• mbgarvey

Brene Brown's Wholehearted Parenting

Is there anything, despite the uncertainty, that brings as much joy as parenting? Such delight in the little things, happiness in the success of some risk taken or transition successfully navigated, or optimism in what and who our children are capable of becoming?

And is there anything you do where you feel more vulnerable than parenting? Along-side those countless moments of happiness is the weight of ushering our children - safely, happily, confidently - into adulthood. The responsibility of getting it right, and all that this entails, both real and imagined. Worry, guilt, and self-doubt have the potential to creep in when you love someone in such a big way and it you who has the greatest opportunity to help them find their place in the world.

Many good and well intentioned parents are often vigilant about what they think they missed, got wrong, or irredeemably messed up. I have worried about grievous errors that we wouldn’t bounce back from. Or harbored fears that other families sometimes get the best of my parenting insights, patience or compassion because I have more wisdom and perspective when it’s not my own family. And I’ve imagined interactions or conflict being much more damaging than they were. Parents are susceptible to this type of thinking because we want so badly to get it right.

Hopefully, with some distance from the difficult moments, we usually come to understand our mistakes aren’t catastrophic. I can acknowledge there were moments that clearly weren’t stellar, and my kids are all too happy to remind me of them. But we recover. Humor, humility, talking and listening, resetting our course, a good apology - all helps us find our way back to imperfectly good.

Even before I was a parent, I worried and wondered through my pregnancy about whether I was prepared. Fortunately, I had a mentor who humored me as I marshalled my evidence about not being ready to parent. Not being evolved enough, because I still didn’t put my clothes away, or wasn’t more productive on weekends , or struggled with my impulsivity and being too all or nothing in how I approached things. You figure it out as you go, he kept assuring me, you don’t have to have it have it all together first. They teach you and you learn, he said, more than once.

And we do.

It is as much about what we do when we don’t get it right as it is about trying our relentless best to get it right. There is a lot of room for mistakes, missteps, recalibration. Parenting is not about perfection. It’s about engagement and connection. Recovery and resetting. Being transparent and accountable. Walking the walk, owning our stuff, listening and learning from each other. And loving them unconditionally. This all goes a long way to righting the many errors we inevitably make in our parenting journey.

Brene Brown, PhD, professor, author, lecturer and podcast host, puts it beautifully: “Who we are and how we engage with the world are much stronger predictors of how our children will do than what we know about parenting.” It’s not about what we know, it’s about who we are.

In Brown’s book, Daring Greatly, she puts forth what she calls The Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto. Her wisdom always resonates for me, but I am especially grateful for her thoughts and clarity on parenting. This gets to the heart of it. Enjoy.

The Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto

Above all else, I want you to know that you are loved and lovable. You will learn this from my words and actions – the lessons on love are in how I treat you and how I treat myself.

I want you to engage with the world from a place of worthiness. You will learn that you are worthy of love, belonging and joy every time you see me practice self-compassion and embrace my own imperfections.

We will practice courage in our family by showing up, letting ourselves be seen, and honoring vulnerability. We will share our stories of struggle and strength. There will always be room in our home for both.

We will teach you compassion by practicing compassion with ourselves first; then with each other. We will set and respect boundaries; we will honor hard work, hope, and perseverance. Rest and play will be family values, as well as family practices.

You will learn accountability and respect by watching me make mistakes and make amends, and by watching how I ask for what I need and talk about how I feel.

I want you to know joy, so together we will practice gratitude. I want you to feel joy, so together we will learn how to be vulnerable.

When uncertainty and scarcity visit, you will be able to draw from the spirit that is a part of our everyday life.

Together we will cry and face fear and grief. I will want to take away your pain, but instead I will sit with you and teach you how to feel it.

We will laugh and sing and dance and create. We will always have permission to be ourselves with each other. No matter what, you will always belong here.

As you begin your Wholehearted journey, the greatest gift that I can give to you is to live and love with my whole heart and to dare greatly.

I will not teach or love or show you anything perfectly, but I will let you see me, and I will always hold sacred the gift of seeing you. Truly deeply seeing you.

For more from Brene Brown, visit her website at