What to Do About Perfectionism in Parenting

By Lauren Hall
February 21, 2024

The first time my four-year-old son wrote his name at pre-school, I faced a parenting moment I didn’t expect. When I arrived for pick-up, he ran down the hall yelling, “Mom! I wrote my name! Mom! I wrote my name! You’re going to love it!”

I scooped him up as he shared his most treasured accomplishment with me. That’s when I realized my sweet, bright baby boy had written his name with what appeared to be scribbles on the page. “It’s wonderful! Can you tell me what the letters are?” I asked him, hoping he could clarify a bit. Of course, he clearly stated each letter with a giant smile. “See, Momma! I can read and write!”

I almost corrected him because it wasn’t perfect, but I stopped myself. This moment showed me how easy it is sometimes to focus too much on making things perfect, even in parenting. This isn’t just something I struggle with; many parents feel the same. We all want our kids to do well and be happy, but sometimes we might push them too hard to be perfect.

Research shows that when parents put a lot of pressure on their kids to be perfect, it can make them stressed and scared of making mistakes. This can make it hard for kids and parents to feel close and understand each other.

So, how can we help our kids grow without making them worry about being perfect? It’s important to cheer them on for trying and putting in effort, not just for getting things right. This helps kids see challenges as chances to learn and grow, instead of just tests they have to pass.

Here are some phrases you can use to encourage kids in their efforts, not just achievements:

  • “You should be so proud of yourself for _____.”
  • “Thank you for _____. Because you did that, it’s going to make a difference when we _____.”
  • “I’m proud of you for not giving up and to keep trying! ____ can be really tricky to get right. I know you’ll get the hang of it soon.”
  • “I’ve seen how much effort you’ve been putting into ____. What have you learned along the way?”
  • “I love the way you helped ____. I could see the way ____ appreciated it! Doesn’t it feel great to help others?”
  • “What you’re going through is hard right now. But you can do hard things. What can I do to help support you through this?”

It’s also good for us parents to show that we’re not perfect either. When we talk about our own mistakes and show that it’s okay to mess up sometimes, it teaches our kids to be kind to themselves when things don’t go as planned.

My son’s attempt at writing his name was a small thing, but it reminded me to appreciate his effort and all the little steps he took to get there. By doing this, we can help our kids feel confident and supported as they try new things.

Let’s try to be open about our struggles with wanting everything to be perfect. This way, we can create a space where our kids feel brave enough to try, make mistakes, and learn from them. Here’s to raising kids who are curious, confident, and not afraid to take on new challenges.

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