The 'Good Enough' Parent

Recently I have been reflecting on the pressure that parents put on themselves to be the ‘perfect parent’. We worry about whether or not we are really best meeting our child’s needs. Are we giving in too much and taking the easy route? Should we be working? Should we not be working? Is making their food/bed/washing their clothes for them showing our love for them or is it creating dependence? Are their problems our fault for bad parenting? Are others judging our parenting (for which the answer is no - they are busy asking themselves the same questions)?

I am very fond of the research that tells us that children create their own outcomes. That unless they are exposed to severe and prolonged abuse and/or neglect, they will generally be fine. From this comes the ‘good enough parenting’ movement. Dr Peter Gray says, “If we define parenting as care giving to one’s child, then the best parent is not the one who parents most, and certainly not the one who parents least, but the one who parents just the right amount.  That’s the parent Goldilocks would pick, if she had tried out three different parents along with the three different bowls of porridge, chairs, and beds.  It’s the one most children would pick if they had the power to choose.” He says that, “The basic idea is: Chill out a little bit. Understand that along the way, things are going to go wrong and your child is going to struggle here and there, but that these struggles aren’t the end of the world.”

Bruno Bettelheim, in his book, A Good Enough Parent says, “There are few loves which are entirely free of ambivalence. … Not only is our love for our children sometimes tinged with annoyance, discouragement, and disappointment, the same is true for the love our children feel for us.”  Jesse Singal, in an article published in Science of Us, says of the above quote, “Good enough parents accept this as part of the human condition. Good enough parents understand that nature has created children to be quite resilient. We would not have survived as a species if that were not true. As long as parents don’t mess up too badly (and sometimes even if they do), the children will turn out OK, and OK is good enough.”

So if your child refuses to eat carrots or if you give your child a dummy, have disposable nappies over cloth ones, chill out, your parenting is fine and your child will be too.

Have a lovely week ahead and don’t forget to forgive yourself and your parenting. Almost everything that you could possibly do as a parent is ‘good enough’.

Raquel Charet