How to Achieve Perfectionism in Parenting: Stop Trying to be Perfect

By Alisha Bennett, LMSW

Parenting blogs, books, podcasts, social media, neighborhood groups, etc — there are so many resources at the touch of a button to tell parents how to be a better parent. Yes, of course we can all be better in different ways, but there’s too much pressure on parents to be the “perfect parent.” In my opinion, the perfect parent does not exist. Stop trying to check all of the boxes of the perfect parenting checklist that our parenting culture has defined for us.

In Brene Brown’s book, Daring Greatly, she dedicates an entire chapter to what she calls, Wholehearted Parenting: Daring to be the adults we want our children to be. She says, “When we obsess over our parenting choices to the extent that most of us do, and then see someone else making different choices, we often perceive that difference as direct criticism of how we are parenting.” She goes on to write about not shaming yourselves, your kids, and other parents. I interpreted this chapter and much of her book as: we all need to be kinder to ourselves.

So, start to forgive yourself! It’s okay if your kids don’t eat organic food for every single meal. It’s okay if they drink chocolate milk and if you gave them ice cream for dessert. It’s okay if your 7 year old doesn’t get their homework done one night because they’re so tired from all the after school activities they have so that you can also work. It’s okay if you’re a little late picking them up from school one day. It’s okay if they watched TV for 5 minutes longer than you usually let them so that you could have 5 minutes in silence.

We are all human an no one person or parent is perfect. We make mistakes every single day, so of course we will make parenting mistakes too. If we try to be the perfect parent every moment of every day, we will exhaust ourselves and burnout. Instead, enjoy your kids, love them, validate them, and show them how you handle making mistakes in life. Know that is okay to apologize to your children and that they will remember your apologies. Brown states, “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.”

I understand parenting is complicated, but if you can strive to do three things every day with your kids, do these:

  1. Show them love. We all received love differently growing up, so naturally we learned different ways to show it. Identify ways that you feel loved in your adult life and show that to your kids. Make sure they know that even when you’re mad at them, you still love them.

  2. Validate them, even when you disagree with them. You’re not always going to think that their emotional response matches whatever it is that is upsetting them, but validation goes a long way in children’s younger years. Even if you know or believe that they are wrong, it’s still okay to validate how they’re feeling.

  3. Show them how to handle making mistakes. As I said above, you’re going to make mistakes. In parenting, it’s okay to apologize to your children. It doesn’t mean that you’re weak or will show them that they have power over you. It shows them that you are human and none of us can reach perfectionism no matter how much we try. The ability to apologize, even after you think you’ve done the worst thing you could have to them, will teach them lessons you may have never intended.

Alisha Bennett is a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy LCSW. If you would like support in prioritizing and taking care of your mental health, contact Cobb Psychotherapy and see how therapy can help.

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