The Pressure to Parent Perfectly

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We live in a competitive world. We are taught that people need to “fit in” and be successful. As parents we often try to protect our children from the hurts of the world. Sometimes we do this by pushing our kids to be something they are not, instead of nurturing their true spirit. Children are born of a certain temperament. Some are easy going and independent from day one. These are the babies who “never cry.” Some babies are extremely vocal and hard to please. These are the strong willed children who from day one have told you they want it their way. Some babies are born always needing to be held. These socialite babies need attention and interaction to feel content. You can determine a lot about a child’s personality by their temperament. It is their raw self. Their brain has not yet learned social cues, cultural expectations, or anything learned. Yet somehow that is time when the pressure to parent first begins. Remember the easy going/independent baby I mentioned earlier? How often do you hear a parent say, “Oh. She was such a good baby. She never cried.” Good baby? Is there such a thing as a bad baby? Absolutely not. Yet why is a baby who never cries perceived as “good?” Yet a baby’s only way to communicate is to cry. So a baby who never cries is basically saying, “I’m cool sitting in this wet diaper. It doesn’t bother me.” Yet the baby who screams at the moment of discomfort saying, “I am wet. Get over here and help me,” is perceived as “fussy” instead of assertive. This creates a pressure on parents of young children that if their baby is not happy all the time they must be doing something wrong.

The pressure to parent perfectly continues as the slew of questions begins about if your baby is sleeping through the night or crawling/walking yet? None of which a parent can do, but feel pressure to make happen. Babies do these things when they are ready. Not before. It continues as parents try to find a sport, activity, or art that their child can excel in. The pressure of being able to brag about what your child is gifted at creates this environment where parents feel the need to constantly keep pushing their child to excel in something, even if the child dislikes it. Not to mention the competition regarding birthday parties. For the kids it’s about getting together with their friends and presents. For parents, the pressure is there to put on the perfect day for them. This detail goes down to the last themed cupcake and handmade embroidered take home bags. Where did this competition among parents begin and what is the cost?

The pressure to parent perfectly takes all of the fun out of being a parent and parenting becomes a chore. I overheard a Mom explaining to someone at her child’s school, “I have 5 children at 5 different schools. This is the last stop on my list, so he is always going to be late.” I left thinking to myself, “How fun is that? I would never want to do that to myself.” Don’t get me wrong. I am all for parents wanting to drive their children to school, but when you are running yourself ragged trying to do it, there has to be a better solution. Not to mention, what does that communicate to your child about his level of importance? Or about being responsible and on-time for things? After school is even worse pressure for parents. The pressure is on to find each child’s true genius talent because American Culture is telling us our children need to be “well rounded” so that pressure to put your child in at least three activities, and if you have more than one child….well, you do the math. If I had to meals in my car driving from place to place and not at home with my children multiple times throughout the week, I would feel lost about their lives. That is when my children spend the most time talking to me. The entire meal ritual of preparing, serving and eating meals around the table at home is the center of when we talk about our thoughts, feelings, and day. I am not alone. There is a reason research studies support family mealtime in connection with bonding with your children. The meal does not need to be gourmet. Just something you do together.

When I meet a child for the first time I ask them, “What do you like to do for fun?” or “What is your favorite thing to do with your family?” It is also important to find out what kids like most about themselves. That is where self-esteem can really be cultivated. When a child is proud of themselves and enjoying doing activities, the support of parents with this is crucial to helping their self-esteem. So if Suzy says, “I am really good at making cupcakes.” It’s how she currently sees herself. It’s helpful for Mom or Dad to say, “Yes. You are good at that. Maybe we could make some next week to take to a Nursing Home for others to enjoy?” Rather than, “You only made them one time and I did most of the work.” How a child sees him/herself is their reality. Accept that as fact and encourage them. Even adolescents struggling to find their identity need acceptance from their parents of “who they are.” As children grow and change having parents stand by and support and accept them creates an environment where their self-esteem and confidence guide them into adult hood.

There are so many pressures placed on parents to do everything perfectly so that their children turn out….well perfect. But we all know that there is no such thing as perfection or perfect people, so it’s a losing battle to try to compete for Parent of the Year. The bottom line is what would your kid say about your parenting? Doesn’t your child’s opinion matter the most? Talk to your children about their likes, dislikes, and when they feel the happiest. The next time you feel stressed about the chaos of your week, look at your schedule and figure out what the purpose of being so busy is? Is the pressure to parent perfectly taking over your life? Before making commitments or decisions, ask yourself if you are making a decision to please your parent peers or your own child?