In Praise of the Good-Enough Parent

If you emotionally or physically abuse your child, you are absolutely not behaving as a good parent and person.

Otherwise, there is no such thing as a perfect parent- we all are great at times; at times, we fall short of the mark.

Let us, instead, give praise to the good-enough parent.

The good-enough parent is the vast majority of us.

We try, we fall, we pick our families up, we are good-enough for a while, and then we fall again.

The good-enough parent is not a perfect parent, and does not try to be such, because she does not have the energy after a long day of work and home!

The myth of the perfect parent began in the 1950s and 1960s, with radio and TV advertising that showed happy young  women in beautiful summer dresses, with a toddler in one hand, and the new vacuum cleaner-a Christmas gift from a loving husband- in the other, all the while balancing a pot roast on her right foot.

The trend has simply been accentuated from then so that now every parenting magazine is filled with young mothers with their perfect husbands and their perfect children in their perfect homes.

At Confident Parenting, we scoff at such images of as unrealistic and unhelpful, and we say hurrah for the good-enough parent.

Perfect parenting does not exist, and we urge parents not to even try.

Time for a confession:

My wife had just returned home with our second baby who had joined her year old sister as part of our family.

My wife was tired and overwhelmed.

I chose this time to create, from scratch, a complicated dinner I had never cooked before. The meal was not that good, took two hours to make, when all the while, my wife was left to look after the babies and our dog!

nobody-is-perfectAll because I needed to be a perfect parent.   

The good-enough parent would have ordered-in pizza.  My wife has never forgotten nor forgiven!

We all understand what is required to be perfect in any endeavor.

Olympic swimmers, NFL footballers, stage actors, and so on, are all prepared to make the tremendous sacrifices needed to be successful.

However, we all, also, know the negative impact of achieving such success may have on their lives in order to be perfect for a fleeting moment.

Successful parents understand that perfect parenting is fleeting, too, and comes at a cost.

Successful parents understand that being a good-enough parent over the long term will bring greater happiness.

What type of things does the good-enough parent do to feel successful?

The good-enough parent:

  • Most importantly must show compassion for herself and her partner. Learn to celebrate the parenting wins; be forgiving about the mistakes.
  • Understands that losing her temper will happen on occasion.  Understanding what triggers will help prevent it.
  • Knows that playing with his children is important and makes the time to do so.  However, he, also, knows not to feel guilty when it is not possible
  • Understands that, to keep food on the table, she should not feel guilty about not being home enough
  • Understands that she needs time for herself and allows her children to watch TV more than she is happy with, but not too much to make it into the babysitter.
  • Understands that pizza is not suitable for dinner each night, but knows that it can be his friend on a tough night.
  • Is not responsible for making their children happy with expensive toys, cell phones, vacations, or outings.
  • Knows that one of the problems with the expectation of perfection is that every blemish becomes magnified and that imperfections in human beings are unavoidable.
  • Listens to their child’s teachers and listens to their advice.
  • Allows her children to make mistakes and to fail because she knows that mistakes and failures are important for building grit in the child.  
  • mother-daughterDoes not compare herself to other mothers with their “perfect families.”  The good-enough parent knows that some families simply do a better job of hiding their dirty laundry.
  • Knows that it is important to be kind to herself, and find ways in which to ensure her own positive emotional and physical wellness.
  • Knows to seek support, but not to always listen to so-called experts (like myself!), and are more likely to seek help from friends and relatives that know him.
  • Does not look to the past, and their mistakes, but to the present with their children, and to their future
  • Knows that keeping a tidy house is not priority #1 at all times.  A dirty house is a problem; a messy house is to be expected with kids.
  • Understands that they are modeling how to be an imperfect human.  We all make mistakes, and as parents, we make a lot. Being human is OK.
  • Recognizes that the best they can do to help their children toward a successful future is to provide the conditions required for a satisfying childhood.
  • Remembers that he is only one person. There is only so much he can do in a day.  This parent keeps his to-do list and expectations realistic.
  • Knows that being good-enough is all that anyone can do, and it really is enough.

What are the actions that the good-enough parent can take for success as a ‘good’ parent?

  1. Being present for your kids as much as you can.
  2. Being an active listener to your child, and provide advice.
  3. Being available to help school issues, academic and social.
  4. Being present at your child’s “big event” activities as much as possible.
  5. Being emotionally available to love your child with all your heart.
  6. Being able to understand your children for who they are.
  7. Being able to understand your needs and those of your child to avoid conflict.
  8. Being able to build a relationship in which you and your child talk together.
  9. Being able to find time to tell your child you love him at least one time each day.
  10. Being able to model behavior for your child in your adult interactions

At Confident Parenting, we believe that parents need to cut themselves some slack and to accept that, normally, being “just good enough” is good enough.

Contact us for a conversation regarding how we may help.