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Perfect Parents, Perfect Kids?

by Jeri Carr

Ever have those days when you feel like every other parent has got it all together except for you? "Look at that mom," you think wistfully, "She's always smiling at her children. I bet she never yells at them the way I sometimes yell at my children." Or you think, "Look at that mom. She's got the patience of a saint. How is she able to be so patient when her baby cries so much? How can she get by with so little sleep?"

Then, of course, there's the idea that sometimes pops into a parent's head that everyone else's child is better behaved than their child. "Oh, please don't have a tantrum right now," you think nervously as your child looks like he's just about to lose it, "I'll be so embarassed. Their children always act so perfect." Other parents think, "My baby must be the only one who is not sleeping through the night," or "My baby has a really hard time going to sleep at night, but that mom just told me that her little girl loves to go to sleep at night and she just lays her down in her crib, pops a pacifier in her mouth, and she's out for the night."

When things are difficult, it's so easy for parents to think that they must be doing something wrong. Heck, maybe they are doing everything wrong. What if their child is going to be a monster brat as he grows older? It can be so easy to think, "Why can't I be a super mom like she is? How come they are so PERFECT?!"

Well, let me lay your mind at ease. . . nobody is perfect. Yes, it's true! What is perfection anyway? To say that someone is perfect, implies that there is only one right way of doing something. Many times there are many different choices or experiences that are "perfectly" okay and normal.

What if you did make a bad choice today? Don't beat yourself up over it, but learn from it. Make a better choice next time. Perhaps it will help you learn to be more patient with your child when they make a mistake, or when they simply are just acting like a normal child.

It's important that we parents take the time to learn from our mistakes and not mire in self-pity about how horrible we are. Don't mope around and say, "That was so stupid!" or "I'm so stupid." Not only will wallowing in guilt make you feel worse, but it potentially negatively affects your relationship with your children. You may subconsciously begin putting unfair expectations on your children trying to make them be the "good" person you feel you are not, or, on the other hand, you might let them get away with more things than you might otherwise because you feel unworthy to expect your children to act in a way you feel will never be able to act. Plus it will adversely affect their self-esteem, and you may catch them exclaiming the next time they do something wrong, "That was so stupid of me! That was so stupid of me!"

Use the times you make mistakes and are dealing with day to day struggles to set a good example to your children. Don't be afraid to admit to them you are not perfect. Show them how to be gracious when they make mistakes. Apologize. Say, "Mommy made a mistake. I'm sorry. Will you please forgive me?" And hug your children. It will help them feel better about themselves knowing that even mommies and daddies make mistakes sometimes.

If need be, take steps to change the situation. Read books; talk to other supportive parents. Be sure you know your options. If you feel that you are in a slump and need a boost, consider contacting a parenting support group or taking parenting classes.

Some parents, guessing that they are alone in their struggles or too embarrassed to admit it, hide them and promote the fallacy that there really is the perfect parent and the perfect children. I bet if you are around that perfect mom just a little more, or their perfect children just a little more, you will see for yourself that they are not so perfect. We all have our up and down times. We--both parents and children--are all learning and growing together, and that is how it should be.

This article was first published on Suite101.com.


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