Our children don’t need perfection.

January 2, 2012

There is this huge movement lately for better parenting. Attachment, natural, gentle, connected – call it what you will. It all offers real benefits to parents and caregivers. The concepts of non violence and treating your child like a human being are spot on. I love the ideas behind gentle parenting. A big advocate for treating our children well, loving them with every fiber of our being.

However, I feel as if in many ways we, as parents, have taken these wonderful concepts of “A person’s a person no matter how small” to “Little Susie should be able to do whatever she wants because we don’t want her to feel bad. Ever.”

It’s getting to the point where we can’t even be authority figures, because someone might get their feelings hurt. Or judge us. Or act like they’ve never lost their temper with their kids. So we have to be “on” all the time. No mistakes. No slip ups. And that’s not what AP/gentle parenting is about.

Perfection parenting is wrong. It does way more harm than good to your child. It’s not striving to be better, it’s hiding the realness of our lives. This type of parenting means that we often feel so much shame and guilt when something goes wrong that we pretend it never happened. To outsiders, to our children. We can’t admit we failed because we are so busy trying to uphold some crazy standard that was only meant to help us become better – not perfect.

I fail at parenting every.single.day. There has never been a day I haven’t made some kind of mistake, big or small. At times it becomes hard for me to admit things on here because I know there will be that one commentor who judges me, while tooting her own “We just don’t act that way here” horn. I know it could be easily rubbed in my face later on.

But I’ve tried to live in the “Every day is perfect here” mode and all it did was make me unhappy and guilt ridden when I made a mistake.

Our children need to be disappointed. They need to see us lose it sometimes. They need to feel like there are unfair rules. They need to see us make mistakes. They need to see us mess up and then fix it.

Why? Why on earth would they need this?

Because that’s really the way the world works. Everyone deals with terrible bosses, tough situations, mistakes they caused, and rude people. And when children grow up in homes where everyone pretends to be perfect or can’t admit they failed, they are in for one heck of a wake up call when they leave.

I’m not saying you should freak out on your kid on some kind of a schedule, start fighting with your partner in front of them, or plan out ways you can disappoint them after nap. I’m saying that we need to let some of our guilt and ultra high parenting standards that no one can achieve for long (because we’re all human) go. We need to strive to be the best parent we can be – while creating an emotionally balanced life for our kids.

Is it right to mess up? We should just let ourselves go and scream at the kids so they get a taste of the real world? No, but mistakes are normal. And they’re going to happen. And our kids need to know how to deal with it.

If we don’t do this – how else will our children know how to apologize when they lose it? How to confront an upset boss rationally and talk to them about missing a deadline? How will they know how to handle their own failures and mistakes in life?

You are a wonderful parent, just for being you. If you tell your child you love them, play with them, are the one they run to when they cry, check on them at night, and worry about them when you go – that’s what they need. Failures and all. Someone who can look at them and say, “Mommy really messed today up, I am so sorry. Let’s do better tomorrow.”

That’s worth more than any kind of standard that won’t let us say those words.

17 Comments

  • Amber @ Backwards Life

    January 11, 2012 at 9:13 pm

    I feel the same way, that mistakes can be learned from. Not all of my mistakes are teachable moments, but I try to make amends with my daughter if I screw up a day too badly. Yesterday was one of those days, and I’m happy I read this today. It was needed!

  • Autumn

    January 6, 2012 at 8:09 am

    I love it! You are so dead on. For the first year of Kiley’s life I exhausted myself trying to be perfect. But I then realized that I wasn’t doing her or myself any favors. This is why I have come to love reading your blog; you are so real and wonderful. Makes me wish we lived closer!

  • Lynn

    January 5, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    Wonderful post. So very true! Why is it things go one extreme or the other? There is a happy medium and from that come well-adjusted children and parents who live long enough to enjoy the results of their efforts.

  • Flora

    January 4, 2012 at 10:50 pm

    Very well put.

  • Cindy

    January 3, 2012 at 8:52 pm

    This is why I love reading your blog. Real parenting. <3

  • Bethany

    January 2, 2012 at 11:15 pm

    This is another “theme music worthy” post. Thank you for being balanced and real. You’re awesome.

  • Brooke

    January 2, 2012 at 10:01 pm

    Dude, yes. So true. I don’t get the “everyone gets a trophy” mentality. We don’t help our kids by shielding them from loss and disappointment, pandering to their every desire… We help them by giving them the best emotional tools possible to deal with those things… to become emotionally stable and healthy and strong.

  • Woolies

    January 2, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    Yep. Exactly. My kids know that I, in fact, am a human being and am not perfect. Nor is the world perfect. Nor do you always get exactly what you want for Christmas every year.
    But maybe sometimes….

  • Branson

    January 2, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    This is a truly amazing post. Thanks so much for sharing your heart, Diana! You rock! 🙂

  • Kate G.

    January 2, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    RIGHT ON Diana!

    My husband and I are now grandparents and the kids have been out of the nest for many years. It is one of the few jobs for which there is no training. We learned as they grew and with lots of prayer, discipline and love they turned out to be happy and well adjusted citizens in society. How they have decided to live as adults is their choice but we laid a foundation of truth, honesty and the love of God in their lives which I believe will never leave them and will help them throughout their future.

    Thanks for the good reminders in your blog. I’m sure you are doing a great job with your family.

  • Janelle

    January 2, 2012 at 11:58 am

    Does it make me an underachiever that I *never* strived for perfection?
    Great post!

  • Misty

    January 2, 2012 at 10:45 am

    When I “mess up,” I do feel a lot of guilt and shame, but I also think it’s a really important teaching lesson for our children. Even though my DD is just over 2, and may not totally understand, I will always say “sorry, Mommy yelled/got upset because she felt frustrated by your behaviour.” And, as you said, you vow to do better tomorrow. Kids will always push our buttons, and WE will act like kids sometimes. That’s life, and they need to understand we’re not perfect. Great post!

  • Itze

    January 2, 2012 at 9:15 am

    Well said!

  • Carrie

    January 2, 2012 at 8:30 am

    So true. There have been plenty of times when I have had to apologize to my daughter for my parenting mistakes. And you know what, it’s ok because in that moment, I am teaching her. And I don’t want to pass on the “perfection” to my daughter. I want her to see that sometimes I lose it, sometimes I make mistakes, sometimes I cry, etc. and then learn the appropriate way to deal with those things when they happen.

  • Mrs. MidAtlantic

    January 2, 2012 at 7:35 am

    Amen! How can kids learn to handle disappointment and move on if they never get the chance?

  • angela

    January 2, 2012 at 7:34 am

    This is so true! They need to learn about the bad things as well as the good, and they need to know their parents are humans. One day, I hope my kids will understand that I love them enough to TRY to improve my parenting each day, even the days I reach the end of my rope and get frustrated or lose my patience.

  • Ali

    January 2, 2012 at 7:00 am

    These people you speak of, they have not quite grasped what AP is all about. You are spot on. Nobody should strive for perfection and if we do not model both bad and good behavior for our kids, how will they learn to pick themselves back up when shit happens?

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