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Utilitarian Parenting Is Not Good Enough

May 01, 2023

Dear Parent,

Utilitarian parenting is not good enough parenting. What the heck does that mean?

You have probably heard that you don't have to be a perfect parent; you just have to be good enough. On the face of it, that is true. Perfection is required of no one and is by definition impossible for humans to attain anyway. Still, I find that many parents have succumbed to fast paced, over-busy, project manager, drill sergeant parenting, which turns out not to be good enough for the special needs of our special children.

Does this sound familiar?  Come on, get your teeth brushed, we have to get going. You are not going to have time for breakfast.  I have to go.  Now.  Shoes.  Just put them on in the car.  Hurry up, get out to the car.  Did you finish that last page of homework?  I told you to do it before watching cartoons.  You said you did it.  I should have checked. I will be checking today, so don't try to fake me out.  There is always so much traffic around the school. You have to get going earlier in the mornings, because this traffic is impossible.  I get stuck here forever.  Okay, I will pick you up right here at 3pm, so BE HERE.  We have to pick up Aunt Suzie after school, so don't be late.  Okay, get your stuff and jump out.  I'll see you later. Give me a hug. Okay, bye.  Have a good day. Don't forget to be here, right here, at 3pm. Don't go off with your friends. I have to be on time for Aunt Suzie. Hey, look at me. Tell me what you heard. Where are you going to be at 3pm today?   

Now multiply this by every time you talk to your child. That is utilitarian parenting and ultimately it is not good enough to win over or heal the wounded heart of a traumatized, attachment challenged child.  

We are all busy, but that is no excuse for missing the boat on being a nurturing parent. Slow down.  Care more about your connection than being on time.  Notice feelings more often than undone homework. Engage more, correct less. Play. Laugh. Hug. Roll around on the floor. Be silly. Give your time and attention now, or pay later.

This is not criticism or guilt tripping or shaming. I was raised by utilitarian parents, so I tended to be a utilitarian parent, too. It was not good enough for the child that I was, and it wasn't healing enough for my kids.  I had to learn how to be engaged and nurturing. That seems kind of nutty, but it is true.

Try fiercely to resist the urge to think your child needs utilitarian parenting or nothing would ever get done.  Your child needs you, all of you, your attention, your time, your touch, your loving eyes, your playful engagement, your attuned, checked-in parenting. That is good enough.

Be good enough.  That is hard.

Love matters,



P.S. Check out the Love Matters Parenting Society membership for more support.

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