Are you a good enough parent? Science says you probably are!

Marge Simpson good enough parent

When we were adopting our children, my social worker and child psychologist both mentioned that it was OK to be a good enough parent and that aiming for perfection could be detrimental to our children’s healthy development. But I never really stopped to think what being good enough meant. What is a good enough parent? And am I a good enough parent?

I’ve done a bit of digging around and I found an academic paper about good enough parenting, I’m intrigued. A science paper? Really? Yes, in the Archives of the Disease of Childhood by Speight and Hoghughi. Don’t go, it’s actually interesting!

What is a good enough parent?

The term is over 50 years old and was first thought to be used by Dr W Winnicot (1965), in a piece of work studying the theory of emotional development. Yes, heavy stuff.

What makes us a good enough parent?

Well, Speight and Hoghughi identify three components to being a good enough parent.

1. Love and commitment

Our children need to feel that they are loved unconditionally. It’s that love, that builds a secure attachment which is the foundation for secure development.

Attachment Theory

And this also includes Attachment Theory – the bond made between an infant and their primary caregiver.

If you have adopted a child, then Attachment Theory has been pretty much drummed into your head. Because our children have some form of broken, disrupted attachment.

Attachment is important and this piece of work can be attributed to English psychoanalyst, John Bowlby (1951).

Our attachment that bond we make with our parents goes on to influence how our relationships will pan out when we get older: parents, friends, boyfriends, lovers, partners, our children.

2. Setting boundaries and sticking to them

Because setting a boundary isn’t just about good behaviour, yes that’s important, it’s also getting our children ready to deal with the big wide world. And boundaries need to be consistent.

Boundaries tell our children what is acceptable and what isn’t and when that boundary has been crossed there is a consequence. But, also rewards – that’s important too, positive consequences, for staying in the boundary.

OK, it’s all starting to make sense now.

Praise as a positive consequence

Just after our children came to live with us, I attended an Adoption Changes course run by my adoption agency TACT.

The Adoption Changes course, was adapted from the ‘Fostering Changes’ Programme established by the Maudsley Hospital in 1999 for Foster Carers. It recognises the complex needs of children who have been looked after and aims to provide training to develop skills and strategies for managing behaviour.

And boy, did I need this course because every minute of every day was a struggle. I was an exhausted, shouty, feeling-way-out-of-her-depth mum to two tiny, fearful, tearful, angry, screamy, tantrumy children. All of us disappearing down our own anxiety-ridden black hole.

My big take away from this course was praise and using praise to help change our children’s behaviour.

This meant seeking opportunities and spotting moments to award praise no matter how small. But not just – wow you are fantastic, but really descriptive, specific praise. Believe me, it worked, the days just seemed to run a whole lot smoother after we started praising our children. But not always easy to remember to do!

3. Ongoing development

This means providing rich and varied activities during early childhood, and being involved, being part of it. Lots of play, actually loads and loads of play, stimulation, creativity. Oh and lots of fun, laughter and joy. And being present.

Whether you are an Alpha Mum, Beta Mum, Crunchy Mum, Helicopter Mum, Tiger Mum, normal or even a perfect mum remember good enough is good enough!

Photo credit: John courtesy of Flickr

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44 Comments

    • Thank you so much for your comment. You are right, it’s unconditional love.

  1. Great post – something we all strive to be, but really we already are! As long as the kids are fed, clean and kept entertained – I think we’re most of the way there x #SharingTheBlogLove

  2. A lovely post. I think it is really easy when we are the midst of the tough bits of parenting to remember to praise our children and I have noticed this a lot with my teenagers that sometimes I just think they are too old for it nowadays. Well I was wrong. Everyone needs it at whatever age. It makes such a difference. Great post. #fortheloveofBLOG
    Jo – Mother of Teenagers recently posted…Teenagers Abroad – The Holiday Every Parent DreadsMy Profile

    • Aww thank you so much, so lovely to hear. Great to know that teenagers welcome a bit of praise too!

  3. Such a good post, and one that needs to be shared on every platform available! I’m not a parent myself however I do want to be someone’s mum someday, and what you’ve covered here is certainly going to stick with me for years to come xx

  4. Definately. As parents we are constantly being bombarded with conflicting ‘experts’ telling us what we are doing wrong and how to do it right and be the perfect parent. That makes you feel like a failure as you can never reach those levels since they all disagree with each other. What one person tells you is the mark of a perfect parent, another will tell you is the worst thing you could possibly do. It’s too much of an unacheivable pressure.
    Most of the time we ARE good enough and when you realise this you can relax and enjoy time with your family.

    In regards to boundaries. I was briefly a member of an attachment parenting group but they took it to waaay too far. They honestly believed there should be no boundaries or rules with your children since they have to come to set their own boundaries and rules for themselves. You can reason with them but if they decide not to go along that is their entitled world view and we are abusing them if we try to enforce our own version upon them. Needless to say. I didn’t last long.

