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"Good enough parenting is good enough." A mum of four boys shares her Five Golden Rules for parenting.

Mamamia’s Five Golden Rules series takes a pervy look into the lives of Australian families. From parents of toddlers to parents of teenagers, the series asks parents to share their golden parenting rules, including the rules for their kids, and rules to just get through each day.

This week, mum-of-four, Genevieve shares her Five Golden Rules for parenting. 

I am a mum of four beautiful boys aged five, seven, 10 and 12. 

I drop more balls than I can count. At any given moment in my house there is a mountain of toast, lots of noise, and Nerf Bullets absolutely everywhere. But also, my life is full of sweet, caring, loving, fumbling, big-hearted boy love.

I haven’t always had golden rules when it comes to parenting. They have developed over time through trial and error. 

Watch: Be a good mum. Post continues below.


Video via Mamamia.

I started out as a pretty intense mum, focused on getting it all 'right'. When I just had one baby, I was positive he was perfect. He ate and slept when the books said he should and I was, in hindsight, a tiny bit smug about that. Then I had a second baby, and the cracks began to show.

My perfect firstborn baby became a toddler who was pushing, snatching, and on occasion - biting! My new baby had reflux and wouldn’t stop crying. Nothing felt right, let alone perfect, and suddenly I found myself researching what kids needed because it felt like "this" wasn’t working for any of us. 

So, I felt my way around, very much in the dark, until I found my groove. We are now in what many refer to as the parenting golden years: finally out of nappies, day sleeps, and highchairs, and not yet into the perilous teenage years. 

It’s a sweet spot in parenting. A point at which I have developed some confidence to know the kind of parent I am and what matters most for our family. Before we hit the next challenges that lie ahead, here are my Five Golden Rules for parenting.

1. I embrace the word no. 

Four boys at bedtime feels more like carolling a prison yard on exercise break time than a peaceful vision of family life. 

From 5pm to 7pm, four kids and a giant dog suddenly feels like 50 kids and it takes a military operation to make sure things stay on track. The ability to set a clear and confident boundary without losing my sh*t has helped my kids to feel safe with the fact that "I’ve got this". At bedtime, my "no" is the boundary.

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Image: Tess Donohue Photography. 

They don’t always like it but they know where they stand and I honestly think that’s a relief for them. I reckon when I say 'no' they know I am 'at the wheel' which frees them up to get on with their job of playing, exploring and growing.

My motto around boundaries is from Circle of Security Parenting: "Whenever possible I follow my child’s lead and whenever necessary take charge." What this means is, I go with the flow until my kids hit a limit. And then I take charge. 

This doesn’t mean my kids can’t muck up. Or ask for the moon. They can - and regularly do. It means I feel comfortable occasionally being the "bad guy" because I know boundaries are loving and kind.  

2. Good enough parenting is good enough.

If you try to take all the parenting advice out there these days on, it can feel like you may drown in books, information, and a desire to get it right. 

I was on holidays with my very wise husband Andy when I realised this. We were walking past a row of beautiful high-end restaurants that we could never go near with our crew and I was alarmed by the amount of children who were smaller than ours and who were eating, with knives AND forks, and not smashing every single glass and plate within their vicinity. 

At that point we had three boys under five, and as a rule, we kept a good 100 metre radius from any café or shop that contained china. I lamented to my husband that we had "failed" at this aspect of parenting. 

He looked me square in the eye and said, "No we haven’t, it’s just not what we’ve focused on." I loved this. 

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We hadn’t nailed table manners or anything close... YET but we were focusing on many other things that we felt were important to us, and that was good enough. This was a huge relief. 

I am not immune to the pressure to keep up with other parents' efforts around schooling, homework, sport, nutrition and the rest. I’m human! BUT when I feel that familiar tug of needing to do more or feeling like we’re not doing enough, I remind myself, good enough is 'good enough'. 

3. Let them fall.

When my eldest son started to crawl relatively early, I was online in a flash (not kidding here) researching baby stack hats and helmets.

The thought of my first baby taking a tumble and hurting his head was almost too much to fathom. 

Embarrassingly, I also wrapped rubber around my balcony walls, and I remember feeling like I needed to scan every environment for the risks and pitfalls that could catch us up. It was hard work. Really hard work. 

What I came to realise over time, and over the course of raising four boys, is that our kids (all kids!) need to fall. If we protect them, they don’t learn how to assess the risks.

Image: Tess Donohue Photography.  

When parents hover or prevent kids completely from making risky choices, kids don't get the chance to learn about consequences. 

Over the years parenting my own boys, I’ve learnt to overcome the urge to say "be careful" or "watch out". This is a daily practice where I override fear in order to allow my kids to learn, to take risks, and to fall. 

4. Take the shortcut (and you get to laugh more).

If there is a hack or a shortcut, you bet I am going to take it.

If there is an easier way to let mealtimes happen, I am in. 

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If I am choosing between a 45-minute battle over my child wearing the well matched, stylish clothing I picked out or the Spider-Man costume they chose, I am going to let them pick Spider-Man every day of the week. 

I make sandwiches in bulk and freeze them to make lunch boxes easy. I feed cereal and toast for dinner when I am too tired. 

I sniff-test clothes to check if they really need a wash. I used to dress toddlers the night before in track wear over their PJs so there was one less outfit change. Shortcuts are my best friend.

I don’t know when parenting started to need to "look" a certain way from the outside. We are expecting so much of ourselves - perfect homes, perfect children. I tried all of that at the start and it was just too much work. Now we do things the easiest way possible and I think my kids get just as much joy from the Viennetta ice-cream cake from the local IGA on their birthdays as they do when I bake. 

The thing that came from ditching perfection and taking shortcuts that I didn’t predict? There was room for more fun and laughter. Because getting things perfect can be rewarding, but it is way less fun. When we do things light and easy, there is more room for jokes and laughter. 

5. I say sorry when I get it wrong. 

I’ve been working hard on being a good mum for 12.5 years. I’m far from perfect and I am pretty convinced that’s not the goal. 

I get crabby, tired, I snap, I forget things... even important things. 

I am completely imperfect. And when I mess up I always, without fail, say sorry.

Evidence shows that kids don’t need parents who never make a mistake, but they do need parents willing to go in and repair the relationship when they have stuffed it up. 

I have found the most magic moments with my kids have happened after I have made a mistake, after I have had to tell them I didn’t mean to yell. Often it is in these moments that you get to the core of something that really matters for this little human.

For just a moment, the world stops spinning and you are so connected. Perfectly and yet imperfectly connected in a shared moment of understanding. In these moments I feel like my heart could explode with all the vulnerability and love and everything, including the noise and mess, is worth it. 

Genevieve Muir is an obstetric social worker, parent educator and mum to four boys with a passion for helping parents in the first five years of parenting. Gen works in a busy maternity hospital in Sydney, and also works privately with families though online programs, parenting groups, and one-on-one sessions. You can find her on  Instagram or on her website.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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