Good Enough Parenting is Great Parenting
February 20, 2017 09:30AM
As a pediatric psychologist and one of the behavioral health providers at Pediatric Associates of the Northwest (PANW), I see all sorts of issues and crises come through my office. The ones I see most often tend to be issues related to anxiety, depression, and behavioral difficulties in children and teenagers. Parents are an important component of most of the work that I do, and I’ve noticed a concerning trend recently amongst my patients’ parents.
It’s not a trend that has to do with screens, or social networking apps, or poor sleep hygiene. Rather, when a child or teenager comes into my office to discuss an issue, I frequently hear the laments of the self-shaming/self-blaming parent. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard a mother or father say, “Maybe I shouldn’t have done that,” or “Maybe I should have done more of this.” The “if onlys” seem especially common lately. I have a feeling that one of the factors leading to the rise of those shame and doubt feelings happens to be the very thing that I am participating in right now: the parenting blog. Before you shut down all your social media accounts and swear off blogs forever, allow me to explain.
We live in an age of too much information, always accessible, right at our fingertips. As parents, we will often turn to the Internet as a guide for helpful tips or tricks to manage a child’s difficult behavior, or to figure out how to help them through a particularly challenging time. Sometimes, though, this search for information can backfire, because the tips recommended don’t work as advertised or the way they’re presented make it seem as though these ideas should have been intuitive. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to disparage all parenting blogs. I recently read a blog by a woman named Danielle that highlighted the self-shaming that I mentioned earlier. This mom encouraged other parents not to apologize for having a bad day, or a bad moment, and to let themselves off the hook for not being perfect all the time. The heart of her message is: if you’re trying, trying is enough.
I couldn’t agree more. In fact, there’s a whole school of thought in developmental psychology called the Good Enough Parent. You don’t have to be perfect. Flawlessness is not a requirement of parenting exceptional children. Research has shown that in order to be a good parent, you just need to show up for your kids (most of the time) and make sure they’re fed and bathed (most of the time), but if you make mistakes every now and again, it will not alter the trajectory of their lives in a horribly substantial way (with the exceptions of trauma, abuse, and neglect). Danielle is right, the point is that you’re trying, and your kids will benefit from that.
Not all articles, books and blogs are created equal, however. Remember: parenting articles and advice columns are often generalized and not always tailored to your child or your parenting style. If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed with the amount of information available, it might be time to step back and ask yourself these three things:
1) Does this information fit with the way I am comfortable parenting my child? If not, it won’t feel intuitive and will probably be difficult to maintain.
2) Is what I’m doing now to manage a behavior/help my child really so bad? Even if it’s not having the alleged “magic wand” effect I read about on the Internet? Am I giving myself any credit for what I’ve done so far?
3) Is the information I’m seeking shoring me up and giving me confidence? Or is it making me feel that I’ve somehow failed? If it’s the latter, then it’s time to close the computer or put down your phone and remind yourself that the fact that you want to help your child makes you a good enough parent.
At the end of the day, we read blogs and books and, sometimes, even take our children to therapy because we want our kids to be more than okay, we want them to thrive – and that’s a good thing. But here’s what I hope you take with you: don’t worry too much about your imperfections. I know that you’re striving to be the best parent you can be but often it’s helpful to recognize that’s not always possible and you might not succeed as fully as you might wish. No one is perfect all the time. Forgive yourself for that! Tomorrow’s a new day. Today, all you need to be is good enough.