All parents want their child to behave.

You love your kids, teach them manners, values and instill morals. You teach them the difference between right and wrong, good and bad. You hope and pray that you are raising them right, that they will grow up to be honest, productive citizens.

And then they push a girl off a swing on the preschool playground, or kick a boy in P.E., and it makes you question every ounce of your parenting thus far.

I might be in the frozen food section at Target and see other parents wheeling their brood around, perhaps a mom who has three kids younger than 5 and they are perfectly behaved, quietly entertaining themselves while their mom fills the grocery cart. Meanwhile, my 6-year-old son is throwing a fit because I won’t buy the dark-green Gatorade, or my 2-year-old decides to do a face plant on the ground of the checkout line because she’s just DONE.

Or, when we go out to eat I sometimes look at other tables and see families sitting nicely, talking with each other, kids who are calmly eating their meals. And then there’s my three, with my youngest throwing food from her high chair, while oldest two are more than likely arguing because one won’t stop pestering the other, or whining because they don’t want to eat what’s on their plate.

More than once we’ve been out in public, trying to contain the madness that is our 2-, 6- and 8-year-olds and my husband asks — “What is wrong with our kids?!?”

“Nothing! They are normal kids!” I usually reply, meanwhile questioning myself — “Am I raising them right?”

With our oldest two in school, it has brought a whole new opportunity of self-doubt when it comes to our parenting. Kindergarten behavior at my son’s school comes with a rainbow color chart. Every child starts the day on green. Bad behavior merits red or yellow, good behavior means green, blue or purple. When our oldest daughter was in kindergarten, she was almost always on “good” behavior.

But as I’m learning, boys are often so different. I was at a loss when our rambunctious son received three yellows during the first couple weeks of school. Then, there was the day he came home with red.

We’ve done time out, we take away electronics and we take away toys.

We’ve had serious, sit-down conversations about actions and consequences and making “good choices.” And while that works some of the time, what seems to work better for our young son is goal-setting and positive reinforcement — we make a big deal out of positive behavior, and he seems to be more motivated if he has a goal in mind.

A couple of weeks ago, after a string of yellows, my son came home bouncing, excited even, because he got a blue for good behavior. I hugged and celebrated with him, and asked him what he did that made a difference that day. He was quiet in the hall, kept his hands to himself and listened to his teacher, he told me.

“It sounds like you made all good choices,” I told him.

“Yeah, I used my secret superpowers,” said my superhero-obsessed son.

And so now, each morning as we wait at the bus stop, we talk about good choices and using his “superpowers.” After a rocky start at school, things are getting better and behavior is improving.

What most parents, including myself, need to realize, is that children aren’t perfect and neither are adults. We raise our kids the best we know how, trying to let them learn from their experiences and teaching them important lessons and values.

But when it comes to parenting, we can’t expect perfection. Instead, we must remember to use our “secret superpowers” and just do the best we can.

— Lydia Seabol Avant writes The Mom Stop for The Tuscaloosa News. Reach her at lydia.seabolavant@tuscaloosanews.com.