Any fellow perfectionists out there? If you’re not a perfectionist yourself, you likely know a few. Maybe you’re married to one or maybe your children have given you signs that they’re perfectionists. While perfectionism sounds like an admirable trait, it is mostly a struggle.
A few years ago, I constantly felt angry with my children. I decided to begin counseling and it has helped me discover why I’m a perfectionist. First off, I’m a first-born child and most first-borns are perfectionists. Second, I’ve learned that perfectionism has been my coping mechanism for past hurts. I like to try to control things around me to feel safe or influence the way others perceive me. It’s been an eye-opening experience and has been so helpful.
I now like to say that I’m a perfectionist in recovery. I’m learning to let go of striving for perfection and expecting others to do the same, particularly the children I’m raising. Instead of being constantly frustrated by the messes and stresses of parenthood, I’m learning to expect them, address them and move on. Instead of striving for perfection, I aim for excellence and good enough.
I’m also learning to talk to my children about the correlation between their performance and my love for them. I want to make sure they know that I love them always, no matter what. Their performance doesn’t affect my love for them because my love is unconditional. It’s the same with God. While their bad choices may disappoint me and require discipline, they are always worthy of love and belonging.
When they bring home a test, homework or a behavior chart that isn’t perfect, I assure them it’s okay. I’ve told them we want them to study hard and work up to their potential, but we don’t expect perfection.
This week have a conversation with your children about these things. When you discipline them, wrap it in love. Talk to them about how you don’t expect perfection but hope for excellence, which is doing things as well as they can. Make sure you align your expectations of them with reality. Children are children and don’t think or behave like adults. Sometimes we make the mistake of holding them to this unreasonable standard. I know I’ve been guilty of this.
Fear often prevents perfectionists from wanting to try anything new because of the fear of failure. Push yourself and your kids out of their comfort zone once in a while. If your child is a perfectionist, help them fail at something fairly often. Maybe it’s homework, a chore or a new skill they’re trying to learn. When they fall, assure them that it’s all going to be okay. Remind them how much you love them. Failure will teach them that life will go on and they will learn to grow and adapt from the experience.
Learning to let go of perfection, whether it’s as the parent or through coaching your child, will eventually create more peace and joy in your home. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it!