No, I’m not about to tell you that you must try harder. In fact, quite the opposite. I think most of us are trying far too hard, and that isn’t sustainable or healthy for us or our children.
There’s such a strong narrative of striving and self improvement in our culture that settling for just ‘good enough’ might seem a bit defeatist, or even dangerous when it comes to parenting.
Let me reframe this for you. Because being ‘good enough’ IS the ideal when it comes to raising psychologically well adjusted and resilient children. And trying to live up to an image of ‘perfect’ motherhood is the opposite and potentially very damaging, for you and for them.
The concept of ‘good enough’ parenting is derived from the work of Donald Winnicott, a paediatrician and psychoanalyst who first identified this term in 1953.
Winnicott was concerned about the rising influence of so called...
If you've been following my work for a while, you'll know that most, if not all, of my messages are about being kind to yourself.
Because I believe it is only when we can extend gentleness and compassion to ourselves that we can truly begin to embody this for our children.
But there's a difficult truth that many of us come up against as we begin the slow and haltering work of learning to like ourselves a bit more.
Which is that, just as we are beginning to accept who we are, those around us may feel very uncomfortable.
Gentle parents are very adept at seeing things from a child’s eye view. OK, so not all the time, when it is over something seemingly so irrational as now wanting the green cup when they have just spent the last 30 minutes screaming for the red one. But on the whole, it makes good sense to try and get down to their level and empathise with how it must be to be someone with big feelings inside a tiny body.
We know this. Yet somehow we fail to apply the same logic to ourselves.
We tend to forget that big people have a hard time too.
We all know the quote:
"Your child is not giving you are hard time. They are having a hard time."
Well, I’d like you repeat after me:
"I am not giving anyone a hard time. I am having a hard time.”
Coping with the ever-present threat of Covid and the challenges of lockdown life has made for a uniquely hard time for all sorts of reasons.
We’ve been stuck in fight-fight-freeze mode for the best part of a year. Even simple decisions like...
I've been thinking about why it is so difficult to be kind to ourselves.
I've come to the conclusion that one of the reasons is because we are on a never-ending self improvement treadmill.
There’s a large part of most of us that thinks we should do better, be better people, become better parents.
In that context, being kind to yourself can feel deeply uncomfortable.
It’s like you are slacking off.
You feel like if you ceased to - do all the things, listen to all the podcasts, read all the books, try all the strategies, attend all the programmes - you would have no chance of being that better person.
So you continue to think ‘must try harder’ and ‘could do better’ which are actually subtle - or not so subtle - manifestations of your inner critic.
And yet, interestingly, research (Breines & Chen, 2012) shows that self compassion actually increases motivation
* to make amends when you’ve done something wrong
* to keep trying following an...