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Good enough parenting

By Hayley Haynes-Rolando (Educational Psychologist)

Somehow it feels impossible to write a blog on parenting. The fantasy that one could apply a step by step programme or a set of guiding principles for all parents to follow – is just that – a FANTASY. Whilst parenting comes with little to no training, it is one of the toughest and most important tasks, often wrought with little support. Parents are often left feeling overwhelmed, inadequate and at times facing the scrutiny and judgements from other parents, family, teachers and other professionals working with children.

Well, I am here to offer some good news! There are no one size fits all models for parenting and there is certainly no perfect style – the only thing that we can offer our children is our attention, time and an ability to keep on trying despite the failures and pitfalls that coming with having a family. In my opinion, a parent that tries their best, doesn’t stop trying and is passionate about building a healthy, connected relationship with their child is a good enough parent. Whilst these ideas are not exhaustive, I will attempt to offer some thoughts on what I understand to be good enough parenting, from courses like the Incredible Years and Circle of security parenting[1].

A healthy relationship

I was once told that children spell love, T-I-M-E. This very simple thought suggests that children thrive and appreciate it when their caregivers are able to spend time with them. Building a healthy relationship with your child involves a conscious effort to spend quality time with them. This does not mean planning elaborate play dates with fancy activities, it does however suggest, being present and available to your child. I think what you choose to do with your child during this special time is far less important than you being available and interested in their thoughts, ideas and experiences.

Developing a healthy relationship with a child, builds self-esteem, self-confidence and allows parents to understand and intervene when their children are having difficulties. Being present and available to your children allows you to observe their behaviour and listen to them. This encourages them to express their emotions and in a sense helps to develop their emotional intelligence.

Being aware of your shortcomings

Developing a healthy relationship with your child is not as easy as it sounds. Often our own experiences of being parented, past hurts and current circumstances can make it difficult to spend time with our children. Whilst these experiences often can’t be avoided, realising that our past experiences can impact on our relationships and affect the way in which we respond to them is a good start.

Being able to admit our mistakes, and making efforts to repair the ruptures in our relationships with children, not only helps to repair our relationships but also helps them to understand that mistakes do happen, and they can be repaired.

Dealing with children’s challenging behaviour

Oftentimes when children act out, caregivers struggle to separate the child from the behaviour. Circle of security parenting suggests that good children do bad things and that often cries for attentions are their attempts at making a connection with their caregiver. Whilst this is not always easy to realise or hold onto in the moment, understanding that all behaviour is a communication could help caregivers to deal with the challenging behaviour with more understanding. Continuously working on the relationship and being intentional about spending special time could also help to reduce the acting out.

Consistency and clarity in limit setting also help to make children feel safe and secure. When deciding on consequences for undesirable behaviour, involving the child and talking through it together helps to get their buy-in. It may also help them to understand why the behaviour should not be repeated. The consequences should be natural and logical, so that they are able to apply this learning to other areas of their life. Praising and rewarding good behaviour is another strategy that reinforces positive rather than negative reactions from children.

Whilst this list of tools and ideas about how to deal with children’s different or challenging behaviour is not exhaustive, what must be reiterated is this idea that what matters most is the relationship that is developed, and that it is never too late to build a connection with your child.

For further information on parenting support please contact Ububele. We run parenting groups for children between 0 and 7 years old and 8 – 14 years old.

[1] Webster-Stratton, C. (2015). THE INCREDIBLE YEARS® SERIES. Family-Based Prevention Programs for Children and Adolescents and Powell, B., Cooper, G., Hoffman, K., & Marvin, R. S. (2009). The circle of security.

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