Everybody has advice for parents. The sheer amount can be dizzying and irritating, especially when it’s unsolicited, and mothers like myself are simply tired of feeling that no matter what we do, it’s never enough. (Been there, felt that.) But I have to admit as much as I can get annoyed by others’ suggestions, there are times when I cannot hold back from sharing my own because I truly feel like it will be helpful. In my opinion there’s a difference between empowering advice and sanctimonious preaching – and what I’m sharing with you today is the former.
I recently interviewed Dr. Christine Carter, a sociologist and the author of Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps For More Joyful Kids And Happier Parents, on the subject of happy moms and there was one phrase she used that stuck with me: We need to stop parenting from fear and start parenting from love.
“Perfectionism and overachieving are really parenting from a place of fear rather than a place of love,” explains Dr. Carter. “So when you’re parenting from a fear of disappointing other people, a fear that something will happen, fear of failing as a parent in some way, that creates a very different childhood than being motivated by the desire to teach and to nurture and to grow somebody.”
What you need to let go of to be a better parent
So, what the best thing can we do to be better and happier parents? It’s letting go of perfectionism. No, it’s not a new idea. In my bio you might have noticed I have also embraced trying my best and have given up on trying to do everything perfectly well. That only happened once I realized that striving for perfection was making me miserable.
According to Dr. Carter, a self-proclaimed “recovering perfectionist,” I was right. “I think perfectionism is a particular form of unhappiness. I feel the whole trick to parenting is not just to be a good parent but also to just enjoy parenting,” says the happiness expert at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center . “And I think it is impossible to enjoy parenting is you are also trying to raise a perfect child or be perfect yourself.”
What might be surprising is that you are giving a gift to your children by embracing mistakes. “If you’re trying to be the perfect mother, you’re modeling perfectionism in your kids. And essentially you’re modeling unhappiness, “ asserts Dr. Carter. On the contrary, by showing kids the mistakes we made, and explaining what we learned from them, we provide them a pathway to growth. Most importantly, you teach your children the good things about failing.
“Because when we react to our mistake-making with self-compassion, or with self-forgiveness, our brains become ready to learn, we are able to learn from that mistake and do something differently the next time” says Dr. Carter.
That is one thing I want to make sure my children learn, because I know I will not be able to be with them every single time they face difficulties or things turn out the exact opposite than expected. I want them to know it is okay to make mistakes and that no matter how many times you fall, you can always dust yourself up and get up.
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