There is a fierce competition in the world of parenting. If a child excels in sports, music, academics, or some other area, his parents are grilled by other parents–“What did you do to…?” “How did you get her to…?” “Did you make him practice…?” “What did you do when she didn’t want to…?” This barrage of questions is not mere small talk. No, it is all part of a reconnaissance mission to gather crucial intelligence–information we can utilize to perfect our own parenting and shape our own “super kid,” a kid who can proudly reflect perfect parenting. In our efforts to become the perfect parent, we “tyrannize our children with good intentions,” force opportunities for success upon them (whether they want it or not), and stone them with information they did not request. As perfect-parent-wanna-be’s, we diligently read up on various parenting styles, worry about topics ranging from hyperactive boys to the impact of nutrition on cognitive development, and strive to become our kid’s best friend while giving advice and pain-free, yet effective, discipline. It is exhausting just thinking about it all. Why do we exhaust ourselves in search of becoming the perfect parent? I believe two reasons. One, we love our children and we really do want what is best for them. Two, we are anxious, insecure parents. Several myths perpetuate our insecurity. Maybe…just maybe…if we could relieve some of our insecurities, we might become more effective parents. With that in mind, here are 6 myths of the perfect parent that perpetuate our anxiety. Check them out and let them go.
1. “I must parent perfectly so my kids will turn out OK.” If that were true, you and I would all be in trouble now! After all, have any of us had perfect parents? Has anyone had parents who never made a mistake? Never yelled at the wrong sibling? Never forgot something that was important to their child? Never accidentally said the wrong thing? Always understood? Of course not. Even with imperfect parents, we turned out OK. Granted, we did not turn out perfect, but we did turn out OK. In fact, our parents’ imperfection taught us some important lessons (see myth number 2).
2. “My kids will be scarred for life if I make a mistake. I have to parent perfectly or my kids will be messed up as adults.” Actually, kids are quite resilient. Parents’ mistakes and imperfections teach children important lessons. Our children learn how to recover from simple mistakes by watching us make mistakes. They also learn how to apologize and make amends by watching us (their imperfect parents) do so. Children learn how to manage discomfort and struggle by dealing with us and our imperfect responses to them as well. Our imperfections give us and our children the opportunities to grow and learn!
3. “The real perfect parent will judge me and think I’m incompetent.” First, there is no “real perfect parent” out there. Second, all of us struggle to the “right thing to do.” Parenting is not an exact science. If it were, we would not debate about “tiger mom’s,” “attachment parenting,” and “mindful parenting” as well as issues like how long to breast feed (if you breast feed at all), how strict a style of discipline to use, how to toilet train, etc.
4. “I must be my child’s best friend and discipline them perfectly.” How many of us discipline our friends? What would happen if we did try to discipline our friends? If we cannot be both friend and disciplinarian to our friends, why do we think we can be both friend and disciplinarian to our children? Instead, we strive to form a loving relationship with our children–relationships from which we can guide and teach our children to live by positive values. In this process, our children will get angry at us sometimes. They may even say they hate us. We will even experience anger toward them and, at times, feel like we don’t really like them. But, they remain our children. In the end, we still love them. Our love holds them near…and our love holds them accountable.
5. “My children’s behavior is reflection on me.” This might be true…IF we were programming robots. But, our children have a mind of their own. Peers and teachers influence them. Diets and sleep influence them. TV, twitter, instagram and minecraft influence them. We do our best to influence our children, but we are not the only ones. Ultimately, our children’s behavior is a reflection on them and their choices. Our response to our children’s behavior is a reflection on us!
6. “If my children do not have everything they want, I am a failure and my children will hate me.” A good parent does not give their children everything they want; they give them what they need. Our children need food, shelter, clothing, positive attention, guidance, affection, and loving discipline. Parents who provide these basic needs, even imperfectly, give their children a gracious gift; and they will experience their children’s love for years to come.
Let’s be honest. Parents are not perfect. We make mistakes. Those mistakes provide a great opportunity for parent and child to grow. So, cherish your imperfections. Acknowledge your mistakes. Love earnestly…for love covers a multitude of mistakes.