Perfection Is A False Expectation

There once was a child who wanted desperately to be perfect. She didn’t want to disappoint her parents. She didn’t want to make any mistakes.

This child hesitated before trying anything new. Her stomach churned and she worried and worried that it would be too hard.

She couldn’t ask for help because she’d have to admit she didn’t understand something. Trying to do things alone meant she was probably going to make more mistakes. She was creating a terrible cycle for herself.

If she did make a mistake, she tried to hide it from her parents. She blamed others. She couldn’t be responsible because perfect children don’t make mistakes.

Because this girl hid mistakes from her parents, they weren’t able to help her. Because she denied she was responsible, she didn’t work on things that were challenging. This meant more mistakes were likely.

This girl created a perfect storm tying to be someone who doesn’t exist – a perfect person.

She exists. I’ve talked with many parents raising her and her brother who is also trying to be perfect. Teachers tell me about these students. If this is your story, confront the lie these children are believing. Let them know in word and action that you know they can’t be perfect. Read that sentence again. It’s different from “Let them know you don’t expect them to be perfect.” Let them now you know they can’t be.

Perfection is a false expectation that can result in internal turmoil, pressure, deceit, less progress, pride, fear, anger, depression, confusion, and so much more. None of this is good.

Teach these children to ask for specific help and thank them when they trust you with their questions. Watch your reactions to errors they make. Reteach without shame and blame. Love them unconditionally. Celebrate progress. Parent with grace and mercy, surprising them with your kindness at times when they’ve struggled.

How else can you parent to help children who try to be perfect?

————- This originally appeared in the Celebrate Kids newsletter. You can subscribe to that here to get content like this and more in your in-box every other Tuesday.