Why Being Good Enough is Actually Good For Your Children
Whether you are parenting a toddler or an adult child, how often do you feel as though you are not doing enough? Or not being enough? We put immense pressure on ourselves to be strong women.
We try to eat healthy and take care of ourselves bodies. We work hard to be responsible, effective, and creative in our work. We want to be a good friend, sister, daughter, and spouse. And for many of us, being a good parent is a priority. Yet how often do you feel you fall short?
Perhaps you feel you are lacking in some way as a parent. Your meeting went long, and you missed your daughter’s soccer game. You lost your temper (again) and yelled at the kids when they left the kitchen a mess (again). You gave your teenage unsolicited advice and got an eye roll and rude comment in return. And don’t even get me started on successfully monitoring screen time. We often feel like failures. But what would it mean to be a “good enough” parent?
Why good enough is good for kids
Though many of us may strive to be awesome, great or simply good parents, there are benefits to being “good enough”. Donald Winnicott, a British psychoanalyst and pediatrician, coined this phrase in 1953. After observing thousands of mothers with their babies, he realized that children actually benefit when their mothers do not meet their every need “perfectly”.
He observed that mothers tend to care for their newborn babies quickly and consistently-responding to their newborn’s needs by feeding, changing or soothing them. But as newborns grow into toddlers and beyond, Winnicott noticed that mothers begin to expect greater tolerance and independence from their children. For example, a toddler wait for his meal as mother feeds a newborn sibling, or a child waits for his trip to the park as mother deals with other responsibilities. Though these “imperfect” interactions may result in a child feeling disappointed or frustrated, as a child grows and has more and more “imperfect” experiences with their mother, they become more and adaptable and resilient. In Winnicott’s words, there is a “growing ability to deal with her failure.” Children realize that the world does not revolve around them, and this helps them learn patience and independence.
Notice your inner critic
How can we embrace the idea that our parenting failures can actually benefit our children? We are often our own worst critics-we beat ourselves up for something we have done, or not done, and then we follow up with an added dose of shame or guilt. On the other hand, we rarely notice a job well-done. When is the last time you said to yourself, “Wow—I really nailed that interaction! I am so pleased with myself and my parenting!”
Practice quieting your inner critic and developing your inner advocate instead. You can start by being more aware of your self-criticism. What do you say to yourself when you are stressed, tired, or overworked? What does your inner dialogue sound like when you feel challenged by your son or daughter? Do you speak to yourself the way you would speak to others?
Once you are aware of the way you’re being self-critical, you can begin to bring grace to yourself. Appreciate your efforts. Notice and honor the little things you do on a daily basis. Try saying to yourself, “I think I handled that argument pretty well,” or, “I created a good enough birthday party.” Or simply try to notice the interaction without judging it. “Yep…it is what it is!”
Be open to a better tomorrow
Accepting a “good enough” mindset doesn’t mean that we give up working to be better. We can honor and accept where we are today, yet strive for a better tomorrow. For some, setting a clear intention helps move toward feeling better or doing better. Share your intention with a friend or family member. Post it on your bathroom mirror. Consider what would help you become clear and committed to your intention.
Others find it helpful to create a personal parenting mantra. This is a positive phrase that empowers and affirms you in the moment, yet reminds you of what you desire. Repeating your mantra can help you stay calm and accepting, while keeping you on course for positive transformation.
Some ideas for mantras are:
“I am patient.”
“Slow down and breathe.”
“Let go and enjoy.”
“This too shall pass.”
“I am good enough.”
Adopting a “good enough” mindset can bring powerful positive change to your parenting. What does your “good enough” look like? How does your “good enough” feel? How will you fold “good enough” into your daily interactions so that positive self-talk and acceptance become your norm? My hope is that you’ll practice embracing this notion and cherishing yourself.
Beth Miller, M.Ed. is a Certified Parent Coach and Author with over 25 years of experience as an educator, counselor, and coach. She has worked with hundreds of parents to expand their toolbox, enhance their parenting skills and improve family functioning. Through private coaching, presentations, groups, and classes, parents gain tools to improve communication, alleviate power struggles and strengthen family relationships.
Beth is also the co-author of a new book, Real-Time Parenting: Choose Your Action Steps for the Present Moment, an informative guide designed to empowers moms and dads to discover what is true and most important for their family. The book offers practical tips for reducing conflict and improving parent-child interactions. Through a combination of research, stories, and real-time practice, parents learn to respond with intention instead of reacting from stress.
To find out more or to contact Beth, visit her website, bethmillerparentcoach.com