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Education: Special Needs


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good enough parent

You Don't Have to Be a Perfect Parent
to Be a Good Parent

by Jack Taulbee, Ed.M., M.A.

April 12, 2013—Working with so many parents over the years, and as a parent and now grandparent of special needs children myself, I have learned that one of the biggest emotional hurdles for parents to overcome when dealing with a special needs child is that we will all too often feel like failures because we cannot make our child, and their world, perfect.

As parents we will feel responsible for making the disorder go away, and since we can’t make that happen, we feel compelled to immediately resolve every single problem that arises due to our child’s disorder. We feel that we personally have to fix it all; and we're driven to persist until everything feels restored to normal.  But, of course, that is not humanly possible. Unfortunately, this way of perfectionist thinking becomes self-defeating and eventually leads to a letdown, because given those parameters, failure is inevitable.

Anyone will fail who thinks they have to be perfect, because perfection doesn’t exist.  You can't make the disorder go away, and it's important to realize that you don’t have to be a perfect parent to be a good parent.  Let me repeat that.  You don’t have to be a perfect parent to be a good parent.

A good parent does what is within their power and works on the rest, accepting the fact that nature has placed the limitation on their child, not the parent. A good parent is consistent, caring and will always have hope for their child’s future. A good parent realizes they make mistakes, and that there is always tomorrow to make it right. A good parent is honest and works hard at finding answers for their child, but they also realize that those answers are sometimes hard to come by. A good parent learns how to be patient with themselves as well as with their special needs child. A good parent realizes that even parents of children without disorders fail their children every day in one way or another: it happens to all of us.

And a good parent doesn’t try to remove every effect of the disorder. Instead they help their child face up to challenges in order to teach them how to face other disappointments in life with a strong positive attitude.

As parents, we need to accept our own limitations and admit to ourselves that there are no perfect parents because this is not a perfect world. However, we can be good enough to offer our children the best possible outcome for our given circumstances.

Trust me when I tell you that you do not have to be a perfect parent to be a GOOD parent.


Jack Taulbee is the author of Understanding Children of Special Needs: What Every Parent Needs to Know.  To contact Jack or order his book, see his Web site.

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