‘Good Enough’ Parenting: Five Expert Tips – Hope 103.2

‘Good Enough’ Parenting: Five Expert Tips

Parents are getting a bad rap without advice on how to do better—when what they need is helpful encouragement, says adolescent psychologist Collett Smart.

By Clare BruceTuesday 17 May 2016ParentingReading Time: 4 minutes

Listen: Adolescent psychologist Collett Smart chats to Emma Mullings about being a ‘good enough parent’.

Parents are getting a bad rap in the media without advice on how to do better—which doesn’t help anyone, says adolescent psychologist Collett Smart.

Ms Smart believes today’s parents aren’t doing a bad job at all, and should be encouraged, rather than heaped with guilt by news reports.

The psychology teacher and mum-of-three has made the comments in response to a government study into children at risk of developing mental illness.

The study, conducted by the The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists and titled How many children in Australia are at risk of adult mental illness, showed that more than half of Australia’s infants had multiple risks for adult mental illness.

It also found that two-thirds of kids aged 12 to 13 had parents who were either low on “warmth” or very hostile or angry major psychological risk factors for the child’s future adult life.

“Don’t Be Burdened By Guilt”

Mum and Child playing with lego

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While these are important and sobering statistics, it’s important that news reports don’t simplify report the bad news, says Ms Smart. She said multiple news articles on the negative findings of only discouraged parents.

“There’s a beautiful quote that says ‘there’s no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one’.”

“I feel like it’s very negative,” she said. “We know that parental anger or bullying or low warmth are main triggers for adult mental health issues later in life, but we’ve known that since the 1930s. Reports like this just add guilt and stress to us because they never actually give us any hope, or how-to’s.

“Science shouldn’t be used to frighten parents or blame them. Next time you hear news reports about all the things we do badly, just use it as an avenue to bring healing and hope into your parenting.

“There’s a beautiful quote that says ‘there’s no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one’. So don’t listen to research and think ‘I’m not perfect’. Just be ‘good enough’.”

To that end, Ms Smart offered the following tips.

Tip 1 – Say Sorry When You Need To

Practice staying calm when difficult moments come along, and learn how not to over-react. It not only helps everyone stay happy, it also teaches your children skills for handling adversity in their own life. But if you do over-react, make amends.

“If you lose your temper, make a repair as soon as you can,” Ms Smart said. “We’re all going to slip up from time to time. We say things as parents and mums that we don’t mean. We might be frustrated or tired. If it happens, pick yourself up – how you handle it afterwards is what counts.

“If we’ve fallen short, say sorry. Give lots of hugs and cuddles.”

Tip 2 – Impose Boundaries With Love

Limits or boundaries, and consequences, are a vital ingredient in parenting, and are best delivered with both firmness and love.

“Let them know that we hear them, even though we sometimes may not agree with their reasons for not wanting to stick to our boundaries,” Ms Smart said. “They can’t just come home late as teenagers and throw things around and not have consequences for that. But let them know you that you hear them, and you’re still there for them, and that limits are for a reason.”

Tip 3 – Emphasise The Good In Your Children

Father and teenage daughter outdoors

Telling your kids what is good about them, and what you love about them, and focus on these yourself when you’re in a difficult moment. It’ll help you to keep things in perspective.

“Tell them what makes them a wonderful child to be around,” Ms Smart said. “That makes the not-so-good times easier to manage.”

Tip 4 – Don’t Try And Fix All Their Problems

If parents try to fix everything for your children, they will fail to build resilience in them. Instead, help children to take responsibility.

“Our kids need to make mistakes, face consequences. That’s not bad parenting.”

“I think solving your children’s problems often comes from guilt as a parent,” says Ms Smart. “We’re so afraid of doing badly that we try and solve everything. But our kids need to make mistakes, face consequences, work things out for themselves, to become resilient. That’s not bad parenting.”

Tip 5 – Remember To Have Fun

Laughter and humour and fun times are just as important as boundaries.

“Do things together with your children that they love,” Ms Smart said. “Lots of hugs and cuddles. And hug your teenagers, too. They still need affection. They still need to know and hear “I love you”.”

About Collett Smart

Collett Smart is a consultant psychologist, qualified teacher, lecturer, author, wife and mother of three children. She writes on many issues affecting teenagers, at Familysmart.com.au.