Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Raising a Perfectionist

One of the first things you learn as a parent is that you have flaws... major flaws... and lots of them. Children are like those makeup mirrors that zoom in and show you more about yourself than you ever cared to know. You don't think your tone of voice when talking to your spouse is disrespectful? Wait until that same tone and those same words come out of your four-year-old's mouth. You'll start to change your mind. And honestly, I don't think it's necessarily an entirely bad thing. I really appreciate how much my kids have helped me grow, just by watching how they respond to situations. It's far easier to accept personal "correction" through internal conviction by watching someone else rather than by someone having to verbally tell you what you need to change. And if you can recognize it and change that behavior in yourself first, it makes the correction process with your children a whole lot smoother.

But there are times when you see something in one of your kids that you yourself haven't been completely freed up from. That's when things start to sting a little... Trust me, I'm freshly wounded...

You see, Addi had soccer camp this week. She played recreational soccer last fall and spring and loved it, so I didn't think twice when signing her up for a skills camp.  And although she had only really played games and hadn't worked much on technique, I figured she would be fine. Besides, she hadn't done much without her siblings this summer and I knew she was anxious to do her "own thing."

The first day of the session came and she was ready. With her ball pumped up and water bottle in hand, she was bound and determine to dominate that field. The coach started calling out instructions and the girls started kicking. It looked like a big green neon blob rolling back and forth between cones with the occasional bright pink ball getting away from the group. Everyone seemed to be doing somewhat of the same thing, but there was something that stuck out more than all those brightly colored socks... Addi. With every drill, I could physically see her confidence deteriorate. Although I was concerned about her feelings, I kept smiling at her and giving her the "thumbs up" to keep her going until the end.

It wasn't until later in the day when I really had a chance to sit down and talk with her.

Me: "Adds, did you have fun today?"

Addi: "Yeah."

"Do you want to play it again during school?"

 "If you want me to."

"Well Addi, I don't want you to do it because I want you to. It's a fun special thing for you to be able to play. Either you like to play soccer or you don't. Just tell me."

"Well, I like it, it's just hard. I just want to do school. And swim. School and swim."

"Okay. Well let me ask you this.. If you did what the coach said exactly right the first time and you were the best at it, would you want to play soccer?"

...with a smile... 


"So you just get so frustrated because it's hard, that you don't want to play soccer anymore?"


I didn't even have to finish the conversation to know where this was all stemming from. It had nothing to do with soccer itself. I've seen her react this way when practicing using scissors and trying new things. If it doesn't come naturally to her and she doesn't do it perfect the first time, frustration immediately sets in. Wow.. the apple really doesn't fall far from the tree.

I've known for years and years that I deal with the spirit of perfection. Although I wish it was, it's not the same as doing your best at everything or with a spirit of excellence (Colossians 3:23, Daniel 6:3). It is needing to do it in a way that there is no room for error. Flaws, weaknesses and shortcomings do not exist in the world of a perfectionist. And unfortunately, it walks hand-in-hand with a controlling spirit. You control your world so you aren't faced with failure.

So how do you break that bondage off of your child so he/she does not deal with frustration as you have? Prayer and submission. Like I said, I've known for a long time that I deal with perfectionism and though I have not yet completely overcome it, I have grown immensely by praying daily and relinquishing my control to the Lord. Your children are never too young to teach them where true freedom and joy come from. It is not by the number of medals on your shelf or the grade letter on your paper, but rather by having the peace and satisfaction that you are wonderfully made and as long as you are doing your best as unto the Lord, it is good enough. 

It may happen overnight or it may be a life-long journey. Either way, each morning will be a choice for you and/or your child. Are you going to walk in the bondage we call "being perfect?" Or are you going to choose to accept that gift of freedom that you have been given?

"Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom" - 2 Cor. 3:17

"But he [the LORD] 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. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." -2 Corinthians 12:9-10