Before becoming a mother, I had an image in my mind about my parenting style. The experience would be magical, like something out of a fairytale, or even better, I was going to be a new age Claire Huxtable. Beautiful, smart, successful career, flawless 24 hours a day, witty, funny, and the mom that my kids looked up to. Let’s get this straight, I even had my daughters name picked out before meeting my husband (don’t believe me…ask my bestie). All the knowledge gained over the years, plus all of my experience with kids was my perfect recipe for embarking on exercising “perfect parenting.”
Fast forward and I became a parent. Natural labor, diapers in tow, spit up on everything, rocking the survival look…proud as could be for this gift…a beautiful daughter, Mahannah-Sarai (yes, I kept with the same name). We were embarking on this journey together, my daughter, husband and I. Even my hectic grad school schedule was not keeping me from “perfecting” this mission!
My “perfect parenting” was a hit! Mahannah learned sign language early, she was conversational by 12 months, and she tolerated my dressing her up like a doll. Pictures of this girl could wrap around the earth a few times over…you know, the normal stuff. Everything was “perfect.”
Funny enough, everything remained “perfect” until I realized that my beautiful girl had an opinion. Not only did this girl have an opinion, she had a very strong opinion. Her opinion was not strong about somethings, but all things! This kid challenged EVERYTHING! And I mean EVERYTHING! This kid quickly hampered my “perfect parenting” plans.
On the inside, I felt like I was failing this kid miserably. In my disillusioned mind, I created pictures of us ebbing and flowing harmoniously. Boy, was I was WRONG!
I would pray, read books, ask around, fuss, complain, and everything else in between just for some validation that my parenting was “perfect” (I was just childish). Even worse, I was giving my clients advice to meet their child halfway, to follow their child’s lead, and to learn their personality. Here I am, embarking on this “perfect parenting” mission, not realizing that I had not embraced my own child’s reality.
This kid did not need me to be perfect, nor did she need me to “mold her into perfection.”
She did not require the demands I placed on myself to create the “perfect parenting scenario.” This kid simply wanted her mom to be who she was, “perfect for her.”
She needed me to accept her for who she was, not who I expected her to be. And, she needed me to lay off the self-micromanaging to be a “perfect parent.” She did not need my trainings on “perfecting life”-rather the acceptance that “I am clumsy kid that could care less about the holes in my pants, drawing puffy hair people makes me happy, and hugs all day are a must…so please, let me play in the dirt and live my life” kind of affirmation. Maybe I did a good job perfecting her ability to be comfortable enough to fight for who she wants to be…
You may be wondering by this paragraph, “why are you sharing this information? You are supposed to be a tool for parent-child relationships and interaction.“ Well, I am. However, to be an “expert anything,” you also have to be transparent and reflective.
You have to recognize the areas where you are amazing, and the areas that could use a bit of life support.
This is one of my areas, and guess what, there will be more to come. Also, if you cam learn from my mistakes, I can save you hours of wondering “what am I doing wrong,” or shifting the blame onto your child saying “what’s wrong with that kid?”
From the outside looking in, I see parents headed down the same path of-“perfect parenting.” Our kids simply want us to see them for who they are, where they are, and relate to their world. Not only do our kids want us to shift from “pushing for their perfection,” they also want to see our reality. They want to see our good, bad, ugly, different, indifferent, sad, mad, all over the place, you know “Tuesday.” Not only do they want to see that from us, they need to see that in us in order to navigate the world around them.
So, let’s get down to business…enough about me…I’m in recovery…it’s your turn to assess whether “perfect parenting” is your scene. Ask yourself these simple questions:
“Am I listening to my child, or am I always directing?”
“Am I constantly frustrated with my child over trivial things?”
“Am I doing all the talking when we communicate?”
“Is my child consistently frustrated with me?”
If these questions resonate with you…well, you may be in the same boat I was in. The bad news is, I don’t know of any “perfect parenting anonymous groups” out there. The good news is, you can fix this!
You might be wondering…”how?” I’m so glad you asked…
1. Take some time and ask your child about their day. Don’t interrupt, interject, or take over the conversation. Look at them while they are talking. If their response is short, than ask for specifics “what things were good?” Good relationships start with learning how to “relate” from where they are…
Please listen distraction-free.
2. Giving the same directions 20 times a day?…try giving shorter directions. Maybe instead of 3 or more things, give 1 direction at a time. Ask them to repeat it back. That way, you will know they were listening.
3. Provide variation when communicating with your child. Replace complaints with specific direction.
4. Give praise for the things they are doing a great job at. They need to hear it from you.
5. Self-reflect if you find yourself constantly frustrated with your child. Is it really them? Or is something bothering you? It may or may not be directly connected with your child. Whatever it is, face that reality and know your triggers. For me, asking anything after 8pm is a no-no. My kids know “Midnight has struck…Cinderella is done.”
6. Get to the root of your child’s frustration. If you notice they are whiny, frustrated or agitated, try to find out why. It is probably not best to ask in the heat of an argument, or a fallout…it’s best to connect when everyone has settled down.
It can also be behavior they are learning from others around. Remember, our children model what they see and hear.
7. Place daily reminders around the house. Get creative! We use daily morning schedules, school schedules, chore charts, planners, organizers, the whole nine.
This is a win-win! Schedules keep them accountable for the things they need to take care of. It also teaches responsibility.
Now, does this mean that expectations are thrown out of the window? Absolutely NOT! Having expectations, is completely different from implementing “perfect parenting.” You should expect to raise children that live out their purpose, who respect others and the world around them. Eliminating “perfect parenting” creates a space that aligns with their character versus who we are driving them to be. The best we can do for our children, is simply being the best us that we can be.
We can celebrate victories, learn from our mistakes, play freely, correct disobedience with appropriate discipline, forgive often, and try harder the next time.
That’s not perfect, that’s just life. It is more than any of us could have ever asked for. Perfect for what they need...
Take care y’all, C.