Lately I have been having power struggles with my very determined boy. He is five and is testing every word I say. At my best, I don’t argue with him. I just state what needs to be said and move on, leaving him to make some decisions about how he wants his day to be. At my worst, which has happened more often than I would like to admit, I get triggered emotionally and we argue loudly. He screams at me about things and I boom back trying to get him in line (which, SURPRISE, does not work as I intend it to).
I worry about the effect this may have long term. Honestly, I probably worry about it too much. My greatest fear is that I will slowly alienate my children as they grow. I would hate there to be a point where they no longer seek me out for help or guidance. I don’t want to be that dad….the dad they hide from, avoid, and keep things from. Perhaps you have had similar thoughts and concerns as well. But wait, there is good news…
Yesterday…in the midst of my obsessive worry, I heard a great line from Father Richard Rohr during an interview:
“You don’t have to be a perfect dad, you just have to be a good enough dad.”
Hearing this was music to my ears as it was one of those magical moments where life moved in and reminded me that parenting is not a game of perfect. It is a game of experience with trial and error. It is a game where showing up and being present every day is far more important than the impact of an occasional argument.
But what is a good enough dad?
A good enough dad is a dad who is present, engaged, and responsive to the child. Being there for the child..to play with…to argue (test) with…to provide boundaries…to guide…to love…to feel safe with.
Responsive parenting allows the child to create a secure attachment (trusted relationship). Having a secure attachment is critical to the child’s continued development. Children who do not develop a secure attachment will endlessly be seeking to fill that void (for more information on Secure Attachments click here.)
There are two main steps with responsive parenting:
- Listen to the need of the child. Allow the child to fully express themselves before you respond. (In my case above, I need to work on staying regulated while listening to him test me. With practice, I will hopefully be able stay cool and patient).
- Allow the child to completely work out their message to you. When they are done, and only when they are done, respond to their need.
One of the great benefits of responsive parenting is that you are modeling a behavior for them to emulate when emotions run high. By practicing patience and pause while listening you are creating a safe environment for the child work out their issues, emotions, stories, and needs.
Being responsive is the cornerstone of great parenting. Great parenting isn’t about being perfect or attaining your perfect ideal. It is about creating the correct environment for your child to develop where their needs are being met.
Arguments happen and are going to happen. That is ok and as I have been reminding myself: Keep showing up, keep engaged, and keep working at it.
In part II of this post I will dig deeper in personal strategies so you (I) can overcome the “not good enough” feeling. I will also cover my favorite paradox: Failure is the only path to success. I will then round it out with some philosophical points on how to be a leader in your own home.
Photo by Kelly Sikkema via Unsplash