I've read and heard "look for the good.... catch them being good." That is a good tactic because it's the bad and the naughty and the messy that jumps out and grabs our attention. If you start to notice the good, you will start to see the glimpses.
The glimpses are small moments in time when your child does something that is genuinely kind, or virtuous. These glimpses reveal core character and are small bits of reassurance to tell you "well done, keep going!" These glimpses are not to put you on a high horse, because if you go there.... Murphy's Law tends to take effect and the evil spawn version of your child will come out and reign for a bit. These glimpses are small, often. They come and go quickly. Soak in the glimpse, tuck it in your heart, put a smile on your face, and keep fighting the good fight. You won't truly find out if you should have done something different until they are grown, but these glimpses are like the glasses of water set out along a marathon. There's still a long way to go... miles and miles... but the water is momentary boost helping fuel you on for the miles ahead.
The worst time for catching glimpses is when you have only preschoolers, toddlers, and babies. Those years, for me, feel so hard and with little recognition for the work put in and the glimpses tend to pass quickly as toddler emotions reign. My first three were born within 3 years. I had a 3 year old, one year old, and a baby and I felt defeated pretty much all the time. My oldest was an epic tantrum-thrower and bull-headed as they come. My second would cry at the drop of a hat and he was painfully clingy and whiny. My baby was wonderful. God threw me a bone there (until she was 2.5... things got real after that). Three of them, one of me, and strong personalities- d.e.f.e.a.t.
My oldest was by far my hardest at that point. I saw so many negative attributes and fought so many fights with him. I didn't know how he would turn out. I recently watched a home video from that time. It was a "dance party" that they were having. My oldest was dancing around with the end of a piece of bread -think Panera-. At one point he's alone on the video and my 17 mo old, #3, comes toddling in. She makes one small gesture to him and then the glimpse happened. I think I missed it back then, but as a slightly more seasoned mom (5 kids ages 9 and under now), I saw it. He saw her gesture. He took the piece and ripped her of a chunk. He gently handed it to her, he picked up his piece and continued to dance.
That glimpse took maybe 10 seconds to complete, but seeing him now, he still has the heart where he will share and help out the younger ones without any struggle. Those fleeting 10 seconds revealed so much and during a time when he was so very hard for me to parent. He saw her need and without any struggle, he shared something that was only his. I didn't ask. I didn't demand. I didn't even see it happen. But it did. I'm sure the remainder of the day was him fighting with his brother and going up against me. The world didn't stop spinning and he wasn't perfect from that moment on. A glimpse is a small sign that you are, in fact, doing something right in parenting, but you have to be aware to catch it.
Glimpses come in the form of other people's genuine kind comments about your kids. They come in the form of rules followed with intent. They come in acts of kindness. They come in the moments when your child thinking outside themselves or make a good decision. They come in outings gone smoothly. They come in polite exchanges with adults. They come when they don't think they are being watched. They come in any shape and size and duration. Sometimes they are a millisecond and sometimes they linger, but however they come... when they do come: see them. Savor them. Allow momentary relief and feel free to share what you saw with your child, praise them.
Parenting so often feels like an uphill battle. It's loud, messy, stressful, and long, but if you look for the glimpses, it can sweeten the journey.