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The Myth of the Perfect Parent

Have you ever had one of those days when you felt like every other parent has “it all together” but you? These feelings of inadequacy are common, especially with first time parents. Many of us have grown up with the notion that parents should be all-knowing, all- loving, and all-giving. However, no matter how great a job we do, we can’t be perfect. It is simply impossible. If we insist on denying our human nature and strive to become some “fantasy ideal,” we will set ourselves up to fail…miserably!

Why? Because family relationships are so intimate, we will never successfully convince our children we are infallible. This pretending and role-playing will inevitably harm our relationship with our children by fostering a sense of distrust and resentment. Realism about ourselves and our children is essential as we undertake the task of being parents. What every child wants and needs is a genuine, real person who is not afraid of making a mistake and admitting it.

Following are a few tips to help us avoid the pitfalls found in the world of perfect parenting:

  • Trust yourself– Because most parents truly care and want the best for their children, we can become entangled in the labyrinth of the latest parenting publications, scientific studies, and the well-meaning advice of friends and family. While all of these resources may be helpful at times, it is important to remember you are the authority on your child!

Avoid comparisons – Every family situation and the individuals involved are unique. It’s okay to allow our children to have boxed cereal on Saturday mornings, even if our neighbor does not. There is more than one ‘right’ way to parent. When we stop holding ourselves to an impossible standard, we can do the same for others. Parental judgment keeps parents from working productively together and reduces the sacred job of parenting to an unnecessary contest.

  • Children aren’t perfect– Trying to be the perfect parent sets us up to expect perfection from our children. Oftentimes children raised in a home where perfection is the standard, grow up feeling, that to be loved and accepted, they must also be perfect.
  • Stand back-Although it is very difficult at times to watch our children suffer, we can’t always protect them from pain. There are some life lessons that must be learned from experience.

If we run interference every time our child faces adversity we will deny them the opportunity to learn about principles such as perseverance, integrity, and the ability to accept failure.

  • Give yourself a break-When we make a mistake it is important not to judge ourselves too harshly. To build confident parenting skills it is necessary to learn from our failures as well as our successes. Apologizing for our errors, modeling forgiveness, and letting go of our guilt will help us remain positive and secure in our parenting.
  • Ask for help– No matter how hard we try we can’t do Spread the responsibility around. If someone asks what they can do to help, let them know. Being a good parent also involves taking care of ourselves. It is essential we develop a support system of friends, neighbors, and relatives, set realistic goals each day, and above all, relax!
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