The term “good enough” comes from the work of Donald Winnicott who studied mothers and infants. He concluded that mothers don’t need to be perfect parents but “good enough”. We now incorporate dads as well and refer to “good enough” parents when we talk about parenting. A good enough parent does the best that he can while recognizing where he has room for improvement. A good enough parent forgives himself for his parenting foibles and is resilient when it comes to new parenting challenges. A good enough parent is human and naturally makes mistakes. Below please find four suggestions to practice being a “good enough parent”.
1. Respect your child for who he or she is
2. Pay attention to your child’s present as opposed to future experience
3. Be confident about how you’ve already been parenting
4. Model self-regulation for your child
Respect your child for who he or she is
A “good enough parent” does not view himself as the “shaper” of his children, he rather sees his children as being whole just as they are. Although there is clearly a hierarchical relationship between a parent and a young child, a good enough parent strives to know his child for who he is without changing him.
Pay attention to your child’s present as opposed to future experience
In line with respecting your child for who he or she is, a “good enough parent” does not put too much pressure on a child to consider their futures. A “good enough parent” rather helps a child to feel safe, guarded and free in the present moment in his home environment. A secure home and play environment helps a child to feel supported so that she can more easily make healthy decisions for herself in her own future. A healthy childhood home most often sets the tone for a happy adulthood.
Be confident about how you’ve already been parenting
Parents who feel confident about their parenting abilities will be less anxious and critical about their parenting styles. A caregiver’s level of healthy confidence in turn helps a child to feel secure. When our children know that we are okay and parenting ourselves they in turn feel safer in the world around them.
Model self-regulation for your child
Make self-regulation a high priority. If you can stay centered with your child then you are modeling for her self-soothing strategies. If you find yourself having a challenging day or challenging moment with your child, take a deep breath or take some space until you are again ready to engage in a peaceful fashion. Talk about what you are doing to self-regulate and invite your child to do it with you. For example: “let’s breathe in like we are smelling cookies and breathe out like we are blowing bubbles. What kind of cookies are we smelling this time?” Always exercise compassion for yourself and your child.
To learn more about “good enough parenting” feel free to contact us for an appointment or join one of our parent and me groups!
Marilee Hartling RN, MFT | Infant & Child Development Specialist | Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.