Shoot for “Good Enough”?

“A perfectionist is a person who takes great pains, & gives them to other people.”  – Chuck Swindoll

Today’s topic:  parenting.  One of the things that contributes to my smidges of happiness is when my kids are happy.  Last night there was an amazing amount of belly laughing coming from the other room – and it put a smile on our faces. But a lot of times, we wonder, like probably all or most parents:  Are we doing it right? And if we’re not, how badly are we screwing them up??

An interesting article – I’m curious what you think of it – about Teach Your Children Well: Parenting for Authentic Success – a new book by psychologist Madeline Levine.  She’s worked with lots of overstressed, high-achieving kids and says that a lot of what (some of) today’s parents think they’re doing right…is dead wrong. All the pushing, perfecting, do-it-all-ing…

I may have to get this book, though I’m guessing it already lines up pretty well with my parenting style, such as it is at the moment.  I don’t feel pressured to have the Offspring constantly involved in some kind of enrichment, though we push for outdoor time and creative time and all that good stuff. And the Boy Child is involved in sports, but only one at a time.  Frankly, sometimes they get too much screen time, which is not ideal, but… Not perfect, but maybe good enough.

When I was first learning about research on parenting and child outcomes in grad school, I learned something I found shocking: there was such a thing as “good enough” parenting – and in general, kids did just fine with it.  Of course everyone is different; we all have our own lovely sacks of crap we carry around with us, and our kids are no exceptions. But if you are “good enough” at parenting, maybe their bags will be a bit less full.

I’m a big fan of Charles Sykes and his 50 Rules Kids Won’t Learn in School. Not because I feel like slamming educators (I have lots of friends who are amazing teachers) but because sometimes I think what seems like a good idea becomes doctrine and spreads rather wantonly through systems, without analysis or criticism. Sort of an “emperor’s not wearing any clothes” thing.  Example:  red pen corrections. Really, I can’t mark my student’s papers with a red pen because they will develop a fear of red ink?  Come ON. Whatever color I point out their mistakes in will become associated with what I wrote. Shall I just not correct the mistakes, then?  Oh, I won’t go down that road…maybe in another post.   I was gratified to find “red pens for correcting” on the school supplies list for the 3rd grader.

Another favorite is The Blessings of a Skinned Knee by Wendy Mogel.  More about that in another post, too. I need to re-read it first.

Sometimes I’m referred to as “the meanest mom ever”, though admittedly those times have dramatically decreased as the Offspring have aged.  I told them that was fine with me, because of course I was not actually mean, just telling them how it was going to be. Which was not how they wanted it.  Nowadays, I remind them that if we don’t teach them about how the world works, we’re not doing our jobs. This, they seem to get, though they’re not pleased about it.

Okay, we can all take the Push/Excel posters off the nursery room walls now. 😉

One response

  1. Thanks for the great book suggestions! I love hearing belly laughs too, a sure sign of happiness. I think everything in moderation, or everything good enough, makes perfect sense. Low pressure, not-overthunk, highly supportive parenting will surely make happy kids, right?

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