From the moment I held my precious, little firstborn in my arms, I was forever changed. I felt the gush of love and the heavy weight of responsibility all at once. I was responsible for this little life, and I didn’t want to mess it up. I was going to be the best mom ever . . . just for him.
All of my perfectionist tendencies amped up when I became a mother. But I quickly realized in all my best efforts that I could not create a perfect, happy-all-the-time, pain-free life for my baby or be the perfect parent to a perfect child. With perfection as my goal, I was setting myself up for failure again and again.
Now, years later as a mother of teenagers, I am faced daily with my own imperfection as well as their downright disinterest in meeting my standard of perfection. I am no longer able to dress them or fix their hair. I am not the scheduler of their playdates or the sole maker of their friends. They have more freedom now to make their own choices. And, they can make both good choices and stupid, broken ones.
How do we handle our children’s imperfection? How do we loosen the cords of perfectionism and parent our kids from a God-centered, healthy place?
Here are five truths to help ease the press for perfection in our parenting:
1. Accept that you are not perfect and cannot be a perfect parent.
Release yourself from the standard of perfection in your own life. You mess up. Pride, selfishness, anger, and impatience can take up residence in your heart and eke into your parenting. Until you are willing to see and accept your own imperfection, you won’t know how to lovingly handle your kids’.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 NIV, emphasis added).
2. Remember that your kids are not perfect.
They will mess up in big and small ways. You can do everything to love them, provide for them, discipline them, and teach them godly principles. But all your best efforts won’t ensure their avoidance of sin. They will still make their own sin choices.
“We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6 NIV, emphasis added).
3. Instead of perfection, seek after Jesus and love him the most.
Your kids don’t need a perfect parent. They need a humble parent who is willing to look at their own mistakes and grow through them. I know, it seems easier to work harder to be a better parent. But we don’t have the capacity on our own to be perfect. It’s only because of Jesus and his perfection that we are found perfect. So, put your full weight on Jesus. He will empower and grow you into the parent you need to be. Trash the list of what a perfect parent looks like and have only one goal: love Jesus the most.
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33 NIV, emphasis added).
4. When your kids do mess up, enter into their brokenness with them.
Don’t be scared of facing your kid’s sin. It’s not a reflection of you. Be comfortable in hearing their true emotions and struggle. Be careful not to condemn or shame them. Resist giving the silent treatment. Be clear, strong, and loving. Enforce consequences. Hold a tight rein on boundaries. Speak the good, hard truth they need to hear and love them at the point of their sin.
“Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.’ And you forgave the guilt of my sin” (Psalm 32:5 NIV, emphasis added).
5. Be patient and trust God to grow them.
Perfectionism feeds on quick behavior management. But God knows the value of growing things, and it takes time. Trust him with what he is doing in the life of your child. He is working. He is growing. Be patient. Be diligent. Keep speaking truth and disciplining. Keep setting the example and taking opportunities to shine his light. And pray, pray, pray!
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9 NIV, emphasis added).
Parenting is one of the hardest things I’ve been called to do because I am constantly faced with my own imperfection and failings. But as I let go of who I think I should be, I can seek to love Jesus the most. As I trust that he is growing me into who I need to be, I can release the press for perfection and enjoy the honor that God has given me as a mother.
What a gift.
The Christian Parenting Prayer Journal
If we are going to raise the next generation of kids who honor the Lord and change our culture for his glory, we have got to refocus and re-strategize. Of all the hundreds of things we do each day for our kids, we have to believe that praying for them is the single most powerful and significant thing we can offer.
In an effort to resource you in doing this, we have written a prayer journal that I hope you will order. It is set up to have one main focus to pray over your kids each week of the school year, beginning in September. There’s a place to make notes on specific areas you’re praying about for your kids, as well as related Scripture to guide you in praying each week.
I believe that if Christian parents will band together and commit to faithfully prayer over their kids, we WILL see a difference.
Keep up the good fight in raising your kids and give yourself a break in the places where you haven’t gotten it completely right.