Good Enough Parenting

‘Good enough parenting’ is the name child welfare organisations give to parenting which may not be ‘ideal’ (what us middle class well-off people do) but isn’t quite ‘abusive’ (what those ‘disadvantaged’ parents who end up in the Sunday Times Horror Section do).  And yes, it does strike me as I look around the table at my fellow Barnardos volunteers (see previous post) that we’re all educated and middle class, whereas those to be ‘helped’ are probably all welfare class and poverty stricken. There is a certain Lady Muck flavour about it, no denying.

Anyway, when I was sitting in the Barnardo’s training session for volunteer Kids Friends, I was thinking, Good Enough parenting is what I do.


At least, I hope it’s good enough. I have a morbid fear of being the subject of a session with a shrink.

‘And so, how WAS your relationship with your mother?”, “Oh my god, where do I start…!”.

Actually for that reason I’ve asked Mr F and Ms M more than once what they think Good Parenting consists of, and if they DO end up going to a psych, what will they say?  But he and Ms M are both remarkably phlegmatic.


Mr F: I dunno really. I don’t HAVE any issues, mum…

Me: But what about that time we left you strapped in the car in the driveway for 5 minutes asleep and you woke up and screamed and no one came, and you said it felt like hours? Weren’t you scarred?

Mr F: Oh yeah, sure, but I’ve forgotten about it now. Guess it probably wasn’t as long as it seemed at the time.

Me to Ms M: So if you were writing the Rules of Good Parenting, what would they be?

Ms M: Mm, Don’t be too strict? Make sure the kid knows about the importance of education?

Me: (guiltily, as I’ve never really lectured much on this or probably any other subject) So, do you think I should be stricter about homework?

Ms M: Oh no. That’s the kind of thing that turns ordinary teenagers into serial killers, you know.

Me: So, do you think I’ve been a good mother?’

Ms M: Well I’m not a criminal, am I. On the other hand, maybe that’s just me. Maybe if you’d had a different kid, she WOULD have been one.


People (including me) always say ‘I’m doing my BEST’ but the fact is, I’m doing MY Best. Which is a long way from THE Best. I know what THE Best is, and it involves regular homework hassling, ruthless consistency, confiscation of electronic media, forced marches in the countryside, and lots of fresh fruit and vegetables.

MY best, on the other hand, involves lots of love, conversation, laughing together, a willingness to discuss absolutely anything as long as it doesn’t involve moving away from the heater, and a sort of ‘oh well, I guess it’ll work out alright in the end’ sort of optimism.  I’m not saying that’s good.  MAYBE it’s good enough. I don’t know.

My mum’s ‘best’ involved lots of warmth, very little supervision, no parental playing (she had me at 44), and plenty of moral guidance, most of which I subsequently ignored.  It certainly wasn’t ‘try-hard’ parenting, but it was definitely…good enough.

For seriously GOOD parenting, click here –

A Girlgonechild.  It’s about being an adoring mother and a working mother at the same time. Speaking personally, it can be a challenge.

Thefirstwire. Saying a lot of good things about the importance of role modelling and other things.  There are of course lots of great roles you COULD model, not all of them involving vegetables.

Wisiedailywisdom. Some simple but sensible ideas about raising decent citizens (who DON’T vote Liberal, you listening, Mr F???)

Positively mummy. Who suggests, quite rightly, that maybe we shouldn’t complain a lot about our kids. I totally agree (although maybe I should cut back on the boasting a bit too)

Okonomy – what the hell DID we do before Facebook? Oh yeah, truant! (and I did, too).

Lexa’s Journal.  Lexa gets her kids to write essays on what they did wrong.  Anyone who’s ever heard a kid say ‘I’m sorry’ in a tone about as convincing as Rush Limbaugh might think this is a bloody good idea!

So what IS good enough?


  1. sounds like you are a good parent in my book. I took basically the same approach when I was mentally able that is. I think the most important ingredient is love. Sounds simple but I think it does wonders. Making sure your kids know that you will love them no matter what. But also making sure they know how bad it would crush you if they made a wrong turn in life and ended up hurting themselves. You always have their wellbeing in mind because they mean so much to you. All this being the absolute truth. But letting them know this instead of how you are going to kick their butt if they ever do this, this or this. That causes rebelling. My kids have made a lot of mistakes, especially my daughter, but both my kids have turned out great. My daughter is happily married and my son is happily living with a great girl and making good money. They both have no doubt that I will love them no matter what, and my door is always open. Sorry didn’t mean to be so long.;-)

    1. I love long comments, I take it as a big compliment! It’s just lovely when you can be proud of your kids, or grown up kids, isn’t it! I guess you must have done the right thing (or, as Ms M says, THEY must have been the right kind of people). Whatever, it’s a cause for great celebration!

  2. You never know if you’ve been parenting well until you begin to see the fruits of your labor – that is, your kid starts to grow up. Even then, when you see the strong young man, or the level-headed young woman, there is a nagging suspicion that they have turned out all right despite your efforts, and not because of them. But at the core, if your children are cared for, secure, and know that they are loved, then you have done well by them.

    I look to my 18-year-old and see some of the best bits of me there, and few of the bad parts. That, I believe, is success.

  3. I have seven kids, they are all crazy different, and they are all amazing…. We’ve been through hell and back, but we’ve ALWAYS had LOVE, LOVE and more LOVE… and lot’s of laughter helps too, (especially during the talks till 2:00 am)

    I can’t say if I am a great parent or not, but I do know one thing…. I LOVE my kids like no other… and I hope I have been a good enough person so they will want to be the same.

    Really loved this post :).

    1. I love that attitude – that’s the thing really isn’t it, to be a good enough person so they’ll want to be the same,in their own way. 7 kids – that’s a heap – I always wanted to have 10 but ended up with 2. Seven must be lots of work but lots of fun too.

    1. I guess it is, yes Sharmishtha. I don’t think I’d call myself a good parent,but I wouldn’t call myself a bad one, I suppose. My kids are loved and love me, so that’s something important.

  4. The question isn’t really “Are you good enough?” as much as it is “Who are you trying to satisfy?” My parents raised me thinking they were ultimate, but now that I’m grown I realized that my childhood was not only wrong, but extremely abusive. (Keep in mind that when you’re a child moving every year, you don’t have good friends to compare your family life against.)

    Using my childhood as a shadow, I’ve taken all of what my parents taught (you’re stupid, I can’t hear your brains rattle, quit being an idiot, I’ll show you what hurts, etc.) and decided there is absolutely NO name-calling in my house. The ONLY time my kids get a smack is when what they’re doing will hurt themselves, or someone else, and they refuse to stop.

    Some parents believe in the method where they ignore the crying baby until sleep overcomes it, where I say there’s a reason it’s crying. My parents would change the baby when the diaper was “soggy enough” and apply rash cream. I figured out that if I changed my son as soon as he was wet, he was uncomfortable with the dampness, soon cried immediately, and took two days to potty train. (I wet the bed until I was eight, and neither of my kids do that.)

    Again, different strokes for different folks, and all of them think their way is the best. Of course, my way REALLY IS the best! 🙂

    1. No that’s true, it can be hard to compare what you’ve got with other families. Yours sound awful. Mine were good, but perhaps a little neglectful at times – but that’s ok, I’m here. No, I wouldn’t name call either (although, when Mr F was routinely persecuting his sister in quite a cruel way, I probably did say a few things I shouldn’t have). I think we reflect who we are in how we raise kids – your parents perhaps were unkind and insensitive people (?) and so to them, what they did to you was a natural extension of that. Whereas you are a caring person, and whatever mistakes you make, your parenting will reflect that.

  5. I’ve done my best with my kids, but I’ve always been of the mind that one should let kids be kids, and grow up with care but not too much micro-management and helicoptering. And as it turns out, one of my kids is going to need precisely that sort of micro-management and helicoptering. So I’m going to have to change my approach completely, at least with him.

    1. I’m of your view, obviously – but all kids are different and need different approaches. My daughter’s pretty laid back but my son’s always needed quite strong discipline, which I couldn’t give, so his dad did. Why is that, that your son needs micro-management? If you don’t mind me asking.

      1. He was diagnosed as highly gifted, with poor written output. He can’t stay in his seat in class; he’s terribly bored. We’re going to enroll him in a private school for kids like him, and the other one will remain in public school. His psychologist has told us he’s in trouble if we don’t intervene and give him proper schooling. So yeah, we need to micro-manage his education. It’s sort of stressful.

    2. Oh ok. I think ‘normal school’ can be terribly boring for a very bright kid (Mr F also found it boring and often acted up or just opted out). Maybe it’ll work out really well in the private school, if he’s stimulated and challenged. Highly gifted kids, so I’ve been told, are the hardest to control in school and often perform badly out of boredom. But, it would be stressful.

