Over the past few years, we’ve seen a lot of pressure put over parents on becoming "the best," even striving for perfection. Nothing wrong with that, except that anything done in extremes is damaging. Yes, even parenting.
Lately though, the term “good enough” parenting has cropped up.
In his post published in Psychology Today, Peter Gray, Ph.D., a psychologist, explains why “good enough” parents are the best parents. He shares his key takeaways from the 1987 book A Good Enough Parent by Bruno Bettelheim, which argues too many parents, even with the best intentions, are using too much of their and their child’s energy to try to mold them into what they think their children should become, relying on books and theories that promise “successful parenting.”
While Dr. Gray doesn’t totally agree with the book, he believes that given the choice, children would choose this kind of parenting, a steady middle ground between parenting extremes. Here are the lessons Dr. Gray shared:
1. “Good enough parents don’t strive to be perfect and do not expect perfection from their children." We are all unique, and we are not perfect. Parenting doesn’t have to be stressful. You are human, capable of mistakes, and that’s okay. So are your kids; they’re not as fragile as you think they are.
2. “Good enough parents respect their children and try to understand them for who they are.” Children are their parents combined, albeit in different proportions, which makes them different also from their siblings. Your child is not an extension of you. Discipline him, yes; give him choices you can live with, sure; but never control. He is his own person, so work with that.
3. “Good enough parents are more concerned with the child’s experience of childhood than with the child’s future as an adult.” Children learn through play, so let them. Your kid gets only one childhood, so make it count. Yes, we want a bright future ahead for them, but Dr. Gray stresses that a good childhood is the best way parents can help get their children ready to face life as grownups.
4. “Good enough parents provide the help that their children need and want, but not more than they need or want.” Hovering over the kids too much doesn’t help. Overparenting takes away the opportunity for the child to cope with setbacks (e.g., forgetting an assignment or losing a game), opportunities for them to learn crucial life skills to survive as grownups in the real world.
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5. “The primary tools of good enough parenting are conscious reflection, maturity, and empathy.” We parents get far too many unsolicited advice, but there is no one correct way to parent, as each child is unique. Dr. Gray emphasizes the three most important tools when going with parental instinct: Take stock, be patient, and find out what works best for your child.
6. “Good enough parents are confident that their good enough parenting is good enough.” Really, all you can do is give your best without compromising your child’s individuality and safety. Let go of your worries and parent–sans the pressure–with a clear mind. Feel secure in your relationship with your child, and in turn, your child will also feel confident that he can be capable of many things in life.
In today’s world where parents have become too competitive of each other, one mom lets out a sigh of relief. Vicky Roquez, who has three kids, shares how she took a breather and reassessed her parenting style. “It helped me relax a bit and not fret over things that are beyond my control.” For her, what’s important is that she and her kids learn from each other, without stressing out over little things. “We just breathe in and breathe out, then we take the lessons with us going forward,” she said.
Another mom, however, is having trouble wrapping her head around being “just” a good enough parent. She recognizes, though, that “sometimes ako lang pala talaga yung may gusto na makahuka siya ng medals or mag-ballet,” says Nene Mendoza, mom to an unica hija. A stay-at-home mom, she’s discovering things she can do with her free time now that her daughter is entering grade school, things which may help her to not worry too much. “We waited eight long years to get pregnant, so it’s harder to let go.”
Being a good enough parent doesn’t mean piloting the plane blind. As mom and book author Christine Organ writes in her blog post, “Being a good enough parent does not mean loving or caring for our children any less.” Nor does it mean less teaching, discipline, and guidance. It just means less pressure, less perfection, and less pretense. “Good enough parenting isn't about taking the easy way out or letting our children raise themselves,” she says.
In a Smartparenting.com.ph article on raising adventurous kids, Claudette Avelino-Tandoc, a family life and child development specialist, summarizes it beautifully: "Give reminders, apply the appropriate theories, set a good example -- then pray that everything goes well.”
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Sources: December 22, 2015. “The Good Enough Parent Is the Best Parent” (psychologytoday.com) December 19, 2015. “The Case for ‘Good Enough’ Parenting” (yahoo.com) September 25, 2014. “A Call to All the Good Enough Parents” (huffingtonpost.com)