Why Parents Should Pursue Growth, Not Perfection

You might be trying to be a perfect parent if:

You feel like a constant failure even when you are constantly trying so hard to get it right.

You change your parenting tactics on an hourly basis. “Please let something work,” is echoing in your head.

Your favorite part of the day is putting your kids to bed. At least then the madness will end, right?

Yep. I’m guilty. I’ve realized this about myself. Don’t get me wrong, some days, I have it majorly together. I am patient, I don’t raise my voice, I go to bed, pat myself on the back, and think, “Maybe I am figuring this out.” Then the next day is the complete opposite and reality slaps me in the face.

It’s like someone is telling you, “Not too fast. Don’t think you have it all together just yet.”

You lose your temper. Lose your patience. Maybe you yell. Or the kids don’t listen well. Maybe you don’t handle a situation with grace. Instead, you lose your cool. Then, you feel like a total failure.

Sound familiar? The truth is, we’re all figuring out this parenting thing as we go. There will never be a perfect parent.

Sometimes we are trying so hard to be perfect, that we get desperate. Desperate parenting never feels good. Here are a few signs you might be trying to be the perfect parent:

You actually feel a driving need to have things perfect.

Children are not perfect. Yet, my expectations for them sometimes must make them feel like they have to be. I used to feel like my need for perfectionism was rubbing off on them.

Instead, if we can focus on the idea that mistakes mean growth, our whole family environment shifts. Kids need to make mistakes in order to grow. Guess what? So do parents!

You feel a need to get it right.

When we all start out as parents, we just want to do everything just right. We want our kids to turn into good, responsible, caring human beings. So, we focus on doing everything perfectly, but is it the end of the world if we mess up? Of course not!

Instead, we can say, “I’m sorry,” and admit to our kids that we don’t know everything. The last thing we want to pass on to our kids is this idea that they need to be perfect. So don’t expect it of yourself. Instead, show them that we are learning right along beside them.

You want to control the outcome of everything.

Parents get desperate because they want to control their surroundings. Yet, when you are a parent—let’s admit it—life is out of your control. You think you have a plan, but kids will always change it. Whether it be a bodily function that throws things off or their sheer will during a tantrum. Truth be told, the world won’t end if sometimes we feel out of control.

The growth mindset we can have when we feel out of control as parents is to try to slow down and focus on what is within our control. Refocusing our brains to see the good things often helps us feel less like a failure.

You have strong feelings of being overwhelmed and feeling inadequate.

This feeling of inadequacy, coupled with feeling overwhelmed, can foster a feeling of desperation. I’ve realized this about myself. Yet, we are all a little inadequate when it comes to parenting, aren’t we? If you’re feeling this way constantly, then there’s a very good chance that you’re aiming for perfection in some aspect of your parenting.

Perhaps the lesson for this one is to lower the bar. Parenting can force us into thinking that the expectations have to be so high. After all, our kids lives are hanging in the balance, right? What if we mess them up?

The truth is, no parent is going to keep up with all the expectations they had before becoming parents, so maybe it’s time to let some of those expectations go.

It’s possible to let go of this bad parenting habit of aiming for perfection. After 16 years of parenting, I’m aiming more for survival most days now. As I’ve let go trying to reach for perfection as a parent, I’ve realized it really has helped me grow in ways of which I’ve never dreamed.

So what should you do to try to pursue growth, not perfection?

I’ve been there, friend. I know what that feels like. Try asking yourself these questions and see if you can readjust your focus:
   • What are the consequences if I let (blank) happen?
   • Is that consequence that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things?
   • Is the situation hopeless?
   • What would the non-desperate parent do?
   • Am I trying to control something I can’t control?
   • What happened last time I was in this situation? Did we get through it?

There is no need to be desperate in our parenting. The definition of desperate is, “Feeling, showing, or involving a hopeless sense that a situation is so bad as to be impossible to deal with.”

That definition kind of makes me laugh, because when you put that word together with parenting, it seems ludicrous and truthful at the same time. How many of us have felt hopeless that our parenting tactics are not working? Or that our children are impossible!? Yet, deep down, I don’t believe parenting is a desperate situation.

Let go of perfection and accept yourself right where you are. More importantly, lean in to self-care, self-compassion, and growth—because parenting really is an out-of-control type of experience!

It may feel impossible some days. Our children surely do act impossible some days, but parenting is not impossible. Just do your best to raise good, honest human beings, even while embracing imperfection. The beauty of parenting is that there is always another day to get it right. So, there is always hope and there is no need to be perfect at any of it. In the process, we’re going to keep growing—right alongside our kids.