In many aspects of our lives, like in partnership and relationships, aiming for perfection can be crippling rather than encouraging or motivating. We feel it intensely as parents, but as renowned pediatrician and child psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott suggests, perfection in parenting can be overrated. Being a “good enough” parent really is, well, good enough.
Striving to be “good enough,” already a worthwhile endeavor, has a lot to do with being aware of the impact your actions have on your child especially when it comes to tending to his needs and handling “bad behavior.”
Philosopher and author Alain de Botton, who founded the international educational company The School of Life based on Winnicott’s therapeutic approach, explains how you can practice being a "good enough" mom and dad in your everyday parenting.
1. Remember that your child is a child. We understand this point when our children are infants. Without us, babies won't be able to take care of themselves, let alone express their needs. Trying to figure what your baby needs can be a constant source of frustration (and panic), but we get it eventually. As Winnicott explains it, we "'adapt' so as to do everything to interpret the child's needs."
Adapting is a frame of mind we should hold on to us our child grows. Just because he can now dress himself or even talk to you like an adult when he's just 5 years old does not necessarily mean he is already emotionally mature. We need to keep our expectations in check "and not impose demands for which the child isn't yet ready,” explained de Botton.
2. Let your child be angry. For a parent, tantrums can be frustrating to deal with, but they are a normal part of child development. Expressions of difficult feelings should not be automatically seen as “bad behavior.” Tantrums are how young children deal with difficult feelings. And it's our job to help him deal with his frustrations and give him the tools to articulate it.
We need to practice how to not give in to the irritation or anger we feel when we see what we feel is our child's "drama." To a young child, an angry parent can feel “as if the wild beasts will gobble him up,” said Winnicott. Being calm and unhurt at your child’s anger shows him that it’s okay to feel angry sometimes and that mom and dad will understand.
3. Avoid being too strict with your child. To understand the world and develop their own healthy understanding of it, children need to grow and explore on their own. It includes not being a “good child” all the time. “There might be parents who could not tolerate too much bad behavior and would demand compliance too early and too strictly,” said de Botton. Winnicott believed that true goodness in a child could not be forced but had to be shown by example through caring and nurturing parents. 4. Be able to set aside your own feelings even for a while. Making sacrifices is probably a given for most Pinoy parents. We've learned how to tune out and step away -- for the time being -- from our exhaustion and irritation to tend to our child. But this goes both ways too, according to Winnicott. When you’re sad or upset, you don't expect your child to entertain and make you feel better.
By the way, our child can feel when you're tired or upset. The way he expresses sympathy may be to ask for more attention from you or even "act out." That's when you need to put your needs and assumptions aside and comfort your child. Tell him that sometimes all mommy needs to feel good is a hug, a kiss, and a big smile from her favorite little person.