As national parents week gets underway, Ros Coward asks whether we ever really know if we’re doing it right
The British psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott was the first to work with the idea of “the good-enough parent”. He illustrated its meaning by describing possible interactions between a mother, a baby on the point of crawling, and an interesting toy just out of the baby’s reach. The too-good mother can’t bear the baby’s frustration and immediately hands the toy to the baby. The not-good-enough mother leaves the baby too long with its frustrations. The good-enough mother allows the baby to explore its own capacities but not so long that frustration turns to despair.