I’m honoured to have been offered The Good Enough Parent book to write a review about before it’s released. The title was very exciting for me whilst I waited for it to arrive. I imagined it to fill me with confidence that our kids will still turn out happy enough without us being perfect.
My Approach to this Book Review
As with every book we read, we should read another author’s suggestions or opinions with the following questions in our minds:
- Could that work for me and my family?
- Does my gut instinct tell me it feels right for my kids or me?
- Can I imagine trying that suggestion and pulling it off?
- Does it align with other parenting styles I’ve been using?
- Has there been any official research into their suggestions?
When I write this review, I write it as the parent of 3 young children, the oldest of whom is 20 months older than her nearly 3-year-old twin siblings. We had very little support network around us for over 4 years. We had significant childhood traumas to overcome in ourselves. We also had thriving businesses, and then struggling businesses due to COVID, to cope with. We persevered to do the impossible, still being available for each of our children through their night-time struggles and daytime needs.
We are not your typical family out there, yet we have confidence internally about how to take on most parenting challenges today. This is the result of our huge learning curves since becoming parents. Without educating ourselves through experienced psychologists and parents, and getting passionate about offering the best support for our children, we’d not have that confidence. This is why I’m grateful for the opportunity to review this new School of Life book, to add to our knowledge base.
The introduction started the book off that a sizeable share of the population may be child-free if our society had a different attitude towards becoming parents. This is a useful subject to read before becoming parents, to ensure it is the right step for the individual and future children. However, I doubt I’d have picked up this book during the 3 years we tried to conceive, as it’s specifically written for parents. It did not have a title along the lines of ‘trying to conceive’.
Should I have become a parent? Only my children will know that but my gut tells me they enjoy being kids and look to me for company and support. I do believe I am the best mother for them, which links to my fear of death, as ultimately no one else would compare to my parenting with them.
The authors state that the Good Enough Parent book is for those sufficiently dedicated to the tasks of love. I imagine that most gentle parents, or aspiring gentle parents, will fit this category. I just mention below some of the most important points I took from reading this book.
Much of the early chapters follow similar themes to our gentle parenting approach. It was reassuring that what we’re doing is also recommended by the authors. Many of these topics are recommended reading if you’re new to gentle parenting. The most important points ‘to be good enough’ in these early chapters were as follows:
- calmness throughout for tantrums,
- be a source of soothing,
- always having your child’s back,
- hearing the child so they don’t have to escalate their frustrations to be heard,
- going beneath the surface of what the child says and does, and
- that they need to feel sadness to be authentically happy.
Just to forewarn you, in chapter 8, there was a photo of a 10-month old baby with a look of bravery after experiencing his pains. I don’t want to analyze it too much, as I have zero knowledge of the family or background to the situation, or even of such a young child suffering in this way. I’d have rather not see that picture, so I thought I’d share for anyone else who’s sensitive to images that can invoke anxiety or sadness.
Chapter 11: Lessons In Confidence
This book had a brand new concept for me, and I will certainly take it forward in my parenting. In chapter 11: Confidence, there is a section about how to respond when a child is called something hurtful by another person. I have never read their response before, but it’s true.
Their idea rang true for me as it links to the best motivational advice I was offered before taking my first accountancy exam. I was 100% doomed for failure in my mind, and that fear was linked to the potential loss of my job if I failed. The teacher said “there’s a 50% pass rate. All you gotta do is look round that room and understand that you’ve worked harder than half of the other people.” I looked around the people next to me and they didn’t look particularly hard working or bright and I set straight to work with an air of confidence. I achieved a high grade for that exam.
Chapter 13: Lessons In Issues
This is where The Good Enough Parent started taking hold of me as offering something easy-to-read, not offensive, and genuinely helpful. As mentioned above, both my husband and I were raised in trauma-inducing environments. It is useful therefore to know how we may be passing on issues to our children. Awareness of our issues can help us direct our attention to change or seek help.
Chapter 13: Lessons In Issues includes a very helpful list of questions to ask yourself regarding how you parent your children. Your answers indicate whether your children may end up with some of your issues themselves. Personally, it was relieving for me to read this checklist and the subsequent paragraphs as it confirmed to me that I have dealt with many of my issues. For the odd issue I still have, it also reassured me that explaining to my children a bit of my history will be helpful to them. It also confirmed that I am fully aware of what my husband’s issues are, and so I provide support to help limit their impact on our children.
Chapter 15: Lessons In Discipline
There was useful information for parents who were raised as people pleasers. If you were raised in that way, you may find parenting a young child in total contradiction to how you were raised. You won’t be able to please your child all of the time. If this sounds like you, then The Good Enough Parent is useful to understand yourself better.
Chapter 18: Lessons In Adolescence
The teenage years sound like we have a lot of new parenting experiences to be prepared for in the future. It was interesting to read a brief preview of what’s to come in the future, as so far most of my reading has been directed at the toddler age.
Chapter 19: Lessons In Limitations
In chapter 19 there was a series of headings that, on my first read, were contradictory to my beliefs for raising kids gently. One of them, for example, said the following:
“Love them reliably and without fear and you will be forgotten. Be distant, intermittent, often absent and deeply volatile, and they will be obsessed with you for life.“
On re-reading that chapter, I realised that those sections in chapter 19 were stating people’s fears when they are stressed or tired. The sections were not stating facts or opinions under those headings, like it appeared on my first read. I thought it was worth mentioning in case you read it similarly to me too.
This book had a wonderful conclusion. Superbly written. I wish I could write something as motivational as that to help every other parent trying their best to feel ‘good enough’. The conclusion was so good, it even made me re-read some sections I’d flagged as being a bit strange. On the second time of reading, I realised that I had misinterpreted those headings (see chapter 19 details above). Thank you, School of Life, for this motivational parenting book. It’s a truly excellent read.