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 
stable.

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 
others.

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 
imperfect.”

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