Are you a 'Good Enough' Parent?

Are you a 'Good Enough' Parent?


d5bbb938e656fff7918bbe3dc0fd40fe.pngNo one can be a perfect parent, but it's easy to feel guilty when we don't meet our own expectations of how we want to be as parents. It's important to realise that the best parent is a €˜good enough' parent. What does that mean?

Good enough parents do not strive to be perfect parents and do not expect perfection of their children

One of the problems with the expectation of perfection is that every blemish, including those that we can do nothing about, becomes magnified. Imperfections in human beings are unavoidable, they are part of the human condition.  Therefore, don't present yourself as an adult who doesn't have emotional reactions or make mistakes, otherwise your child can feel inadequate or that they have sometime they need to be ashamed of or hide from you.

Good enough parents recognise that they will not always succeed as fully as they might wish, and they forgive themselves for that.

They recognise that even love is never perfect; it is always at least something fickle. In Brunel Bettelheim's words (1987) €œThere 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.€ 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), b807b19fe19046567d414cd25dd75037.pngthe children will turn out OK, and OK is good enough.

Good enough parents respect their children and try to understand them for who they are

Good enough parents do not think of themselves as the producers, creators, or shapers of their children. They see their children as complete human beings right now, and they see their job as that of getting to know those beings. They understand that the parent-child relationship goes both ways, but not entirely.

It is a relationship between equals in the sense that the two parties are equally important, equally deserving of happiness, equally deserving of the opportunity to create their own goals and strive to achieve them (as long as such striving does not harm others). In another sense, though, it is an unequal relationship. At least when the child is young, the parent is bigger, stronger, wiser (we hope), better at reasoning; and the parent controls the resources that the child needs for survival. To make this unbalanced relationship work, the good enough parent strives to get to know the child, so as to understand the child's needs and wants.

Children are generally not as good as adults at stating their reasons or arguing logically, so it is unfair for parents to expect their children to always give good reasons for what they do. The parent's attempt to argue with a child leads too often to a verbal beating and shaming, which undermines the goal of understanding and support.  Therefore, the good enough parent will examine the child's motives, try to understand his thoughts, appreciate his desires so as to comprehend what it is he [the child] hopes to gain, and why and how. An insight such as this can lead to a positive, cooperative, relationship-building route to solving the problem, in which the parent and child think and talk together about possible solutions. The child therefore feels supported rather than defeated.  Even if a fully satisfactory solution to the problem is not found, the child at least gains from the understanding that his parents are on his side, not against him.

€¢ €‹€‹€‹€‹€‹€‹€‹€‹€‹€‹€‹€‹Good enough parents are more concerned for the child's experience of childhood than with the child's future as an adult.

It's natural for all parents to have some concern about their children's futures.  We all want our children to grow up to be kind, moral, happy, healthy adults who can provide and care for themselves and others.  But good enough parents know that the child's future is the child's responsibility, not the parent's.  It is the child, not the parent, who must determine his or her goals in life and route toward achieving them.  The parent's job is to assure that the child has a satisfying childhood.

Good enough parents recognize that the best they can do to help their children toward a satisfying future is to provide the conditions required for a satisfying childhood.  Children who feel secure in their relationship with their parents, who feel supported rather than controlled, who feel trusted and therefore trustworthy, and who have a good enough environment in which to play, explore, and learn (including plenty of opportunities to make friends and interact with others beyond the family), will be best able to chart their own satisfying futures.

€¢ Good enough parents provide the help that their children need and want, but not more than they need or want

Children come into the world designed by nature to want to do as much for themselves as they can.  That is how they move continuously toward adulthood.  Good enough parents understand this intuitively, so they allow their children the freedom to take risks and to do for themselves what they can.  Good enough parents allow their children to make mistakes and to fail, because they know that mistakes and failures are inevitable components of learning.  When they provide help, they do so by supplementing and supporting the child's own efforts rather than by taking over the task completely.  The goal is to enable the child to do more himself or herself, to abet the child's striving for independence, not interfere with it.

€¢ The primary tools of good enough parenting are conscious reflection, maturity, and empathy

Good enough parents do not blindly follow the advice of €œexperts€ or the latest parenting fads, and they are not overly concerned with how others judge their parenting.  They are more likely to look for advice from friends and relatives who know them and their child well than from experts who don't.  Their purpose is to help their child achieve what the child wants and needs to achieve, not to prove to the world that they are wonderful parents or to protect themselves from criticism.  To know how to best support their children, good enough parents strive to understand them, and the main tools for doing so are conscious reflection, maturity (which includes patience), and empathy. 

As noted earlier, the parent-child relationship is in some ways equal and in other ways not. The parent is more knowledgeable, more able to figure things out, more mature than the child.  Children, who already feel insecure, would feel far more so if they felt that their parents were no more competent to deal with the problems of life than they are.  Maturity matters.  Good enough parents know that they must go more than half way to make the parent-child relationship work.  It is the parent's job to understand the child; it is not necessarily the child's job to understand the parent.  All parents were once children, so remembering their own childhoods can help parents understand their children; but children were never parents. 

Empathy is the key to any successful relationship, and good-enough parents know that they must take the lead in empathy, because it is easier for them to enter the child's mind than for the child to enter the parent's mind. The parent's understanding of the child's feelings, and the parent's respect for those feelings, is the first step to being helpful.

€¢ Good enough parents are confident that their good enough parenting is good enough.

Parents who feel confident about their parenting will be more calm and patient, less anxious in their parenting, and will thereby provide a greater source of security for their children, than parents who don't feel so confident

Good enough parents recognize that the child's universe does not spin around the parents. Our children's actions are not motivated primarily by a desire to please us or to hurt us, but by motives that have to do with their attempts to find their own places in the world.  If we are good enough parents, we don't take much credit, nor much blame, for our children's actions; we just concentrate on understanding and helping where help is required.

Sharon Mustard


Hypnotherapist & Psychotherapist

Specialising in Fertility, Pregnancy, Childbirth and Post Natal Support

Visit Sharon's website at 


Telephone 01980 623089/07754 303987

Sharon Mustard

Mustard Therapy & Coaching

01722 321499/07754 303987 

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