The Science Behind the "Good Enough" Parent

All we want, as parents, is for our children to be happy and safe.

It doesn’t sound like a big ask, but when we’re faced with the do’s and don’ts of parenting and the well-meaning advice from friends and family, the challenge of raising our kids becomes bigger and scarier. Suddenly, we don’t feel good enough. So, we try harder and the pressure piles on. But the truth is, there is no perfect parent. In fact, being a "Good Enough" parent can steady the balance of being human and raising humans.

The Problem with the Perfect Parent

The problem with attempting to be a perfect parent is that when we make mistakes, those mistakes are amplified. A small blunder is deemed much bigger than it is, and we guilt ourselves to the ends of the earth with our supposed parenting fail. We feel as though we are falling short and try to catch up, even though making mistakes is all part of learning - for us and for our children.

What is a "Good Enough" Parent?

"Good enough" is a term developed by Donald Winnicott, an English paediatrician and psychoanalyst. In the 1950s he saw how parents were wrongly being sold different ways of parenting, all with the damaging underlying agenda of being the best parent you can be.

The standards were set very high and parents struggled to reach them. It’s something we still face today.

The Science Behind the
"Good enough" is about realising our capabilities, avoiding being overwhelmed and burning out. 

Even more recently, Susan Woodhouse, an expert on infant attachment told us that when responding to our children, we need only get it right half the time to have a positive impact. Now, there’s a relief.

The Myth of "Good Enough"

"Good enough" often gets a bit of criticism because it is misunderstood. Some believe it is about dropping our standards. Far from it. "Good enough" is about realising our capabilities, avoiding being overwhelmed and burning out. 

Are You A "Good Enough" Parent?

Chances are you probably already are but may not realise it. A good enough parent is about showing sensitivity and warmth to our children, responding to their needs physically and emotionally. More importantly, it is about recognising we can’t sustain this at a perfect level all the time.

It’s about trusting our gut and being confident in the choices we make as parents. It is knowing that children are resilient and when we don’t respond in the way they expect, we are building on their strength. Being good enough is mostly getting it right, and sometimes getting it wrong.


Geraldine Walsh

Mum of two Geraldine Walsh happily works from home as a freelance writer chatting about parenting, wellness and mental health.

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