Good Enough Parenting

When it comes to functioning and existing in life, I am a strong advocate for striving for ‘good enough’ over striving for perfectionism. For the most part, we can grapple with the idea of being ‘good enough’ at hobbies and interests for instance, but when it comes to parenting, that tends to be something we want to be perfect at. Here I will discuss the concept of ‘good enough parenting’ which advocates for parents to accept that they will never be a perfect parent and what is more, that this is actually a good thing.

The Good Enough Parent Movement

After observing thousands of mothers with their children in 1953, British paediatrician and psychoanalyst, Donald Winnicott, coined the phrase ‘good enough mother’ which encapsulated the idea that; not only are children resilient to small failures of the parent, but that they can actually benefit when their parents fail them, in manageable ways.

Winnicott outlined a process whereby a mother starts out hypervigilant and hyperresponsive to her child’s needs and naturally relaxes her responsiveness in healthy ways as the child grows and develops. He further describes the impossibility of the task of adapting and readapting to the child’s ever evolving needs while meeting their also evolving need for independence. Winnicott offers reassurance to mothers that getting it perfect is impossible and nor should it even be the goal. He further states that; as long as the chid is well cared for and she is usually reliable, minor slip ups are par for the course. He promoted the concept of being a good enough mother, as a gateway to autonomy in the growing child. Citing that the mother’s “failure to adapt to every need of the child helps them adapt to external realities. Her imperfections better prepare them for an imperfect world.” Winnicott speaking of and to mothers alone, was the culture of the time and we can assume the same hypothesis can be afforded to all parents, regardless of gender in the present.

Parenting Today

Fast forward to the year 2023 and if feels as though we could not be further away from Winnicott’s child rearing beliefs. Today, everyone has an opinion on parenting. Parents are inundated with both solicited and unsolicited advice. They are told that there is not one, but numerous ways in which they can fail their children and set them up for unhappiness and destitution. There is immense pressure to do and say exactly the right thing, all the time. This has lead to parents feeling that even the slightest mistake will have detrimental and lasting impact on their child. Parenting ideologies have become deeply rooted, which in turn has polarized us about the correct way to parent. Believing that, if we nail it, we will raise the perfect, well-adjusted and robust child. Does such a child even exist?

How To Be a Good Enough Parent

When parents can let go of the myth of perfect parenting and embrace the concept of ‘good enough parenting’ they are accepting that they will make mistakes and that their children will complain about them. They are accepting that they will fall short of their own expectations of themselves. These things are inevitable. Embracing being a ‘good enough parent’ means leaning into the belief that an accomplishment of overall consistent and loving parenting will compensate for our certain blunders along the way. It means leaning into the belief that these blunders are valuable in teaching and learning potential. It means leaning into the belief that they, as imperfect parents, are worthy of compassion as a response to self-criticism.

By being a ‘good enough parent’, you will find happier and less stressful days where the whole family benefits from a more relaxed version of you. Give it a go, what is the worst that could happen?

Thanks for stopping by and have a good enough day!

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Categories: For Parents


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