BY LINDSAY PERLMAN
How do you know if you’re doing a good job as a parent? How do you know if you’re raising happy, well-adjusted people who will grow into happy, functioning adults? If these questions have ever crossed your mind, then you’re likely doing a great job – but even if they haven’t, chances are that you’re a good-enough parent raising good-enough kids.
But is good enough, enough?
These days, parents often feel overloaded with work, school commitments, their children’s social and academic progress, extra curricular activities, or their own careers, interests, social lives, and housekeeping.
Many of us are constantly striving to be the ‘perfect’ parent, always determined to be better and often feeling overwhelmed, exhausted and stressed with the associated pressure that brings. Often we end up feeling exhausted and depleted, forgetting to take care of our own physical, emotional and nutritional needs.
Now I’m not suggesting this happens all the time, but many of us would admit to self-critical and perfectionist tendencies and sometimes – just sometimes – we may be guilty of projecting this onto our kids.
Do you ever find yourself lashing-out unnecessarily, running out of patience or feeling like you don’t have any ‘me’ time? Do you feel as though you need to constantly protect your children, do the right thing and not leave them vulnerable?
How would you feel if I told you that seeking perfection both in yourself and your children is actually detrimental to their emotional wellbeing?
A famous paediatrician and psychoanalyst in the mid-20th century named Donald Winnicott came up with this notion of ‘good enough’ parenting.
Winnicott’s idea was based on the mother who wasn’t perfect so was free, to some extent, to fail. The failure he refers to is not about mothers damaging their children, but instead it’s the failure to be perfect and to adapt to every single need of the child, which actually helps the child learn to adapt better to life’s hurdles.
In other words, when the mother is unable to ‘fix’ everything or make it all better, the child learns resilience and adaptability.
Winnicott’s writings were revolutionary as he explained that failing was actually a necessary part of parenting, as through failure of the parent the child realises the reality of an imperfect world.
And it gets better.
The research also showed the relationship between mother and child was in fact strengthened through the ups and downs of learning and growing together.
Modern research shows that ‘being with’ your children thirty per cent of the time is considered good enough parenting. Now it gets a little technical – but it’s worth understanding:
‘Being with’ essentially means that you are ‘emotionally available’ to be with your child, especially during hard times. ‘Emotionally available’ means
the parent is able to help the child through difficult emotions and move into a positive state. This process is particularly helpful for strengthening parent-child relationship.
So give yourself a break! Remember you’re there to guide and influence your child, to teach them and coach them, to encourage them and to set limits for them – but above all to love them!
Look for glimmers of improvement in your child’s behaviour and in your own reactions to it. We’re all often guilty of being so focused on the negative that we miss those hopeful sparks of improvement.
Lindsay Perlman is a Clinical and Organisational Psychologist. She is an accredited facilitator of the Circle of Security parenting program and works with adolescence, young adults and adults. A specialty and passion of hers is perinatal and postnatal depression as well as mother-baby attachment. Find out more about Lindsay at HERE.