Are you a Perfect Parent?
by Ron Huxley, LMFT
How many of the parents, reading this column, are perfect
parents? None? Well, how many of the imperfect
parents, reading this column, have perfect children? Still
none? While it may be that perfect parents don’t need to
read this column, I think the real truth is that there are no
perfect parents or perfect children.
If that is true, then why do so many parents act as if there is
such a being as the “perfect parent” or “perfect child?"
To illustrate my point, try completing the following
sentences. Just say the first thing that comes to mind:
1. A good parent always… 2. Good children should…
3. As a parent, I must… 4. My children ought to be more…
5. If I were more like my own parents, I would be more…
If a parent falls short of these standards, and so, is not a
"good” parent, what does that leave the parent to be?
Parents are left with the belief that he or she is a “bad"
parent. These beliefs are responsible for why parents feel
so out of control and powerless in their parenting roles.
Parents need more realistic beliefs about parenting.
Realistic Beliefs about Parenting
Beliefs are expressions of parents’ values about
themselves, other people, and the world. Unrealistic beliefs
create a feeling of demand that pushes and drives parents
unnecessarily where realistic beliefs create a feeling of
inner stability, even when circumstances aren’t always
One way to create more realistic beliefs is to evaluate the
evidence for your unrealistic thoughts about parenting. Ask
yourself these questions: What law states that a child will
always listen and be respectful? What evidence really
suggests that all parents must be available to their children
at all times? What edict states that I must be perfect?
For one day, make a list of all the negative thoughts that
come to mind as you go about your parenting duties. At the
end of the day, look over the list and write out alternative,
positive counter-thoughts. Whenever the negative thoughts
come up, immediately state the alternative thought to break
its power over you. If it is too hard to remember them all,
pick one or two of the negative thoughts that create the
most interference in your parenting and counter those only.
Do that for about a week and then move down the list to the
Changing what you say about your parenting will change
how you feel about your parenting. Try this experiment:
complete the following incomplete sentences and notice the
emotional difference between these and the first list.
1. A responsible parent always… 2. Good children
sometimes… 3. As a parent, I can be… 4. I desire my
children to be more… 5. If I were like my own parents, the
positive qualities I would like to have…
Only one word was changed in each of these sentences
and yet it dramatically changes how you think and feel. If
you are going to accept the fact that you are imperfect then
you will have to eliminate "perfection” language from your
thoughts and words. You will need to accept the fact that
you are acting “good-enough.” This doesn’t mean that you
shouldn’t strive for more out of yourselves or your child.
Self-improvement is not the same as expecting perfection.
“The Courage To Be Imperfect”
It takes courage to be a “good-enough” parent. This is what
the child psychiatrist, Rudolph Driekurs, calls “the courage
to be imperfect.” While there are plenty of perfect parenting
standards to fall short of, there are no rules for how to be
an imperfect parent. Here are ten un-commandments for
developing the “courage to be imperfect”:
1. Children should be encouraged, not expected, to seek
perfection. 2. Accept who you are rather than try to be
more than or as good as other parents. 3. Mistakes are
aids to learning. Mistakes are not signs of failure.
Anticipating or fearing mistakes will make us more
vulnerable to failure. 4. Mistakes are unavoidable and are
less important than what the parent does after he or she
makes a mistake. 5. Set realistic standards for yourself and
your child. Don’t try correcting or changing too many things
at one time. 6. Develop a sense of your strengths and your
weaknesses. 7. Mutual respect, between parent and child,
starts by valuing yourself. Recognize your own dignity and
worth before you try and show your child their dignity and
worth. 8. Unhappy parents are frequently discouraged,
competitive, unrealistic in their standard for themselves and
their children, over ambitious, and unbalanced in their love
and limits. 9. High standards and expectations are
frequently related to parents’ feelings of inferiority and
lack of adequate parenting resources. 10. Parents need to
develop the courage to cope with the challenges of living,
which means, they must develop the “courage to be