Interesting how under pressure we have become as parents seeking to give our kids the very best of everything. Watching the latest Bones, the writers poke gentle fun at her for refusing to consider her daughter as “average”, therefore being set on believing that the toddler could not possibly have bitten another kid at daycare as that is what only average kids do. Yet it’s hard not to fall into that pattern, feeling guilty for not exposing our “gifted” offspring with all the wonderful stimulation available from “Baby Mozart” to classes in arts, sports and sciences.
Yet, the evidence for decades has indicated that “good enough” parents raise kids that go on to succeed. British pediatrician and psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott first described the ‘good enough’ mother as a holder of an environment allowing the child to explore and transition at its own rate, thus giving a strong sense of control and autonomy. It’s a parent who initially comforts and protects, but then as the child grows retreats allowing the child the space to safely learn to face challenge and even failure.
The most recent in the PEP TALKS (Parenting Education Program), presented by the Vancouver International Children’s Festival, was focused on that issue in particular. Lenore Skenazy, author of “Free Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry)”. She is famously the mother who allowed her 9 yo son to ride the New York subway. Crazy, eh?
My favorite book on the topic of parenting remains “Our Babies, Ourselves: How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Parent ” by anthropologist Meredith Small. Well published author-scientist Jared Diamond has a recent update to this angle, but nothing beats the initial premise – best parenting is dependent on when and where: if you live in a jungle, socializing kids to only feel safe when in a group is a matter of survival, while being fairly independent early on is a skill that is praised in our western societies.
My experience has been that the more one learns about parenting, the less daunting the challenge. Whether its historical perspective, scientific analysis or first-hand experience from another parent, these precious insights help me feel more confident and make life easier. So do consider coming out to the next PEP talks:
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 10 | SHERYL FEINSTEIN | Parenting the Adolescent Brain
WEDNESDAY, MAY 15 | DEBORAH MACNAMARA | The Lost Art of Play
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 12 | LISA BLOOM | Raising Smart Girls and Boys in the New Millennium
Great topics, great delivery, and most importantly, a group of parents like you and me in the audience – sometimes thriving, sometimes struggling with the chaos and complexity that raising kids can represent. So remember – you are not alone, and reaching out gives support and ideas on how to improve, while striving for “good enough”. Happy Friday!