I met with my psychiatrist on Thursday.
I look forward to these appointments for months. I always walk out feeling confident, capable, better. Not only that, but I get a little education as well.
This week, we talked about parenting. I explained how I felt so frustrated as a parent sometimes. If I’m doing it right, why isn’t my daughter happy all the time? What am I missing? How can I be a better mother?
My doctor is amazing, let me tell you. He explained to me this wonderful new parenting concept that I have started researching…and it really speaks to me.
It’s called “good enough” parenting.
The idea is this – we all know that not attending to any of our child’s needs will result in an unhappy child. What isn’t as obvious, though, is that if we attend to all of their needs…they will be just as unhappy. The “happy medium” here is attending to most of their needs, but also allowing them to feel the “negative” emotions that come with everyday life.
Because, let’s face it – life isn’t always easy. As much as we want to prevent our child from feeling sadness, frustration, and anger, as much as we want them never to be bullied or picked on, it’s not going to happen.
The best article I have read on the subject so far is by a psychotherapist named Lori Gottlieb called How to Land Your Kid in Therapy. Lori explains how when she began her practice, many of her patients were young adults that were inexplicably depressed. They had everything, they loved their family and friends, but they just felt…empty.
You have to read this article, because it is seriously amazing and I can in no way do it justice. But one of the ideas that I loved most is that of building up our childrens’ “psychological immunity.” Just as our body’s have immune system, our mind has one as well. By preventing any negative experiences from befalling our child, we are also preventing them from becoming psychologically capable of handling disappointments in the future.
Lori also addresses the crazy amounts of choices that parents give their children. I admit, I was under the impression that choices were good for a child – they would teach them independence, decision making, compromise. But I’ve come to realize that moderation is the key. We don’t always have to say yes, we don’t always have to give options. We’re in charge, remember? We can be parents and still have happy children. I’ve come to realize that even if my daughter experiences frustrations or disappointments, that doesn’t mean she won’t ultimately be happy.
Life isn’t always going to be happiness and rainbows. And I think I need to stop expecting it to be that way for Josephine.
One of my favorite quotes from Dr. Gottlieb’s article says, “Happiness as a byproduct of living your life is a great thing…But happiness as a goal is a recipe for disaster.”
Let’s commit ourselves as parents to helping our children live lives that bring them happiness, not ones that exist only for its pursuit. And let’s all be okay with being “good enough” parents. Because when it comes down to it, maybe that’s all our kids need us to be.