    • OOh I don’t like the no boundaries, our adopted kids probably came from an environment with very few boundaries and to be honest though it was hard for them but they have welcomed having boundaries. Children are too young to really know what’s best for them! Seriously some parents! One of the first thing we learned from our social workers was about boundaries, sticking to them and following through. It was tough, we had very firm boundaries but it has worked.

  5. I have so much love for this post. I definitely found that striving for that perfection has been my downfall, I have all these ideas of what kind of parent that I should be that I am failing at everything else. Learning that good enough is ok, is one of the best things I did. Praise is a big one for us, the results I’ve seen with both my girls has proven this is the right path for them. Thank you for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove x
    Laura – Dear Bear and Beany recently posted…Living Arrows 04/52 {2017}My Profile

    • I’m so glad to hear that. It’s not easy being a parent and we shouldn’t beat ourselves up for not being perfect, our kids won’t be. We’re all learning all the time and good enough is ok!

    • You are so welcome, the mummy world can be a scary place – with all sorts of methods and ways of parenting and really all kids need is love and to be told – hey you’re kind of great. And of course a few boundaries and the rest will work itself out!

  6. I definitely worry all the time about whether I’m living up to my own parenting standards. I have to admit that I’m not always consistent with boundaries. Sometimes some of them just don’t seem worth the effort of sticking to, so I pick my battles. I probably do need to start being a bit more consistent as my son gets older, but I’m great with praise, and I definitely find it really effective for my son, so it’s nice to know I’m doing something right! Thanks for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove
    Katy – Hot Pink Wellingtons recently posted…Cervical cancer awareness – my experience of LLETZMy Profile

    • Yup I have learned to pick my battles! That is so true, many a time I’ve been caught out and my back is against a wall and I am on the loosing side!

    • Sure of course you are good enough. But as parents we are programmed to worry and people capitalise on that, we just need to remember good enough is OK!

  7. This is a great post and it’s something I wonder constantly. I really like the idea of praise being a catalyst for improving behaviour, I could definitely try this with child no 2 at the moment.

    • It really does work, as kids zone out of the nagging it just bounces off them. As mums we become broken records! I can hear the tracks in my head! But to be told they have done something right, it really does work! Give it a go!

  8. This reminded me of my own upbringing, and I’ve always been thankful of my parents for that, even if they were a bit strict sometimes. Good read!

  9. I love this post! We spend all day doing our best for our kids wondering if we are good enough. Reading this list – I think we are coming up ok in this house! I’m a firm believer in the praise and setting boundaries – but sometimes I’m a bit soft and find it hard to discipline my 2 year old. I feel she’s just so young that she doesn’t understand right from wrong and I hate to see her upset or not understanding. Having said that, the tantrums lately have been almost funny, they’re so outlandish- so we have to just let her at it and cuddle her afterwards! Great post.
    Nicola Cassidy recently posted…Forget Sophie the Giraffe – have you checked your bath toys for mould?My Profile

    • I know those tantrum they the I’ll just have a tantrum and see if I can get my own way. Those darn kids are so clever. Try a little praise, out wit her – she might not be expecting that!!!

  10. Interesting read. I find the hardest part of all is not raising my voice, which is nearly always caused by frustration. It never works either. My three year old daughter is currently pushing the boundaries me and my wife have set on a regular basis so it’s a testing time.

    • OOh you have a threenager – they are testing. I remember those days well. And yes there was a lot of shouting from both of us! Do try the praise, it could really help turn things around. But the threenager stage will pass!

    • Yes I really do agree, we are always our worst critics, we should learn to relax and realise we are doing a pretty good job!

    • I am with you on this. Sure that decision isn’t popular, but it has to be done. Good on you!

  11. Really good points. The basics for being a good enough Parent are really about being involved and providing lots of love. We as parents often stress about the detail (which is probably a sign that we care), but it’s the things in your list that are really going to have an impact on their lives! #sharingthebloglove
    Dave – dad’s turn recently posted…End of a Shared Parental Leave Era – NurseryMy Profile

    • I agree we often stress about the tiny things but the basics are there in place we just need to recognise that in ourselves and not give ourselves such a hard time!

    • Aww bless – I’m going to give you another compliment – you are bloody awesome, a fantastic mum!

  12. Boundaries in our house are vital! But sometimes it is very hard and the mummy guilt can creep in. I think parenting is about staying strong and sticking to the “rules” even though they can make us feel like crap!

    #sharingthebloglove

    • I know, it can be hard to enforce those boundaries, and when I have let up I’ve paid for it! I know it’s hard but we have to follow through, but positive boundaries are great too. Stay strong girlfriend!

    • Thank you so much for the comment. Parenting is a tough gig, and I often worry if I am getting it right. Completely agree about the boundaries, in my house they are vital! But it’s comforting to know that I am good enough!

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