Am I a bad parent?
Parenting, step by step
Let’s cut to the chase, bad parents don’t think that they are bad parents, they don’t even ask the question. The fact that you reading this article and wonder about whether you are a ‘good or bad’ parent means that you are ‘good enough’ parent. Donald Winnicott reminds us, we can never be perfect parents all we need to do is be good enough parents.
As you have come to understand the idea of being a perfect parent is absurd and will lead to anxiety, pain and frustration. Because, if you focus all your attention on your child you will soon begin to neglect yourself, your partner, your household etc. Basically, you are in fact neglecting your child’s best interests.
Remember that doing what is in your child’s best interest must remain your primary focus. This will mean that at times you have to correct certain behaviours. Take for example if your child is ‘throwing a tantrum or misbehaving’ and you refuse to correct the behaviour you are in fact not thinking of your child’s best interests.
By condoning or allowing these kinds of behaviours you are doing your child a disservice. If you really cared for your child you must correct these behaviours. This may feel uncomfortable, be hard and even make you sad, however, remind yourself that it is ultimately in your child’s best interest. Think about some of the greatest lessons that you have learnt throughout your life, where these easy to learn? Probably not, yet now that you have worked through it and gained the needed experience I wager you are happy that you learnt that lesson.
Bruno Bettelheim in his book “A Good Enough Parent, A book on child-rearing” highlights that “…there are few loves which are entirely free of ambivalence…our hope for our children is sometimes tinged with annoyance, discouragement and disappointment…the same is true for our children’s feel for us”.
Good enough parents don’t dwell on the past rather they focus on the present. Children need an environment to make mistakes, learn and play safely. Seldom if ever do toddlers act with malice intent; ignorance yes; self-indulgence yes. Remember, there are no bad children only bad behaviours. Happy childhoods facilitate happy adult lives, not perfect childhoods!
Be imperfect and give your child the freedom to make mistakes.
In closing I leave you with another quote from B. Bettelheim, “Whiles we are not perfect, we are good enough parents if most of the time we love our children and do our best to support them. This wisdom can protect us against the folly of reflecting that everything a child does is a reflection upon us”.
A Good Enough Parent: A Book on Child-Rearing. Bruno Bettelheim, 1988.
D. Winnicott. Babies and Their Mothers, 1992.
Written by the esteemed: Wesley Kew