How to let go of perfectionism as a parent
Do you feel pressure to be the "perfect" parent?
Prior to having children we tend to hold a lot of ideals. We have expectations all wrapped up in this perfect little package of what life will look like after children. For some of us those expectations come from deeply engrained desires we developed through our own childhood. Some are formed from unmet needs and others are formed from what we appreciated about our own childhood and what our parents did "right". Depending on our own temperament and personality these ideals can lend way to "perfectionism" parenting.
Why is this important to identify? Research shows us that children who grow up with a perfectionist style of parenting are at a higher risk for developing mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and eating disorders.
So what are the signs that you are parenting through the lens of perfectionism?
1. You constantly question your decisions as a parent
2. You compare your family life with those of others
3. You criticize yourself often (either in your head or in conversation)
4. You blame yourself when your child misbehaves or doesn't succeed
5. You are triggered when things don't go as planned (even the little things)
Suffice to say, most parents experience one or more of these behaviors on a fairly regular basis. Out of the 5, how many would you say you feel regularly?
Self awareness is key here! It's what empowers us to make positive changes. If you experience these behaviors often don't get caught in the trap of beating yourself up over it. Let's discuss some techniques to shift into a more balanced perspective.
Have an alternative plan
Prepare yourself ahead of time for Plan B, or even Plan C. Kids are unpredictable. When we focus too much on the ideal plan, we can tend to "pigeon hole" ourselves. Those disappointing feelings are elevated when things don't go as we expected them to. When we open our mind to other outcomes it reduces our own anxiety and increases the odds that we will be able to adapt to quick changes. This models resilience for your child.
Practice gratitude and being in the moment more often
When we are in a season with a lot of added stressors, it can become easy to complain and nag. However it helps to look for the silver lining and focus on being present. Most of the time, we can make the best of the situation by seeing it as an opportunity vs. a failure. Your child may not thank you in the moment for this, but it will be something they will look back on and appreciate about you. This models mindfulness for your child.
See the value in mistakes and misbehavior
We have to be careful not to own our child's mistakes and misbehavior. I often recommend to my clients saying this phrase when their children disobey or act out, "This isn't about me." It's far more empowering to our children when we take a problem they created and hand back to them, while also guiding them through possible solutions. We don't do our children any favors when we rescue them from their mistakes. When children are given the opportunity to solve their own problems, they build self esteem. When we operate under this mindset, as parents we protect our own energy and model healthy boundaries for our children.
Stop the comparison game
We've heard it before: comparison is the thief of joy and it's so true! Ask yourself, what do you want your children to say about you when they're grown? "My mom was joyful and fun to be around?" or "My mom always made sure we had the perfect family photos on her Instagram page."? We can model for our children gratitude and contentment by enjoying them just as they are.
Get back to the basics
Is your child fed, loved, and safe? Children are complicated little beings, but for the most part their basic needs are pretty simple. At the end of the day, if your child was fed, loved, and safe they will know you care. It's okay to have days where all you do are these three things. Everything else is secondary to that. When we focus on the basics we set a firm foundation for our children to build on.
So how do you feel now? Hopefully your are breathing a sigh of relief and feeling encouraged! In today's day and age, it's hard not to give into the pressure of being the "perfect" parent. But I'm here to tell you, you don't have to be! There is no perfect parent. On those days where you feel the weight of the world on your shoulders just remember you were designed perfectly for your child, and your child was designed perfectly for you!