For some, especially first time mommas, it can be hard to tell the difference in excellence and perfection. Here’s which one you want and how to achieve it with your children:
I was stricter on my first born child. Not just on the big things, but the little things too. Let me explain…
Some might say that I was even a little overbearing. Ouch!
Reality hit me one day while my loving dad was over for a visit. He was watching my interactions with my oldest and made some gentle, but honest observations.
My dad is not very opinionated (most of the time), so I listened. He gently reminded me that I didn’t want to raise a robot, but instead wanted an obedient and Independent Child.
So, I took a step back and decided that I was pushing too much for perfection instead of encouraging excellence in a healthy way.
Believe me, first born children do enough of this on their own without moms help…
I’ve learned some things through research, experience, and by raising multiple children… I don’t want perfectionist mindsets. Nope! Instead, I want to foster excellence in the best ways for these little minds.
Check off critical household, social, and hygiene skills for your child so they’re prepared (not petrified) of growing up!
Excellence and Perfection Defined
I first caught on to this idea of excellence and perfection in The Birth Order Book: Why You Are The Way You Are by Kevin Leman.
Here’s the truth: we want out kids to be excellent, but never perfectionists. Why?
A perfectionist, contrary to popular belief, is not someone who just tries to do things perfectly. Many people do that…
In contrast, a perfection’s is someone who is frozen, unable to act, and paralyzed by the fear. They are worried that what they will do will not be perfect. They are scared to try new things and very wary of the unknown.
Perfectionists, therefore, are passive, not starter-finishers and are more often than not procrastinators.
This can be devastating to their self-esteem and have a hard time rising above it. They will even refuse to do things they want to do. Some personalities will be more prone to this, but there are some things we can do as parents to promote excellence.
As with most areas of life, fostering excellence and avoiding perfectionism requires walking a fine line between expecting too much and not expecting enough.
Research shows (according to the 5 Love Languages of Children) that children – by the age of 3 – who were engaged in a variety of learning activities relevant to their age will have a significantly greater chance of meeting their potential as adults.
How can this be achieved?
1. Realize that unconditional love is always the foundation
Unconditional love does not mean you condone bad behavior, it simply means your love for them is not based on their behavior, but based on their position.
Children who feel unconditionally loved learn, behave, and rest better. They are generally are better suited to thrive.
Their position as your child means they:
- have your complete love
- feel unconditionally loved – and I mean feel it in their heart, not just know it in their head
- are motivated to follow your lead
- trust your intentions, guidance and will want to please you
- will not feel the need to please, but will want to out of love
Excellence and perfection can be balanced with love.
2. Teach that excellence is measured through effort, not result
Measuring through effort, not result builds a growth mindset.
If one child tries their very best and brings home a C, throw a party. If your child spends a long time carefully coloring in the Barbie colouring book but the colours are odd and nothing was in the lines, show it off and hang it up.
The result is only of secondary importance to their effort. If they learn to give their all at a young age this should naturally transition them into hard-working and purposeful adults.
Want to help develop your child’s strengths Use these cards to dive into the character qualities and how your child does – and can in the future = exhibit them in their own life.Learn More
3. Evaluate your own personality
If you tend to be laid back, easy-going and passive then you probably don’t require enough of your children.
However, If you are ambitious, neurotic (ahem, like me), and aggressive then you are probably expecting too much.
- If their chore of the week is dishes and they wait until your back is turned and simply run them under hot water and call it a day, you probably need to do a little training in putting forth more effort.
- If you expect your 6-year-old to fold the towels all perfectly even like you so they look better in the linen closet, you probably need to take a step back.
It’s a balancing act…
Children who are not required to achieve a certain acceptable standard will find it difficult to focus and work hard later in life and will not be easily self-motivated.
On the other hand, children who are held to an impossibly high standard will be left feeling as though they can’t measure up.
Neither one of those situations is ideal. So, how do you “let go” or “step-up?” It honestly starts just like it did with me… evaluating your personality and intentionally choosing how you want to raise your kids.
These checklists include all the tasks that need to be done in various rooms so that your little one can use pictures or text to help them complete a group of chores in one area.Learn More
4. Encourage and expert your children to “Give It A Go!”
My 18 months old sometimes wants me to do her games for her.
If there is a round hole and a round block she’ll try for a second and then hand it to me and say “please.”
I recognise this as her thinking she can’t do it, but knowing I can. I’ll put it in one time careful to show her exactly how. Then I’ll put the block in her hand and do it, then I’ll give her the block. 9 times out of 10 she’ll succeed in doing whatever we were playing and she is always so proud of herself.
She will say “yay” and give a little dance. What she thought she couldn’t do, she can, and it pleases her.
Knowing that she tends to lean towards perfectionism, I watch her like a hawk to make sure she feels free to try new things and, succeed or fail, have fun.
If it takes her twenty minutes to climb the three-foot ladder outside, I don’t rush her. When she acts I specifically praise her action and say “well done.” If she “messes up” I say, “that’s okay, good effort, let’s try again.”
Don’t let them quit after a “failure” or they’ll be left feeling down.
5. Don’t be afraid to “spur” your child a little further
While unrealistic expectations are unhealthy, too low expectations are also unhealthy…
An adult who was never required to give an excellent effort as a child will be less motivated and have less experience of the joy and triumphs of success.
Children who are expected to DO their best (not BE the best) will be set up to succeed in the real world.
Children have to be taught that growth and character building come when we make the hard decisions and do what’s right even if we don’t feel like it. Unfortunately, these things don’t come naturally to the human condition.
Here’s the reality: If children aren’t used to getting out of their comfort zones, they will not do it simply because they come of age.
It’s difficult but “spurring” your kids to do what’s right even if they don’t feel like it is an important attribute for their growth.
Having an attitude of “they’ll have time to do that later, let them be kids now” is just another form of Credit Card Parenting that does no one, particularly the kids, any favors.
Pull out these fun connecting questions to share some laughs with your precious ones!
Use them at:
- meal times
- car rides
- as a “calm down” trick
- for dinner time conversation
- or any time the day is getting chaotic or
- you need a reset to connect.
At the end of the day…
If your kids are tending toward perfectionism, first pump unconditional love into them. Then, as their “love tank” is full you can spur them on to giving things a go without feeling like they have to be perfect. After all, they’re already perfect to their mamas!
How did you get so smart? :O)
A Mother Far from Home says
Must have been my mother….. :)
You write so well, Rachel!!!!!
Much wisdom in here :)
A Mother Far from Home says
Thank you so much, Lisa!
Adriel Booker says
I’ve wanted to read the Love Languages for Children book for a while now. I’ve put it off thinking, how much more can I learn that’s different to the concepts put forth in the adult version (which is great)… But now you’ve got me wanting to read it again! Must add that to my list… Thanks Rachel!
A Mother Far from Home says
I thought the same, but the interesting part for me was on discipline and how it is greatly affected by the languages. It’s a quick read if you’ve read the other but honestly it makes the whole concept richer!
Very well-written, Rach. However, I’d like to hear a woman’s perspective on the “participation award” problem, which, as I see it, is as at least as destructive to a child’s development as a nurturing, positive upbringing.
A Mother Far from Home says
Participation awards, I’ll have to do more looking into those before having an opinion. I think there is most definitely a place, however, for rewarding kids who have really tried just not “won”