10 tasks of “good enough” parents

(Photo: widephish)

(Photo: widephish)

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:

  1. Meeting children’s health and developmental needs
  2. Putting children’s needs first
  3. Providing routine and consistent care
  4. 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.

If you liked this post please follow my blog, and you might like to look at:

  1. What’s your parenting style?
  2. Parenting styles – another look
  3. When is it OK for kids to walk home alone?
  4. Parenting for a better world
  5. A great 1 minute video of fathers and their kids
  6. Childhood trauma and brain development

About Graeme Stuart

Lecturer (Family Action Centre, Newcastle Uni), blogger (Sustaining Community), Alternatives to Violence Project facilitator, environmentalist, father. Passionate about families, community development, peace, sustainability.
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