The Challenge of Perfection in Parenting

Perfection is an interesting concept. It's something most Americans strive for, or at least dream about: perfect job, perfect marriage, perfect kids, and perfect life. When reality hits, and your job/marriage/kids/life turns out less than perfect, what do you do?

Before I get too far, I always like to start with a definition. Webster's 1828 dictionary defines perfection as:

"The state of being perfect or complete, so that nothing requisite is wanting; as perfection in an art or science; perfection in a system of morals."

I think this is one of those words, like love, that has morphed over the years to lose it's integrity. It's used loosely in relating to a perfect meal, outfit, or evening out, and then it's applied strictly to the deficiencies of our children's character. Surely that hot dog was not as perfect as you'd like your kid's room to be, but we hand it out generously to items of triviality, and then hoard it up when humans are involved. Why is it that we know we are incapable of perfection, yet we expect it of others?

Maybe it's because we're not perfect.

perfection in parenting

Perfection in Parenting

I see parents apologize for their imperfect kids, and there is really nothing wrong with that, but it seems sometimes behind the apology is an expectation that they will be able to train their child to possess the full extent of a character quality before they're 18 and move out of the house. Yes, you may be working with your children in learning to be content in their circumstances, but guess what? God is still working that out in my own adult heart.

The problem with perfection is that parents assume that it is possible to be a perfect parent. I'm not saying it's hopeless, so why try. I'm saying that we should change our focus from perfection to excellence. There is only one Perfect Father, God, who gives us an example to follow, but we will emulate it imperfectly because we are mere humans.

If we strive to do everything with excellence, we still might be less than perfect, but that's okay. There is really only one time that perfection is required, and that is the moment when we stand before the Lord in judgement. Even then, only those who have handed off the job of being perfect to Jesus Christ will be able to stand.


What is a Mother to Do?

Search Your Heart

If you struggle with wanting perfect children, pray and ask God to reveal any impure motives. Do you just want them to be perfect in public? Do you want them to be perfect so that they'll be easier to parent?

Trust the Lord

God is the great craftsman. He is working out a masterpiece in each of us. We are stewards of our children, but He's the one that directs their hearts. He will not leave a project unfinished. He's trustworthy.

Show Grace

Pray for the grace to be patient with your child as God works on their character. This does not mean excuse bad behavior. It means that we don't need to shame, embarrass, or humiliate our children into behaving rightly. Shower them with grace. How many times must we forgive them? Jesus said 70 x 7. Discipline, but forgive.

Stop Expecting Perfection

Above all else, remember that practice does not make perfect, it makes progress. God formed us like a never-ending onion. We have layer upon layer of depth to our depravity that requires an expert hand to remove. We till the soil, we plant seeds, and sometimes we're blessed to reap a bit of harvest. Even so, each year, we're required to work the soil, plant seeds, and wait on the Lord for the harvest.

Expectations are the thief of joy. Enjoy your children. Celebrate their successes. Praise their excellence. Discipline their unruliness. Pray continually. But don't apologize for the fact that your children are not perfect, and don't beat yourself up for not being a perfect parent. Neither of those options are on the menu. Instead choose humility and let the Lord's power be perfected in your weakness.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

2 Corinthians  12:9

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