Began December 1999
A “GOOD ENOUGH” PARENT,
A DRUG-FREE CHILD
By Ronald K. Lean
On an excursion recently with my 14 year old son, he presented a rare and wonderful gift. He complimented me on being a good father. He compared me to friends’ fathers. One friend’s father lives in another state and had little to do with his son. Another friend’s father was always drinking. One father was always angry. Lastly, one father let his son do anything he wants to do.
I really could not believe I had heard my son correctly on this last point.
“Do you mean I am a good father because I don’t let you do everything you want to do?” “That’s right,” he said. “You don’t let me do everything because you care.”
I do not pretend to be a perfect parent. I have made my share of mistakes and will make many more. Parenting is the hardest job ever trusted to amateurs.
Thankfully, our children only need “good enough” parenting and nothing more, according to D.W. Winnicott, psychiatrist and child analyst.
Being a “good enough” parent does not insure drug-free children. It is an avenue to good parent-child relationships. These relationships produce emotionally healthy children who do not want or needs drugs to deal with life.
Listed below are guiding principles for such relationships. The guidelines seem
simple. They require a lifetime of conscientious practice:
1. Be involved. Being there for and with our children is the foundation of healthy attachments. Such emotional investments in one another are prerequisites for children’s self-respect and respect for others.
2. Listen. Listen to your children’s stories. Hear facts, feelings, criticisms, and compliments. Show interest in what is important to your children.
3. Teach. Many of life’s important lessons should be taught through explicit instructions. “This is right. This is wrong. No.” Teach by example. If you do not want your child to use drugs (including alcohol, nicotine, caffeine), do not use them yourself.
4. Nurture Closeness within the Family. While closeness is nurtured through age appropriate involvement with children, the family’s shared faith, meaningful traditions and rituals (for instance, holiday activities), and fun help children a sense of belonging which is crucial to
5. Foster Independent Thinking and Action. Healthy families give children “roots (belonging) and wings (independence).” Provide age appropriate choices, provide positive feedback for good choices, and learn to tolerate your children’s healthy choices that are not necessarily consistent with your own. Thomas Jefferson once said, “In matters of style, swim with the current; on matters of principle, stand like a rock.” While this is a good guideline for dealing with children, it is sometimes difficult to know when an issue is more of style or principle.
6. Love. The greatest gift that you give your children is to love yourself and love their other parent. If you cannot love your spouse of ex-spouse, then treat that person with civility and respect. Recognize and acknowledge what is good in your child. Hold you child responsible for breaches of family rules. Be willing to forgive. Be willing to ask for forgiveness. Remember to forgive yourself for your own mistakes. Always remember The Parent’s Prayer: “Dear Lord, If this is a test, please grade me on the curve, Amen.”
In following these guidelines, you will provide a “good enough” relationship with your children, good enough to increase their chances of a drug-free life, good enough for your children to be glad that you are his or her parent.
Ronald K. Lean, Ph.D., LCSW is a psychotherapist in private practice in Winston-Salem.
Reprinted from The Next Step, October/November, 1996 Posted 12/29/99
From Paul harvey
Paul Harvey Writes:
> We tried so hard to make things better for our kids that we made
> them worse. For my grandchildren, I'd like better. I'd really like for
> to know about hand me down clothes and homemade ice cream and leftover
> meatloaf sandwiches. I really would. I hope you learn humility by being
> humiliated, and that you learn honesty by being cheated. I hope you learn
> to make your own bed and mow the lawn and wash the car. And I really hope
> nobody gives you a brand new car when you are sixteen. It will be good if
> at least one time you can see puppies born and your old dog put to sleep.
> hope you get a black eye fighting for something you believe in. I hope you
> have to share a bedroom with your younger brother. And it's all right if
> you have to draw a line down the middle of the room, but when he wants to
> crawl under the covers with you because he's scared, I hope you let him.
> When you want to see a movie and your little brother wants to tag along, I
> hope you'll let him. I hope you have to walk uphill to school with your
> friends and that you live in a town where you can do it safely. On rainy
> days when you have to catch a ride, I hope you don't ask your driver to
> drop you two blocks away so you won't be seen riding with someone as
> as your Mom. If you want a slingshot, I hope your Dad teaches you how to
> make one instead of buying one. I hope you learn to dig in the dirt and
> read books. When you learn to use computers, I hope you also learn to add
> and subtract in your head. I hope you get teased by your friends when you
> have your first crush on a girl, and when you talk back to your mother
> you learn what ivory soap tastes like. May you skin your knee climbing a
> mountain, burn your hand on a stove and stick your tongue on a frozen
> flagpole. I sure hope you make time to sit on a porch with your Grandpa
> and go fishing with your Uncle. May you feel sorrow at a funeral and joy
> during the holidays. I hope your mother punishes you when you throw a
> baseball through you neighbor's window and that she hugs you and kisses
> at Christmas time when you give her a plaster mold of your hand. These
> things I wish for you - tough times and disappointment, hard work and
> happiness. To me, it's the only way to appreciate life. Send this to all
> of your friends who mean the most to you. We secure our friends not by
> accepting favors but by doing them. Paul Harvey