If you’re anything like me, you probably keep beating yourself over the head for all the things you do wrong as a parent. I yelled at my kids when they ignored my millionth request to put the Lego back in the box. Whack. I let them have peanut butter sandwiches for lunch again because I couldn’t be bothered chopping up fresh salad vegetables for them to ignore. Whack. I looked at Facebook on my phone when I was at the playground rather than playing shop with sticks and bark chips. Whack.
Well, we can all give our heads a break. Peter Gray, research professor at Boston College in the US, firmly believes that the best parent is not the one who parents the most – and definitely not the least – but the one who is “good enough”.
It’s not a new idea. A Good Enough Parent is the title of a 1987 book by Bruno Bettelheim. In a recent post for Psychology Today, Gray breaks down what the book is all about. The idea is that if you’re trying to do absolutely everything right all the time, you’ll only fail and make yourself miserable. You’re better off settling for “good enough”.
Here are some things to think about:
Don't aim to be perfect, and don't expect your kids to be perfect.
Failure will just result in blame, which is a bad thing in itself. Forgive yourself when you stuff up. Children are resilient. As long as you don't make a complete mess of parenting, your kids will probably turn out okay.
Respect your kids for who they are.
Both you and your children are equally deserving of happiness. But as the adult, you're wiser and better at understanding another person's point of view. When you're butting heads with your child over something, try to see the situation as they see it. That doesn't mean always giving in, but it can result in a workable solution to the problem and help build a positive relationship.
Focus on your kids' childhood, because you can't control their adulthood.
There's no point stressing over your kids' future. Ultimately, adulthood is their responsibility. Your job, as a parent, is just to give them a happy childhood. They need to feel secure, supported and trusted, and to be able to play, explore and learn.
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Give your kids the help they need and want, but no more.
Let your kids take risks and make mistakes. When you do help them, make sure you're supporting them, not taking over. Kids want to be independent, and it's your job to help them get there, eventually.
Don't worry about how other people parent - just concentrate on your own kids.
Try not to get caught up in parenting fads, and don't be too concerned about other people judging you. Being mature, empathetic and reflective will help you understand your children. That's the best way to help them.
Be confident that you're a good enough parent.
If you feel confident in what you're doing, you'll be more calm and patient, and your children will feel more secure. You just need to love them and do your best to do well by them, most of the time.
Do you try to be a perfect parent, or do you settle for "good enough"?