When Good Enough is Best

Father and SonYesterday, I read an article that reproached me for the hours I spend working. Today, I read a different article that pointed out the psychological benefits of devoting time to a cause you believe in. Happily, those two are one in the same for me and I sit here on a Sunday morning, writing.

My reading is often like that: passionate, supported arguments for one notion, followed by equally passionate, supported arguments for the opposite. Parents and educators are like that too. Disparate notions for what’s best, fervently held, abound.  Navigating it all is a job I embrace.

I recently pored through Alex Russell’s book Drop the Worry Ball and immediately appreciated his message. Russell and many others argue that today’s parents are by-and-large ‘over-parenting’, excessively involved so our kids have maximum happiness in life. Russell argues that we need to let children experience more failure. But other books and articles add relevant nuance. Letting children experience failure has value, but not all experiences of failure are good. Letting children forge their own path in the external world is important; knowing when and how to step in is equally so. Overprotecting our children from harm has significant downsides; blindly putting our children in harm’s way clearly has its own. Having a close and loving relationship with our children is a positive thing; but good parenting can lead to those crushing words, “I hate you!”

Most adults inherently recognize the complexity in raising children, and nothing will stop us from wanting what’s best for ours. That’s why we cling tightly to the Worry Ball. A recent article in The Atlantic, How to Land Your Kid in Therapy, however, brings a welcome message to this cacophony of parenting perspectives. It’s our desire to be great parents that’s the problem. Aim to be a “good enough” parent. And then step back. Wendy Mogul, author of The Blessing of a Skinned Knee reassuringly adds that children even “need to think it’s a tragedy of earth shattering proportion that they’ve been born into the wrong family at some point.” Phew!

That takes us back to Russell’s message. Your children are well loved, served and protected. Amid the competing perspectives on raising children there emerges a sage middle ground. If you’re like most of us today, try to relax, step back and let their lives unfold on their own a bit more. When the unpleasant happens, ask, “Am I needed here?” Arguably, this is one part of life where being good enough is in fact doing what’s best.

Andrea Fanjoy,
Assistant Head, Academics
You can follow Andrea on Twitter @afanjoy.

Alex Russell is speaking at KCS Monday, April 14, 2014 at 7 p.m. All are welcome and admission is free. His book Drop the Worry Ball will be available for sale at the event.

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