When Your Parenting is Not Good Enough
You’ve tried everything. You’ve followed the “rules,” read every parenting book, consulted with other moms and dads, you’ve rocked and soothed, you’ve disciplined and redirected, you’ve fed them to strengthen their immune systems, but still: they have tantrums, they wake in the night, they lose weight, they get sick, they do wrong.
Parenting is a tremendous job to have. You are never off the clock and your children never stop changing. It doesn’t take more than 10 minutes of parenting to begin to ask yourself: “Am I good enough?” “Am I doing enough?”
Several researchers and psychologists have researched healthy attachment between parent and child, and have worked to define what good parenting looks like. Here are some conclusions that have come out of the studies and professional work of these psychologists:
- Ed Tronick stated that parents and children who are attuned to one another (i.e. have connections, are able to read one another’s cues and tend to needs) are only in synchronization about 30% of the time. That 30% consistency can yield a secure attachment
- Another recent study stated that parents need only to “get it right” 50% of the time to yield healthy attachment*
- Donald Winnicott coined the term “the good enough mother” and Bruno Bettelheim’s “The Good Enough Parent” (1987)** outlined that good enough parents don’t expect perfection from themselves or their children, among other conclusions that point to the concept of grace.
Though these writings are helpful, and confirm the desire for parents to do right by their children, we need not go further than Scripture to remind us of the truth of any effort we make in life, whether parenting or otherwise. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul tells the Corinthians of the “thorn in his side;” I love the vagueness of the thorn, because, who doesn’t have a thorn? Who hasn’t found something that makes them feel weak? Paul reminds us that this suffering existed to keep him from becoming conceited.
Remember that conceit and insecurity are on two ends of the spectrum of the sin of pride. God does not want us to become puffed up when our children are good sleepers or are obedient, and in the same vein, He does not want us to feel defeated when things don’t go ideally. Both are deterrents from worship and His glory. In the same vein, your efforts as a parent will always be imperfect because man fell to sin. Let’s read more of 2 Corinthians:
“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (NIV, v. 8-10).
So when you don’t feel good enough in your parenting this week, remember that Christ’s defeat of death on the Cross made it so you no longer have to strive for perfection. Christ on the cross compensates for your weakness. When you look around this week and think “I’m doing better than the others,” remember that Christ defeating death also means that any power that you possess is because of him.
God ordained you to be the parent of your child—each day was ordained for each of us (Psalm 139), and God planned the generations of your family with purpose. So yes, read the research, find a friend or therapist who will affirm you as a parent, but remember:
You are good enough because God’s grace is enough.