When we had our first child, I genuinely worried I would leave her on a train or forget her while out shopping. I’m glad to say that she is now 16 and my fears never came to pass. (Although I did forget I had to pick her up once.)
While I do put real effort into being a father, I’m far from a perfect parent. Fortunately, that’s OK.
In 1960, Donald Winnicott spoke about good enough parenting. It is unhelpful and unrealistic to expect parents to be perfect. Children need parents who are loving, attentive and good enough: they don’t need perfection. Children don’t need super mums and dads in order to thrive – as is demonstrated by the many kids who flourish with quite ordinary parents.
Through interviews with 54 practitioners, Kellett and Apps (2009) found broad agreement about the four main components of good enough parenting:
- Meeting children’s health and developmental needs
- Putting children’s needs first
- Providing routine and consistent care
- Parental acknowledgement of any problems and engagement with support services.
There are multiple ways to parent successfully and parenting, and the expectations placed on parents, vary greatly with cultural and family values, beliefs and structures.
Based on the work of Quinton (2004), Bromfield, Sutherland, & Parker (2012, p. 12) suggest 10 responsibilities of good enough parents.
|Responsibility||What parents can do and provide|
|Give physical care||Feeding, shelter, rest, health and protection|
|Give affection||Expressed overt physical and verbal warmth and comfort|
|Give positive regard||Give approval, sensitivity to signals, responsiveness|
|Provide emotional security||Consistent and predictable warmth, sensitivity and comfort|
|Set boundaries||Clear statements on what is acceptable, good supervision|
|Allow room to develop||Provide and allow challenges within the child’s capacity|
|Teach social behaviour||Model reliability, reasonableness and assertiveness|
|Help develop skills||Encourage learning and exploration, be responsive in play|
|Help cognitive development||Reading, constructive play, monitor schooling|
|Facilitate social activity||Facilitate peer contact and provide new experiences|
Parenting can be challenging at times, but recognising that parents don’t need to be perfect all of the time, can help parents (and family services) to identify parenting strengths and to work towards realistic improvements in parenting.
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