How to Assess Parenting Skills

Michele Meleen
Happy mother and teenage daughter

If you're wondering whether you or someone you know is a good parent, there are a few questions you can ask to find some answers. Self-evaluation is part of being a good parent, and it's natural to wonder about the skills of others. If you have concerns, it's always best to follow up with a professional for a more accurate assessment.

Assessing Parenting: Neglect and Abuse

Abuse and neglect are bad parenting behaviors that are often apparent to people outside the family. Part of assessing parenting skills means making sure the child feels safe and has his basic needs met by the parent.

Is the Parent Meeting the Child's Basic Needs?

On a basic level, good parenting comes down to meeting the basic needs of a child. According to The APSAC Handbook on Child Maltreatment, child neglect can be difficult to assess. Ask the following questions to get an informal sense of whether a parent is meeting a child's basic needs:

  • Does the parent seem concerned about the child's welfare?
  • Does the child have appropriate hygiene? Does she bathe regularly and have clean teeth and hair?
  • Is the child adequately dressed for weather conditions? Does he have a warm winter coat for cold weather, boots for rain or snow, and other necessities?
  • Does the parent provide adequate supervision for the child when the child is not at school?
  • Is the child failing to thrive? Is she small or thin for her age? Does she seem to be developing physically, mentally, and emotionally according to age-based milestones?
  • Does the parent provide the child with a safe place to call home?
  • Does the parent protect the child from injury to the best of her ability?

Is the Parent Abusing the Child?

Child abuse can be obvious or very subtle, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. However, there are a number of signs that can indicate that a parent is abusing a child. Ask these questions to informally assess parenting skills related to child abuse:

  • Does the parent indicate to others that the child is worthless or an unwelcome burden?
  • Does the child show signs of physical abuse, such as bruises, burns, or broken bones? Does he frequently miss school? Does the child seem afraid of the parent?
  • Does the parent have a history of abusing children?
  • Does the child show signs of sexual abuse, including a precocious knowledge of sexual topics, a fear of changing clothing or being alone with others, or sudden behavioral changes?
  • Does the parent reject the child or criticize her behavior very frequently?

Checklist of Good Parenting Skills

Whether you're examining your own parenting or you have concerns about another family, you can conduct your own informal assessment. This checklist is compiled from information in an article in The Archives of Disease in Childhood and an article in Psychology Today. Those with positive parenting skills will answer yes to the majority of these questions:

  • Is the child secure in the parent's love?
  • Does the parent hug the child or show affection regularly?
  • Does the parent spend quality time with the child?
  • Does the parent care for her own mental health and take time away from the child to focus on individual activities?
  • Is there a secure family environment and positive relationships between parents and other family members?
  • Does the parent set consistent and clear boundaries for the child's behavior and activities?
  • Does the parent take the child's developmental level into account when forming expectations?
  • Does the parent encourage small acts of self-reliance in the child?
  • Does the parent discipline the child fairly and appropriately?
  • Are there clear consequences for misbehavior?
  • Is there a reward, including verbal praise, for positive behavior?
  • Does the parent provide a stimulating environment for the child to learn and grow?
  • Is there a family focus on the importance of a good education?
  • Does the parent support the child's spiritual development?
  • Does the parent support peer interaction for the child?

Understanding Parenting Styles

No two parents raise their children in the exact same way, but there are specific parenting style categories that are recognized by psychologists. These include authoritarian, authoritative, permissive, and uninvolved. Many parents find that their style is a combination of two or three of the parenting types, while others are classic examples of each individual category. This parenting style will affect the methods a parent uses to meet a child's needs, but it should not get in the way of the parent meeting those needs effectively.

Formal Parenting Skill Assessment

Professionals have tests they can administer to assessing parenting. Unfortunately, these tests are not available to the public, since training and objectivity are essential for getting accurate results. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the professionals use tests like The Family Activities Inventory, Keys to Interactive Parenting Scale, and Manual for the Dimensions of Discipline Intervention to determine whether a parent is competent.

If you are concerned about your own parenting or the parenting of someone you know, you can request a formal assessment from a mental health professional or contact the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Parenting Skill Assessment Questionnaire

A sample parenting assessment can help you decide if you need to seek a more formal assessment from a professional. Download and print the questionnaire, then fill out the provided fields. If your results show concern for any signs of abuse or contain mostly ratings of ones or twos, you may want a professional opinion. Keep in mind this is only an example of a parenting assessment and should not be used as evidence in any formal complaint. If you have any trouble accessing the document, consult the handy Adobe Guide.

The Parenting Journey

Although it's always a good idea to assess your own parenting skills or check out concerns you may have about others, remember that the perfect parent doesn't exist. Each parent is undergoing a journey toward becoming a better version of herself. As long as the child is not being harmed, have patience with yourself and others as navigate this path.

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How to Assess Parenting Skills