Just Say No To Perfect


No one is perfect

Be careful what you say to your kids (and yourself).  Sure, the words that come out might sound something like “Just do your best”, or “You can do this if you really try.”

What your kids end up hearing is, Is my best ever enough?”  Why bother if it’s not perfect!”  Oh, wait – you didn’t mean to say that.  But that is what  your child hears.

The fallout ends up affecting self-esteem. Sure, it is a tricky path to tread. How much do we challenge our kids? Don’t we have to set the bar high, teach them to reach for the stars? Of course you do – but watch how you say it.

Kids need to know that achieving success is a process. They should respect the process, and learn from each attempt. Then they need to look at the effort, consider the difficulties, and think of new strategies to achieve the goal.

So, how can you communicate that you want them to strive for EXCELLENCE? How to avoid measuring and sounding like you want only perfection – the 100 on spelling test/the A on the book report/No red marks on the paper?

Dr. Wendy Mogul, in The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, says, “Your child is not your masterpiece.”  You offer guidance, support and love. But they must learn on their own who they are and what they are capable of doing.

Very often the perfectionism that results from constant measurement hides a sense of insecurity.  (Mom or Dad will think less of me if I’m not good at everything.)


Here are four tips for parents to help kids develop a sense of self worth and avoid the constant desire to be PERFECT:


… if your child gets easily frustrated when attempting simple tasks.  If he throws down the pencil or quits shortly after starting,  talk to him about his upset.  Ask him to explain his frustration, and then get him to add ‘YET” to anything he thinks he can’t do. (“I can’t do math …YET!”)


… to what your kids are saying.  Words like “It’s not ever right,” “This doesn’t look good enough,” “I just can’t do it,” are alarm buttons for you to sit down and talk to them.  Use words like proud and strong and deserving.


… and how you handle your kids. Are you always pushing for something better?  “How is this going to affect him in school next year?” “Will he get into a good college?”  “If grades don’t rise, kids won’t want to play with him?” Spending all your time looking to the future means you are missing out on the present.


There is a difference. Next time evaluate what the score is and make sure your child understands the material.  Ask “What have you tried, and what can you try next?” You want to consider how to help your child excel and have him enjoy learning as well as the feeling of achieving success.  If you are mostly measuring, it can lead to ANXIETY, attempts at CHEATING, and totally FALLING APART at a B+.

Of course parents want the kids to succeed. Just be sure at the same time you provide an environment for resilience, good self-esteem, and love. Demanding only A’s and constantly criticizing kids’ effort results in their feeling they are ‘not good enough.’ That feeling lasts a lifetime.

Now, go a buy a pack of pencils – with erasers.


Photo credit: Celebelle

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