If I’m being downright honest,” she shared through tears, “sometimes I parent out of embarrassment. Sometimes my correction comes from what others think about my child rather than something that’s between me and my child.” My young friend stood in the hallway at church, sobbing.
“I understand,” I responded with a hug. “I’ve been there way too many times.”
Perfection. It’s all around us. We see images of perfect bodies, perfect families, and perfect houses on the covers of magazines at the grocery store. Scrolling through Facebook, we unfavorably compare our family’s insides to other families’ outsides. It’s no wonder we too often have unrealistic expectations of ourselves.
Without much effort, the dreaded illness of perfection infection can slip into our parenting. When it does, we develop unrealistic expectations for our kids as we compare them to their siblings or a friend’s children. Add the church environment into this mix—where all want their children to be on their best behavior—and we’re set up for the nightmare of perfection parenting.
Perfection infection happens when we react to our kids’ surroundings rather than lead them according to their own needs. It’s when we discipline or motivate or shape their behavior based on the mistaken belief that they must meet other people’s standards rather than our own—or God’s. It’s when we nitpick even minor errors, leading our kids to believe they have to be flawless and never make mistakes in order to meet our approval. God doesn’t expect perfection from us, so why do we expect it from our kids?
I remember when our children were learning to walk. It was two steps and a fall, then three steps and a fall. We never called that failure. Their steps and falls marked progress. We cheered them on because they were moving toward walking.
Why then, when children get older, do our expectations change? Why do we start thinking of the “falls” as mistakes, failures, or imperfections? Why are we unable to see them as progress? It’s because our thinking has been infected by the notion that perfect is the only acceptable standard for our kids—and we don’t even realize it.
Dangers of Perfection Parenting
Parenting for perfection is costly; the damage to our children can be profound. Whether we are explicit about our expectations or not, children will pick up on them. It doesn’t matter what we say we want from them. If the “perfect” bug has infected our parenting style, our children will react to it negatively. Here are some of the dangers that can develop if we continue in that direction.