Redefining Success in Parenting – Why ‘The Parent Test’ is More Than Just a Reality Show?
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One of my vices is my attachment to watching reality shows!
I’m not proud of it.
It's the kind of activity that doesn't require much brain power, allowing me to multitask and divert my attention to several things. But it seems to be the perfect antidote to the good kind of tiredness I feel after a day of deep and impactful coaching conversations.
I expected the same when I tuned in to my first (and I was thinking the only) episode of The Parent Test. Candidly, even though I’m obsessed with all things parenting, I was only checking it out because one of my favorite families, The Yadegars, were featured.
It took about 15 minutes into the first episode before I stopped multitasking because I realized this show was wildly different from the barrage of silly reality stuff on TV.
It was not only engaging but also surprisingly educational. As I binged on the entire season in a matter of days, I found myself worrying, crying, laughing with and yes, judging each of the twelve sets of parents.
As TV shows go, The Parent Test does an extraordinary job of highlighting each parents’ vulnerabilities and humanity. It sidesteps the black and white, good and evil diet of junk we are fed all day long by the media. This alone is an extraordinary achievement and deserves acknowledgement.
As I moved through each episode I discovered a more compassionate and understanding version of myself, one who believes in a parenting style that wasn’t exactly one of the twelve featured, but incorporated valuable lessons from each.
This is a parenting style I call Good Enough Parenting and it’s not made for today’s audience — people with frighteningly short attention spans and a rigidly binary mindset.
The show attempts to uncover America’s “Best” parenting style. I know for sure that there is no one best style and that aiming for it always leads to disappointment.
But why choose “Good Enough”? Because when it comes to the hardest job in the world, “Good Enough” is exceptionally hard to achieve!
Good enough means our children launch into adulthood mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically healthy.
Ask any parent whose child is struggling in only one of these four areas and you will find someone who prays nightly to wake up to “Good Enough”.
I didn’t start my parenting journey being a “Good Enough” parent.
What I’ve learned has been in the form of lessons along the path of raising my two kids, as well as my on-going coaching work with young adults.
I’ve had faith and fear, community and loneliness, joy and deep pain, and a lot of doubt.
I’ve learned that every child — even within the same exact family and circumstances — requires us to develop a unique style of parenting, one that perhaps suits only that child. My two kids are wildly different from each other in many ways and I see this pattern in every family I work with.
And yet, I will stake my reputation on the following 10 tenets of Good Enough Parenting because I’ve found them to be effective regardless of the differing requirements of each child.
- Model behaviors you want to see in your child — and do this from day one. Your kids are watching and taking notes long before you think they are.
- Choose your top 3 family values and set clear boundaries to guide your children. In my family, we stuck to two values, kindness and safety. Every family needs to have their own and it can’t be ten things. The kids need to know your family’s non-starters.
- Know and speak of your family history to inspire rather than burden your kids with the dramas and traumas of your past.
- Work through your own shit. Vulnerability doesn’t mean your young kids should be your therapists or trauma advisors.
- Create space for magical moments, deep connections, and unforgettable memories. If this behavior doesn’t come to you naturally, put it on your “to-do” list. Sitting quietly, playing, or shooting the breeze with your child for 15 minutes is at least as important as doing the laundry!
- Your child is not your project.
- No. Spanking. Ever! Do you enjoy being hit? Neither does anyone else, regardless of their age.
- No shaming. See number 7.
- Expose your child to generational diversity, an often missed and exceedingly valuable gift. Forget about the “children’s table” and give them a seat at the main table which ideally includes as many age groups as possible.
- Show gratitude and appreciation for “Good Enough” and watch your child soar from that stable and loving ground.
Perhaps the most integral tenant of “Good Enough” parenting is its rejection of perfectionism in every form.
Why hold ourselves and our children to a standard that is at best an illusion and at worst, deeply damaging?
If you’re a parent and you haven’t watched The Parent Test, you ought to.