What does it mean to be a ‘good enough parent’?

Naturally the start of a new year is a popular time to make ‘new year’ resolutions. If you are a parent aside from resolutions like making changes to your diet, exercise routine or work patterns, some of those resolutions will touch on making changes to how you parent.

Most people tend to set very unrealistic expectations for themselves, so I think this is the perfect time to think about what it means to be ‘good enough’.

This phrase “the good enough mother” was first coined in 1953 by Donald Winnicott, a British pediatrician and psychoanalyst. … He believed that the way to be a “good mother” is to be a “good enough mother”.

We seem to spend so much precious time impossibly striving to be perfect parents, amidst a ‘self-sacrificing ideal parent culture’ and so much conflicting advice. There seems to be quite a large gap between what we expect of a good parent and who we actually are.

Comparing, judging, feeling fear and guilt is totally unhelpful and unproductive. All the rushing around for our kids in a fiercely competitive culture is driving everyone crazy (kids and parents). Children from affluent families are 2-3 times more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and stress than children in poverty.

There needs to be more time and space to just be.

Perfection at work and at home is unachievable.

My resolution for 2019 is to make ‘good enough’ the goal rather than ‘perfect’.

What is the role of a good enough parent?

Here are some of my thoughts, in no particular order but I would be very interested to hear yours.

• Be nurturing, loving, supportive and in control.

• Spend ‘special time’ – frequent, predictable, short, scheduled, unstructured bursts of time. Be mindful, conscious and really ‘with’ them.

• Teach values like gratitude– our main role is to raise good human beings, to be the best version of themselves.

• Keep your child safe by setting clear boundaries and making children accountable for their actions.

• Foster a ‘growth’ rather than ‘fixed’ mindset (look up Carol Dweck)

• ‘Grit’ is one of the best indicators of success in life. The ability to set your mind to do something and stick with it.  (See Angela Duckworth). To raise gritty kids, lose the self-sacrifice and let your child struggle a bit rather than rescuing.

• Allow your children to grow, be independent and make mistakes.

• Help them understand their needs, strengths and weaknesses.

• Regulate your own emotions and reactions, so you can manage their mistakes and ‘misbehaviour’ in a positive way. To do this you need to look after yourself.

• Build a strong, connected relationship – the only way to influence them over time.

• 80% of parenting is modelling

• Magic ratio of 5 positives to every negative

• Instil a love of learning – they don’t have to be highly academic.

• Enjoy your child – Love the child you have unconditionally for who they are and not what they accomplish or the child you wish for.

How do you want your children to remember you and the time you spent together when they grow up?

I do think it’s true when people say that being a parent is the hardest job in the world, with the least training.   If you would like more support in 2019, please get in touch for details about our extended ‘positive parenting’ course, talks in schools, at work or 1:1 sessions.

Wishing you and your families a peaceful, happy new year

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