I’m going to admit something that took me almost 13 years to realize. I am a perfectionist parent (well, was). As I go through troubles with my now teenaged son I realize just how hard my style of parenting has been on him and his ability to grow and live life. I strive to do everything “by the book” or everything experts recommend for parents. I was the kind of father who enrolled his children in everything, forced them to be diligent learners, limited their play and screen time, and tried to shield them from everything that came their way.
I thought I was a model parent and that others should follow suit. The funny thing is, I even found myself giving out advice as if I were an expert myself. In fact, I got so focused on the need to be the perfect parent to my children (who would grow up to be perfect as well, right?), that I completely stopped focusing on myself, my own needs, and what I wanted.
How This Affects Your Children
I became so exhausted from trying to be superdad that I realized I needed to make changes. This perfectionistic way of parenting impacted and has the potential to impact me and my family in ways I never imagined:
Your children suppress their emotions like anger, frustration, sadness, and depression, for fear of being labeled negative or imperfect.
Your children can become adults who turn to vices like drugs, alcohol, and sex to cope with the stress of trying to remain perfect. Parents have witnessed everything from alcohol dependency and marijuana usage during teen years to symptoms of heroin withdrawal and painkiller addictions.
Your children develop a low self-esteem and develop the inability to accept criticism from others
Your children grow up to be perfectionists and/or people pleasers
How it Impacts You
Very similar to the negative impact on your children, trying to be a perfectionist can also do damage to your own life. It certainly did for me. Some of the things you might experience include:
Extreme fatigue, parental burnout
Substance dependence or addiction
Lost sense of self
Depression, stress, or anxiety
What Can Be Done?
You’re not trying to harm yourself or your family. Perhaps, like me, you even thought that being perfect and pushing them to be perfect would improve their lives and help them to avoid a lot of the obstacles you went through going up. No matter how good your intentions are, something needs to be done. Here’s how you can stop “pretending” you’re perfect and be a better parent for your children:
Allow yourself to feel - instead of suppressing your feelings, allow yourself to go through it. Whether you’re sad, mad, or happy, holding it all in will only result in mental health issues down the line.
Let kids be kids - Yes, all children need structure, guidance, and your protection, however, if you don’t allow them to get hurt, make their own mistakes and learn from them, they’ll be crippled as to how to deal with circumstances as an adult.
Figure out what you like - instead of trying to vicariously live through your children start living for yourself. Even if that means going back years to discover who you are and what interests you. When you have your own hobbies and interests to focus on, you won’t invest so much time into trying to make your children’s lives “perfect”.
Be mindful of social media - believe it or not, the images and memes you find on social media can be triggers for your perfect ways. When you see other moms seemingly having it all together, it pushes you into autopilot to try and catch up. Stop using social media to compare yourself or your family to others. Remember, everything isn’t what it seems.
Perfection, whether you want to believe it or not, isn’t a realistic goal in parenting or any other area of your life. Though there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be the best for your kids, If you’ve been trying to be the perfect dad, who has the perfect children, and lives the perfect life, you should quit while you’re ahead. Take a step back and realize just how much damage you’re doing to your family and then make the necessary moves to rectify the matter. It can take some time, but with any luck, you’ll learn how much more fun it is to simply be human.