  6. Ack. What does that make me? I’ve always told my kids that I’ve done the bare minimum so they survive until I can kick them out of the house. But, I’ve also told them “challenge everything” — so they don’t believe that I’ve done the bare minimum. (And they don’t believe 90% of what I say about anything.)

    Actually, thinking about it, I’ve shown them a lot but actively avoid telling them a damn thing. Maybe preparation for when they’re teens and won’t listen to me anyways…

    I definitely learn stuff when reading your excerpts from Mr F and I’ve got them parked to apply to Evil Genius in a decade…

    1. Hope it’s a decade till Evil Genius gets there then! The thing is, Mr F was horribly difficult much of the time till he reached about 15, at which time he moved in mostly with his dad and gradually improved, a lot. Mainly i think due to the ‘Listen you little shit, don’t fucking mess with me!!’ school of parenting. No I’m just joking, but his dad doesn’t take shit. But he’s actually a delight most of the time now, if smelly. I like the ‘challenge everything’ philosophy, I reckon that will stand your kids in good stead, out in the world. And I also think they remember what you show them more than what you tell them, which can be worrying, depending.

      1. Evil Genius hasn’t been too much of a pain, really. My worry/fear is I see too much of myself in him. Knowing how I think, I’m trying to circumvent some of the shit I pulled/tried to pull and the clever little tricks I suspect he might try.

        I’m basically taking the same approach, though trying to temper it by treating him as an equal in some ways. Parenthood, while great, is a pain in the ass because we have to learn a lot of the same damn lessons our parents learned. Another case where I wish we, as a species, had generational memory.

      2. If we did have generational memory, life would be kind of boring ‘Let’s do x!!…oh yeah, that’s right, I tried x already…’. i treat my kids as equals too, at least in terms of talking to them. When push comes to shove, it’s my word goes (if I can make it). I feel the same btw about Ms M, in many ways she’s like me, able to convince people she feels thinks she doesn’t actually feel but it would be useful to feel!

  7. Just thinking about it makes you a good parent and people who volunteer set a great example. I tend to think about our grandmothers era, when parenting didn’t have rules and expections. They just raised their kids, they sent them out to play and they taught them manners and fed them well. Kids didn’t have enormous expectations put upon them and not ever one won. We seem to complicate out kids so much.

    1. Yeah I kind of agree. My mother raised me like that – ‘go out and play, make sure you’re home by 6. You’re bored? And how is that MY problem?’. It worked pretty well, mostly.

  8. I like your version of “best” parenting. It’s what I try to do as well. Love, laughter, and a positive outlook on life. Emotional well-being is a big thing in my family, and we try to stay conscious of what our kid is feeling. This was a great post. Thank you for sharing.

  9. I loved the Ranting Parenting thing, brief as it was – & with this post, I agree.

    I am doing “MY” best, which isn’t always THE best. Agreed. Someone once said to me “You did the best with what you had”, & you know, I think I did. It wasn’t even MY best, it was just the best with what I had at the time – undiagnosed bipolar/moods up & down like crazy, depression extreme, mental scars from childhood never talked through with a psychologist or the like, and isolation, decided isolation. UTTER fear of going out in public with my baby, should he cry or grizzle & people judge me bad, etc.

    This was good, another solid post. Didn’t understand the Sara Fluke apology though – I don’t think I know this news item. But the apology with that machinated voice was horrible! And then the last sentence… ‘sincerely’ and ‘bad (or wrong, can’t rem) choice of words’.


    1. Thanks Noelene. Yes I understand where you’re coming from on that – no parent is perfect and I’m a long way from it. What would a perfect parent be like anyway – probably a bit of a pain. I remember going to Toys R Us with Mr F and him yelling all the way up and down the aisles…grim! Worse when he got older and behaved like a little shit in public, because you couldn’t say ‘oh he’s just a baby and doesn’t know any better’. Sarah Fluke – she was that US law student who stuck up for state funded abortions and Rush Limbaugh called her a dirty slut and said if she wanted to have sex on the public purse at least she should make a sex video for him to watch. Then he had to ‘apologise’.

  10. I don’t think you have to be 101% on top of your game. If you have lots of communication with your kids, know their friends and keep an eye on them, they generally turn out pretty good. Show them lots of love and let them know their parameters.

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