Skip to content

When Perfectionism Gets In The Way Of Parenting

    she's perfect2

    I’d like to blame my perfectionist attitude on my moon in virgo.
    Or even my job which often requires a perfect picture.
    But really, my inclination towards perfectionism is part of my DNA.

    I’m well aware of it within my own stuff. 
    But what happens when it carries over into my parenting?

    Over the weekend, M was working on an informational writing piece for school. He asked me to help with revisions.

    First off, let me state that my impatience doesn’t bide well with homework. Sometimes I find myself gnawing at the gums so I don’t blurt out what I’m really thinking.

    Like when GL asks me what 1 + 5 equals.


    Or how do you spell November?

    Look at the calendar.

    But back to editing M’s writing.
    He read me his intro… then asked –is it good?

    Long Pause.

    What are you trying to say?
    And I think you used the word game too many times. What’s another word to explain what they play in the World Cup?

    It went like this through chapters 1 -4. Finally, at chapter 5, I heard myself. My perfectionist tendencies were taking over M’s homework! No matter what he wrote, I was going to find the flaw.

    I believe in pushing our kids to excellence. But when is it enough? When will I see they’ve met their capabilities (or even surpassed them)?

    As M finished reading his piece to me, I realized it was really good. Some sentences weren’t perfect. But they didn’t have to be. He’s made so much progress with is writing. I was proud.

    When I find myself trying to be perfect, I repeat this mantra:

    Let Go. Let Go. Let Go.

    I also try to remember perfection isn’t real.

    Our individualism is what sets up apart, makes us special. M calls them his details (referring to his shark teeth).
    And those sentences in his writing piece– that’s his voice. His authentic expression.
    Of course, I want him to be his best. But even more so, I want him to be who he is.

    How do your high standards seep into parenting?

    twitter: @elyshalenkin
    Follow my blog with Bloglovin

    8 thoughts on “When Perfectionism Gets In The Way Of Parenting”

    1. girlgatheringwisdom

      I would like to share an “aha”moment on today’s topic. I was “uber” involved with my children’s homework, tests, projects… name it. Arguments were the norm. Then the lightbulb………..hey, wait a minute, I WENT to school already. This is their time.
      This is not MY homework. Maybe I will let my kids get the feedback from their teachers – both positive and negative and I will just be the parent – there for love and support – and sometimes to console them when their work comes back with errors. This “aha” thing did not mean that I was now chill and not involved. But it was a shift in MY need for flawless schoolwork. I had made it about me. I don’t know if patience can be a learned quality…..but I am sure that it can be practiced!

    2. GGW, Thank you for sharing that here. This advice can probably be applied to many parenting situations…not just with schoolwork. And you are right, patience can be practiced 🙂

    3. As I said, it’s an ongoing question (and challenge) for me. It’s nice to hear another mom struggle the way I do. I love how you were able to step back to assess both him and his work more holistically. How far they have come from their own baseline is one of the fairest measures we can take. The question is how much closer can they get to their potential, our role in those forward steps, and our approach. The perfectionism I tackled the nutrition part of parenting with is something I’ve had to ease up on. I couldn’t have four pots going at 6 am everyday to pack everything fresh before we set out for the day. (For one thing, I couldn’t WRITE, then!) My best will have to be not my ideal but what my resources allow (time, circumstances, and in academics his energy capacity that hour). I have to say I’ve come a long way from the crazy homeschooler I was destined to be as an east coaster bc I didn’t even push him to write his own name ’til a good 2 years past the time all his Sunday Schoolers knew how. Since boys tend to be slower with the fine motor (with notable exceptions), I didn’t want to push him just to save face w/ the parents. He started writing it on his own at about age 6, wrote it everywhere on all sorts of paper LOL when he was good and ready.

      As to patience, my weakness in this area is a source of daily guilt.

      Oh, for a glimpse of the perfectionism if you haven’t seen. I need to update that header shot, just realized. Please feel free to delete the link here if/when you’re done with it. Don’t mean to use your space to promote myself.

    4. D, you made it over here!
      Your question hits it on the nose “how much closer can they get to their potential, our role in those forward steps, and our approach.”
      It’s probably smoother in our home when I do back off a bit…otherwise I’m breathing my stuff down their backs. Easier said than done when I’m convinced they could do more/better.
      Your comment also makes me realize how many areas there are for us moms to attain perfection in. I hadn’t even considered perfect nutrition!
      It seems your relocation to the west coast was wise and “perfect” for your family.

      Thanks for your thoughtful reply.
      And, is that another blog you have?? Now I know where to go when I’m ready to tackle perfect nutrition 🙂

    5. Yes, that was actually my original blog, the seed for a book. I satisfied the urge to write a few thoughts in a more personal way (on this one) and started with the Lessons from My 30s. I believe you saw it. The rest is history. A Holistic Journey stole my heart and I haven’t been able to keep up the food blog. If I were a REAL tiger blogger I could do both. But I need something called sleep. =)

      And yes, relocating was the best thing I could’ve done. The West (the SUN) lends itself to holistic approaches to health more readily and I’m not even sure I would’ve gotten married out there. Everyone’s so uptight (the ones I knew and met at least, and that’s relative to people in CA) and the guys who weren’t (what I needed, to balance me) didn’t interest me; they just seemed to be HANGING there, not going anywhere.

      I thought the How To Eat list might be useful. =)

    6. A move out west is something we have considered. Right now it’s on hold. But that more relaxed lifestyle with nature sure does appeal!! Thanks for referring me to your How To Eat list..I will definitely check it out.

    7. I made most of my perfection mistakes raising my two girls. Now, I’m so much more relaxed as a Grandma because I have no expectations of what I want them to become and love imperfection.

    8. I guess that’s the beauty of being Grandma…there’s a second chance — to appreciate all that may have been missed the first time around as Mom. Thank you, Michele, for sharing your wisdom here.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *