You’re Doing A Great Job Mum: What really contributes to your child’s success and happiness?

Today’s guest post is from one of my favourite new Australian bloggers. Ellen Jackson is a coaching psychologist at Potential Psychology Services and she writes tbe Potential Psychology Blog. Her posts challenge, inspire and educate. Here are three of my favourites that I highly recommend you check out as well as reading this cracking post!


“I’m sitting on the couch trying to settle a crying baby who’s decided she should be touching me at all times and I’ve put the TV on for Thud so he’ll be quiet and still. So obviously I’m feeling guilty because I’m your garden variety psycho female and have decided that I’m a no good mum because he’s watching TV and I’m on my arse like a LAZY BITCH.” Funny lady Lauren at The Thud.

Mother’s Guilt. We’ve all got it. Some worse than others. We worry about whether we’re doing enough, whether we’re doing the right things. Will my kids be happy? Will they be successful? Will they be alright? Should I read to them more? Play with them more? Should they learn an instrument? Do more exercise? Do they eat the right food? Spend too much time on screens? Am I screwing them up because I’m not the ‘perfect’ mum?

Mother’s Guilt is perpetuated by the media and headlines that cherry pick research to play on your emotions and grab your attention. It’s compounded by the intense focus on parents and a modern (but not entirely accurate) perception that our parenting is the sole influence on how our children grow up. Mothers guilt whispers to us that we’re never quite doing enough, or doing it well enough, when as mothers in the early 21st century we spend more time with our kids now than ever before in history.

We will never eradicate our feelings of guilt or worry when it comes to our children, nor do we want to. Feelings of guilt are a sign of love and strong attachment to our kids. It’s what perpetuates us to do our best for them. But guilt can also be damaging to our happiness and mental health. If we let it take over it can lead to anxiety, depression and a desperate feeling that we should control much of what is not controllable.

So to alleviate the guilt and reassure you that you really are doing a top job as a mum, here’s four things psychology knows about what contributes to your child’s success and happiness – and it’s not all about you.

  1. Psychologists have learnt a lot in recent years about what makes people happy and when it comes to kids, being kind is a winner. Conveniently, kids are hardwired to be kind. They want to help, even if they show it in different ways. Our job is just to encourage them to keep it up. Role model kindness to yourself and others and you’ll help to set them up for a lifetime of gaining pleasure from being nice to others.
  1. School success. Parents do have a role to play in children’s school success but it’s not about the number of hours you spend reading to them, the homework routine you establish or whether or not you volunteer at the school canteen. The best indicator of a child’s success at school is the parents’ attitude towards education (and if you’re reading this then I’m confident that you’re all over that already). Research has shown that the kids who do best at school are the kids whose parents generally encourage them to do well at school; to work hard and to value their education. It’s as simple as that.
  1. Did you know that your child’s genetic make-up can account for at least half of how he or she acts, thinks and interacts with the world? No matter what parenting decisions you make, much of your child’s behaviour is hardwired in their DNA. They are in control.
  1. School, friends and society. From the moment they are born our children are interacting with other people; other children, carers, teachers, librarians, family and friends, neighbours and people within their community. Positive relationships – a smile, a friendly word, play, laughter and care – all contribute to their healthy development. You can take yourself out of the equation all together and, provided they are safe and well cared for, the world around them will give them much of what they need.

Our understanding of children’s development is both wide and deep. There are many, many factors at play in determining their ultimate success and happiness. Many of these factors are complex and there is an interplay between them that has an impact too. It is impossible to tease out what exactly will make a difference for any individual child. What we do know is that love and care makes a huge difference (quality not quantity) and guilt about not doing enough is a recipe for your undoing.

So my tip for you? Ditch the guilt, be the best person that you can be, love your kids like there’s no tomorrow and remember that it’s not all about you.


Headshot smallEllen is a coaching psychologist at Potential Psychology Services. She blogs at, shares tips for happiness and wellbeing on Facebook, runs online coaching courses at and really wants you to focus on you because you’re worth it.