can try putting yourselves in parenting-like situations to see how your partner interacts directly with children, Terry says. You might want to babysit, hang out with younger relatives, or even take care of a friend's dog.
Keep in mind, though, that these situations still won't compare to what it'll be like with your own kids on a daily basis, Terry says. If you're worried about the future, you'll want to talk to your partner about it, and also chat about any of the qualities listed below. Because if they aren't able to do these things, experts say it'll definitely be something worth working on if you want to have kids in the future.
1. Go With The Flow
"Being a good parent requires flexibility," Terry says, so keep an eye out for signs your partner isn't able to go with the flow. Are they cool under pressure? Or do they crumble instantly the moment life gets tough?
"When you're a parent, things will rarely go according to plan," Terry says, which is why you'll want to make sure your partner is patient and able to roll with the punches, without feeling too overwhelmed.
Of course, that doesn't mean they aren't allowed to get upset or feel stressed out, but that they do so while looking for solutions to problems and trying to remain positive — regardless of what's going on around them.
2. Maintain Boundaries
If your partner struggles to maintain boundaries in their daily life, there's a chance they won't be able to do so once you have a child. And that has the potential to make parenting difficult.
"A good parent must be able to verbalize and sustain healthy boundaries with people in their life," certified trauma therapist Shannon Thomas, LCSW, tells Bustle. "It would be concerning if someone chronically set boundaries but allowed themselves to be manipulated into breaking them."
But all is not lost. "Learning to maintain boundaries is an area of growth many people master," Thomas says. So even if your partner is bad at setting boundaries now, it doesn't mean they won't be able to do so the future.
3. Put Others First
Parenting requires you to be pretty selfless at times, as you focus on your kids and all their needs. So if your partner is unable to focus on anyone but themselves, consider how they might play out in the future.
"Someone who has difficulty with empathy or a strong selfish streak would struggle as a parent," Thomas says. "Lacking empathy is difficult to overcome and should serve as a red flag when considering this person as a life-long partner and parent to future children."
And the same is true for someone who's particularly self-centered, as it may mean they won't be a supportive partner, or a helpful parent. It is, however, something a person can work on in therapy.
4. Think Before Reacting
If your partner is quick to anger, or always jumps to conclusions, it may mean they aren't quite ready to have kids. But if they're able to regulate their emotions — and think before reacting — that's a good sign.
"When children act out, it’s less about you and your partner, and more about what’s going on inside them," licensed psychotherapist Christine Scott-Hudson, MA, MFT, ATR, tells Bustle.
If your partner is able to take a step back and think, before getting super emotional or angry, they'll be better able to see that, and respond to your kid accordingly.
5. Nurture Others
How your partner reacts when others are in need — such as a friend or family member — can say a lot about their potential parenting abilities.
"Are they nurturing? Are they there for a struggling friend, family? Are they the type of person who is there for them or do they display limited empathy? These are key components in identifying their ability in fostering a positive environment for [your] child," licensed psychotherapist Lindsay Cooke, tells Bustle.
Again, people can become more nurturing and caring towards their own kids, even if they aren't that way naturally towards others. But a person's inability or lack of desire to help others may be something worth keeping in mind.
6. Maintain Structure & Consistency
"Children need structure and consistency to feel safe and secure," therapist Lisa Schwartz, tells Bustle. "Some children need more structure than others, but most importantly they need a parent that they know they can rely on." And that's why, if your partner is someone who's unable to maintain structure in their own life, it may be a sign they won't be a good parent right off the bat.
7. Be Playful
While kids need lots of structure and boundaries in their lives, they also need a chance to be creative. And that's where a playful personality can come in handy.
As Schwartz says, "They need someone who can get down on their level [and] follow their lead in imagination and stories. This helps a child to feel that their parent is interested in them, which helps them to develop healthy self-esteem."
Of course, it's not necessary for both of you to be playful with your kids all the time. But it may be something worth thinking about, when you imagine the future.
8. Tune Into Someone Else's Needs
Empathy is everything when it comes to understanding a child. "Children need parents who can be attuned to their needs," Schwartz says. "[They] benefit from a parent who [...] can put their feet in [their] shoes to understand how they might be feeling in different situations and what they need." But empathy is also important for being a good partner, since raising a child together will be stressful, tiring, and emotional.
9. Have Realistic Expectations
"Unrealistic expectations are a signal for disappointment, frustration, and stress," Joshua Klapow, PhD, clinical psychologist and host of The Kurre and Klapow Show, tells Bustle, which is why it may not be a good sign if your partner feels like they'll be the "perfect" parent.
"A willingness to enter parenthood with dedication to learn versus confidence that you have it all under control will prepare you for the daily surprises that come along," Dr. Klapow says. Because again, it's all about going with the flow.
10. Let Go Of Old Habits
While becoming a parent doesn't mean you have to lose yourself, it does mean letting go of old habits and ways of life — including how you once lived when you were single and childless.
As Dr. Klapow says, "If your partner is convinced you can still live life like you did before you were parents or if your partner wants to try to make that happen, they are not ready to be a parent." This might include wanting to spend money freely, living an unpredictable life, and so on.
"The day your child is born, your life as a couple fundamentally changes," Dr. Klapow says. "It still can be wonderful. But it will never be the same. If you partner is convinced they can have parenthood and still have the same life there will be resentment, frustration, and a lack of engagement in the parenting process."
11. Help Around The House
If you and your partner both organize your lives and take care of your house, "it shows a sense of teamwork that is key in co-parenting a child," Cooke says, "as well as a sense of communication within the relationship."
But if your partner doesn't want to get better at communicating, or frequently leaves you hanging when it comes to running your lives as a couple, it'll be something you'll want to talk about before having a kid.
If your partner can't do these things, it's either a sign they aren't ready to have kids, or that they won't make a good parent, because things like selfishness and a lack of boundaries don't go hand-in-hand with good parenting.
They can, however, make an effort to change by going to therapy, communicating, and deciding to learn. If you and your partner want to make a few changes and be good parents, you certainly can be.