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The Myth of the Perfect Parent

I’m a paediatrician. Over a 30-year career I’ve seen all types of parents and children: from privileged backgrounds; from poor backgrounds; from newly arrived migrants with little English and just ordinary, average “Aussie” parents.

Amongst these thousands of parents, I’ve never met one who didn’t want to do a good job as a parent. And most of them did a pretty reasonable job.

But many of these parents were worried. Worried that they weren’t up to the job, that they weren’t the best possible parent all of the time, worried about the high expectations of society to be the perfect parent, worried about what other parents would think of them.

Many were worried about how best to exert their authority, when to be firm and when to give in, Parents with their daughter.worried about how to discipline, worried that they might not be giving their children every opportunity to succeed, worried that they weren’t being the perfect parent.

The good news is that parents don’t have to be perfect. Most parents make a pretty good fist of parenting, they get there by a variety of routes and their children generally turn out OK.

Parents are ordinary people with ordinary emotions, they get sad and angry and frustrated. They have their good days and their bad days but they generally get it right. Theses are the “good enough” parents.

There are several important things all children need. They need unconditional love. This means loving them just because they are our children in contrast to loving them when they are good, withholding love when they disappoint us and using love as a bargaining tool. They also need clear boundaries about what they can do and what they can’t. They need rules that are clear and consistent. They need positive stimulation and opportunities to learn. They need respect for their own feelings.

But if you can’t meet these needs 100 per cent of the time, your child won’t be psychologically Children need unconditional love.scarred for life. You are just like every other parent. Children cope with the occasional lapse from a well-meaning parent.

There’s no need to feel guilty because you aren’t able to be the mythical perfect parent. No parent is perfect.

Children don’t need perfect parents. They just need just good enough parents.

Kim Oates


Prof Kim Oates is the author of 20 Tips for Parents: The realistic parents’ guide to understanding and shaping your child’s behaviour.