Last week I had the absolute pleasure of being joined by Jacqui O'Connor of Heart Place NZ to discuss burnout and the effects of it on parents and kids! We chatted about our experiences to provide insight and understanding for other parents out there.
One aspect I wish we had the opportunity and time to touch on was 'Perfection Parenting'. The pressures we put on ourselves can be a contributing factor to burnout or poor mental and emotional health.
My private practice business coach recently threw the term at me when we were articulating some ideas for The Health & Wellbeing Haven. Perfectionism is a character trait that anxiety seems to latch itself on to quite easily. The hard thing with being a perfection parent is that despite all our best efforts, our kids will ultimately but UNINTENTIONALLY have different plans to our carefully construed thoughts and desires.
One of the few guarantees in life is this...
The only control we genuinely have in life is our response to any given situation
How we respond gives us a great insight into the state of our mental and emotional health. So, What effect does perfection have on your parenting?
Before you might say, 'I'm not a perfectionist', rest assured in the spectrum of your personality there is a little perfectionism there. Like any personality trait from narcissism to empathy, pride to humour, we wouldn't be complete without a good balance of everything. Even the less desirable traits. How they are expressed is what I'm here to talk about today.
Perfectionism can be way to exercise control in an aspect of our life we feel too out of control of. Parenting is a perfect example. When we ask something of our children, we are not dealing with a computer who can be programmed to act in a certain manner, we are dealing with a person who also has a full spectrum of emotions, thoughts and personality traits that - just like us - if not more so, is keen for some control beyond what they have in the moment.
Perfection parenting can show in a variety of ways, not just what we expect of our children, more so however, in the unrealistic expectations we can put on ourselves. Do you find yourself -
Bending over backwards to provide for things you didn't have in childhood?
Spending beyond your means to provide?
Rarely saying no?
Holding it together in public, using a passive-aggressive manner?
Allowing boundaries to be moved to avoid negative responses (not just with children)?
Experiencing anxiety when plans don't come to fruition?
Have a constant fear that your child is missing out on something?
These are just some of the ways, perfection shows up in our daily life. It is more often these moments that create more anxiety. Take for example back to school photos. In a sea of Facebook and Instragram posed smiling photos, my son was cricket bat in hand striking an imaginary ball in the lounge room, refusing to look at the camera. Most likely, the only photo he will begrudgingly pose for this year will be the class photo. From Kindy to Year 1, I got nice snaps. In Year 2 and 3, it was a fight which my inner perfectionist lost. This year, I was mindful to go with the flow and accept what will be. What will be? A photo reminding me of the summer my son fell in love with and became obsessed with cricket. Other photos, school work and his upcoming Holy Communion will be there to remind me of his year 4 journey.
Choosing to roll with what will be is no easy feat and takes patience, time and effort. However, in the long, the impact on your mental health and relationships is positive. This is not to say that you should be shifting healthy boundaries for your children either. By implementing a more mindful approach in these situations, you are able to secure and solidify the boundaries you set for your family.
When everyone is able to have an element of control (even if only perceived) in a situation, it is easier to remain at or return to an emotionally healthy baseline when challenges arise.
A great time to trial this is in the kitchen at home. You may have meal-planned for a chicken salad. Already you might be anxious, expecting your child to snub their nose at an ingredient or two, waste good food or start dinnertime arguments. Getting them involved by asking them to select an ingredient they would like to include or having them serve themselves doesn't change your plan. However, to your child, they have a sense of control and choice in a part of their day where they have expectations put upon them.
I invite you to think of moments where perfection is interfering with your parenting, causing undesired emotions and feelings. What can you implement that creates a win-win scenario for your family? What small action will keep you feeling emotionally and mentally healthy? Try it out! See what comes of it.
Claire @ The Health & Wellbeing Haven