• Julie Cresswell

Why trying to be a "good" parent may be causing you more harm than good

How often do you feel like a bad parent?

It may not take much to spark it – a disagreement with your child, forgetting something they need, too much screen time, running out of clean school uniform – even what you had for tea! When your child is struggling it’s likely those feelings are even stronger – whatever the reasons for the struggle.

However much you try to reassure yourself and recall all the reasons why you are actually a good parent it doesn’t make you feel any better.

Perhaps it’s because aspiring to be a “good” parent - however positive it sounds in theory - is actually the problem.

Firstly, what does “good” even mean? What does being a good parent even mean? Is a good parent one who gets their child to eat their 5 a day and manages screen times and manages to clean AND iron all their clothes. I’m already failing on some of those. Good is too binary – like pass or fail!

Secondly, who decides how good you actually are? Is it just a random sense from those around you depending upon their personal perspective and experiences of raising children?

In the heat of the moment when your child doesn’t like where you’ve set a boundary they may be more than willing to offer their opinions on your parenting – probably none of them including the word “good.”

Good is very subjective and difficult to measure. For example if calm is a measure of good do you have to be calm 100% of the time? 80%? 60%?

You could measure it on loads of washing, lifts offered and meals prepared – all important elements of what you give your child - but it’s unlikely to offer much comfort in the moments of self doubt!

It’s tempting to try to measure on the basis of how happy your child is or how well they’re coping, but that’s a minefield, let alone a lot of pressure on your child to perform and feel a certain way.

When you start to unpick good – it’s doesn’t offer you anything tangible and when you are focused on this idea it’s more likely to sap your confidence and therefore make it harder to navigate the difficult moments.

So if you’re ditching good then what are aspiring to instead?

Let’s shift from a focus on good/bad to the qualities we bring to our relationships instead and those we want to be part of who we are and what we add to the world. Qualities which are more identifiable through our actions and intentions. What about being kind, loving, loyal or hardworking? Maybe it’s giving your best and not giving up.

What kind of parent do you want to be to your child?

Perhaps it’s actually about having a mantra for the difficult moments with your child – try thinking about the times you feel most insecure as a starting point to work this out.

One mum I worked with took on the mantra “I’m a loving mum and I’m doing my best.” Far more helpful for her – she’s incredibly loving even on the days things aren’t going well.

Each person’s aspiration or mantra will be unique to them and possibly dependent on what pushes their buttons.

Given the work I do I feel the pressure that I “ought to know” when things aren’t going well with my children, but I don’t always have the answers. So I remind myself “I’m a mum who’s constantly learning.”

Getting more specific leads to much more helpful and meaningful self-talk than “good.” Helpful self-talk ripples out into actions and potentially takes you much closer to being the kind of parent you want your child to have.

So perhaps for you the time has come to ditch “good” and find the words which work for you – which encourage and inspire you even on the tough days.

What kind of parent will you be instead?

I'd love to hear your new mantra - do e-mail me to let me know - and if you're struggling with your confidence and to find a new mantra book a chat to see how I can help at: .

PS It' may also be worth ditching being a good child/colleague/partner/sibling etc

Image by Fathromi Ramdlon from Pixabay

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