If you’re like me, you probably know plenty of parents who are both friends and acquaintances. I’m sure there is one family that is seemingly perfect. They are always on time and their children get straight A’s. They have perfect hair, perfect clothing and always look as if they are about to take part in a photo shoot. Every year they throw an amazing birthday party, complete with a petting zoo and dessert bar straight from a Martha Stewart magazine. Do you know someone like this? These are what we call perfect parents. From a distance, their entire family seems perfect. However, I’ll let you in on a little secret: perfect parents and perfect kids don’t really exist.
The Perfect Parent Myth
These days parents have a lot of pressure to “do it all.” We are pressured to have our kids reading before they enter kindergarten. We hire professional photographers to take our Christmas card photo. Birthday parties at the park just aren’t good enough. There is constant judgement on parents for how they discipline, feed and dress their children. Yet, while some of us are considered “successful” parents on the outside, this doesn’t mean we are successful on the inside.
The Perfect Child Myth
Along with the perfect parent myth, there is also the perfect child myth. Often, we base this assumption on a child’s grades, athleticism and looks. Recently, I was listening to the radio and heard a mother’s sad tale about her son’s heroin overdose. Due to the boy’s great grades and successful football career, everyone was shocked when they learned he did heroin. Indeed, there is a lot of pressure on kids to be perfect. Even the children who model for clothing sites no longer look like children, but mini-adults ready to go on a job interview or dinner date. And, these lofty images can take their toll on kids.
It’s Not Good to Be Perfect
Even though we can’t be perfect, the quest for this ideal can cause problems. In fact, Psychology Today calls perfectionism a “disease.” In hopes to be number one at something, kids feel pressure to get 100% on tests or be the team MVP. Furthermore, if they can’t attain perfection, they may experience “depression” and “anxiety.” “Eating disorders,” “substance abuse,” and “suicide” are other destructive results of trying to be perfect. As parents, it’s important to help our children set realistic goals and realize that we will love them no matter what. Furthermore, if we are obsessed with our house or body looking just right, we could possibly pass on this perfectionism to our children.
How To Stop Trying to be Perfect
The other day, I noticed that some kids were coming out of school with awards. My first thought was: my daughter didn’t get one. My daughter was a little disappointed and perhaps, so was I. Yet, simply because she didn’t get an award doesn’t mean she isn’t a good kid. As parents, the first step for us is to stop trying to be perfect because this is an illusion. Second, we need to stop punishing our children (or making them feel bad) when they don’t get an award. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t encourage our kids to work hard. However, we need to let our children feel valued even when they don’t succeed.
Tomorrow, I’m not going to worry about being a perfect parent. I’m just going to try to be a good one.
More from Melissa:
Barbie, Thigh Gaps and Princesses: Raising a Daughter in an Appearance Driven World
A Survival Guide for Parents in the Suburbs
5 Ways Parenthood is Similar to Life as a Celebrity