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Parents Beware: How to Reduce the Risk of Raising a Perfectionist

A perfectionist is someone who always has to get it right. They decide the standards for everything up front and always want it their way. Today’s perfectionist becomes tomorrow’s micromanager!

Being a perfectionist is also how you put pressure on you to always have the answer for everyone. Consequently, you have to do everything alone. Perfectionists aren’t open to anything left of field or different that might work better or be greater if they don’t come up with it themselves. They keep trying to prove their independence and are not easily able to receive assistance or contribution and may have difficulty functioning as part of a team.

Instead of raising a perfectionist, what if you were raising a future leader?

A leader is someone who inspires, who moves forward without needing anybody to follow. A leader looks out for the good of all, acknowledging others and their capacities as well as their own. Like the conductor of an orchestra, they bring together and engage the players (with all their differences, strengths and abilities) to create a beautiful symphony. Nothing is dismissed, nothing is judged, and all kind of music is possible!

If you desire to empower both you and your kids to become leaders in life and less concerned with being perfect, here are 7 key considerations to add to your parenting tool-kit:

Don’t forget about you There is no doubt that having kids requires a lot of time and attention. However, there is a difference between being available for what your kids require and over-focusing on your children’s lives to the degree that your desires and needs disappear from the picture. Are you forgetting you as a parent? You can’t expect or hope for your kids to find out what they want if you aren’t willing to lead by example. The best way to show your kids that they can create what they desire in life is to be the leader of your own life. Become aware of what you want beyond your family relationships and commit to bringing them to fruition. Ask, “What do I desire in life that I haven’t chosen before?” Don’t worry about getting an “answer” right away. You could start with a daily target like committing to nurturing your body for 30 minutes each day and discover things you enjoy doing in that time. Keep asking what you desire every day and you will eventually become more and more aware of what you would like to choose.

Let your kids be bored As a parent, it is not your job to come up with the answers and entertainment for your kids passing the time. Allowing them to be bored will give them the space to find out what they would like to do. You can ask them, “What would you like to play with right now?” and encourage them to explore it for themselves, rather than trying to come up with ideas and answers for them. As a child, there was only one time I told my mother that I was bored. When she replied, “I am cleaning, you can help me!” I never said it to her again!

Be willing to be a terrible parent Most parents are trying to do perfect parenting. But if you are trying to be the perfect parent, you will most likely raise perfectionist children, too! Are you willing to be the most terrible and wrong parent you can be? Perfection is not inviting. It’s not real, it’s not vulnerable, and it isn’t fun. What are you teaching your kids when you are trying to be perfect – to learn from their mistakes, or to judge them? To enjoy being themselves even if they mess up, or to be harsh self-critics? What if you became a role model for the joy of imperfection?

Rather than trying to get it right, have fun being imperfect and play with getting it wrong. Make a game of “How wrong can I get it today?” and try to get at least 3 things wrong with parenting per day. If you achieve your 3 things before breakfast (because you are so good at being a bad parent), raise it to 10 things a day! Have fun with not worrying about being perfect or imperfect. The amazing thing you might discover is that you can get plenty of things “wrong” and still be happy.

Acknowledge rather than praise Praising is validating how someone is good for doing something right. Acknowledgement, on the other hand, is where you appreciate the being – you acknowledge the value of the person themselves, rather than what they do. Perfection is based on the pre-occupation with doing: if you do it right, you are good. If you don’t, you are not. It creates a cycle of stress where you must constantly calculate how to get it right to gain the approval, praise and validation. If you acknowledge kids for who they are rather than praise them for what they do, they don’t have to try to be perfect. They get to be who they are, and you get to nurture an authentic sense of self-value, allowing them to function from a different platform and become immune to perfectionism or the need for it.

Have gratitude Gratitude is a space that lacks judgment. When you are grateful, you do not judge yourself or another. You are grateful for what is – whether it’s perfect or not. While validation or approval is cut away when someone isn’t at their best or doing the perfect, right and expected thing, gratitude continues to exist. You can cultivate gratitude for yourself as well as others, which makes your world bigger. With gratitude, it becomes much easier to include others in your life. Perfectionism excludes yourself and others, gratitude includes everything and everyone.

Stop worrying about being liked Most parents worry about their kids making friends and being liked. Being liked is being like other people: in an effort to be liked, most will suppress their difference and uniqueness to try and fit in. What if you were grateful for your difference, and your kids were grateful for theirs, whether it’s liked or not? What if you did not have to be like others, or liked by others, to be happy?

Acknowledge you and know that you are a gift, don’t look for approval. By doing this you teach your kids that valuing themselves is more important than other people’s judgements. When you don’t worry about what other people think about you, and your priority is enjoying you, having fun, and not so much with judging things and getting them right, others will tend to be drawn to you. The most inviting space anyone can be is to have no judgement of themselves or anyone else.

The gift of kids is life is not about getting it perfect, but about having fun. Leadership is about the joy of what you can have and be that comes from being yourself without the limitation of judgement or perfection – what kind of world and future would that create?

Susanna Mittermaier is a psychologist, psychotherapist and author of the #1 international bestselling book, “Pragmatic Psychology: Practical Tools for Being Crazy Happy.” She is a certified facilitator for Right Riches for You, a special program by Access Consciousness®. A highly sort after public speaker, Susanna has been featured in magazines such as TV soap, Women’s Weekly, Empowerment Channel Voice America, Om Times, Motherpedia, Newstalk New Zealand and Holistic Bliss. Susanna offers a new paradigm of therapy called Pragmatic Psychology and is known for her ability to transform people’s problems and difficulties


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