The C+ Parenting Philosophy

On playdates, lately, I find myself reassuring other parents. No, your child isn’t being rude. No, your child isn’t overweight. Or underweight. No, it doesn’t matter at all when a child starts walking or self-feeding or whatever. The other moms keep reassuring me, too. No, Sophie doesn’t need a haircut, she isn’t inappropriately dressed, she isn’t becoming too bossy. Maybe this is just how mom-dates work. But I find it striking that we all need all this reassurance. 

So I’ve been telling people my mother’s theory of C+ Parenting, partly because I need to remind myself. And since it seems useful, I’ll post it here.

This is what my mom told me: Whatever your parenting philosophy is, aim for a C+, not an A. If you think that you should respond to your child’s every cry, then do that, about 78% of the time. If you think you should let your child cry a little to learn to solve problems on her own, then do that, about 78% of the time. Whichever parenting style you choose to follow is almost always best if you follow it imperfectly. Sometimes kids need reassurance, sometimes kids need independence, and rarely do they need 100% perfect parenting. My mom says that someone actually did a study, back in the 1970s, that concluded that C+ parenting is the best parenting.

It makes sense: imperfect parenting is actually best for kids. It gives them balance between independence and support. It’s probably also best for parents, because it relieves some of the stress we place on ourselves. If you believe in always homemade food, or always helping your child down the slide, always keeping to a precise schedule, or always anything, you’re actually probably not being as effective as if you aim for doing whatever you value about 78% of the time.

Whatever parenting philosophy is in vogue at the moment will probably switch in another decade or two anyway. Whatever you do, just do it moderately.


2 responses to “The C+ Parenting Philosophy

  1. I was never good at that in school and I’m not good at it now! I remember other people saying they would only study enough to get a B. I always studied as hard as I could aiming for an A+, but then didn’t beat myself up over it if that meant that I only got a B. That is the approach I take with parenting too. I aim to be the best parent that I can be and I’m proud of that, even though I’m not a perfect parent all of the time.

    I don’t think that parents should aim lower, but I do think they should be easier on themselves if they don’t achieve “perfect” results, because no one does.

  2. e961

    Byron White, Harvard psychology researcher, actually said C minus, but I
    don’t think it makes any difference. And his major point, similar to yours,
    was that children of C minus parents become independent more easily than those of B or A parents. He was big on independent moral development, decision-making and those issues of the 70’s. He also pointed up the appalling fact that after age ten or so parents don’t really know what their children are doing–shop-lifting, drugs, sex, etc.

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