For decades I have been a a perfectionist.
I graduated high school with a 4.92 GPA on a 4.0 scale and finished college with a 3.89… just 0.01 away from Summa Cum Laude. And for years I was bothered by the .1 or less I was away from perfection.
How could I possibly live with less?
- Ways to promote vulnerability and resilience in kids
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Even before that I remember going to a counselor in 5th grade that wanted me to intentionally do my math homework wrong so that I didn’t focus on perfection as much as showing up to “do”.
I believe both views are wrong.
We don’t have to be perfect, especially not our children, but we do need to show the value of putting in our best effort every time and learning from it.
Since having kids, I have become more of a recovering perfectionist as the veil of deception has been lifted. I don’t have to be what I am not and I am more than accepted even in imperfection. But that overly striving towards a good or great thing is not the evil I was once presented with by that childhood counselor.
For decades, our culture has demanded that girls are to be perfect and boys to be brave. All of society screams to our children that they must fit a mold, that anything less is not worthy, that high standards are the only standards and that simply trying isn’t good enough. But children tend to suffer doubt and worry at the intersections of perfection and bravery.
Perfection and Bravery offer little grace and in terms of mental health and can cause frustration and despair without the right tools to intervene. Instead of continuing to subtly insinuate to our kids that it’s a weakness to be vulnerable, we can model it as a strength.
Related: How vulnerability fosters community
Honestly? There is nothing wrong with fearlessness, bravery, strength, beauty, or even but there is no need to elevate any of them to the point of idealism.
Boys can still be raised to show emotion, to have reservation, and show strength in areas other than bodily ability. And that’s still to be praised. Girls can still be pretty and feel proud of how they look, and we should tell them they are beautiful for who they are.
So when we, as a society perpetuate perfection and idealize bravery, we fail to show our children the beauty of being vulnerable and resilient. Let’s encourage our kids to show healthy emotions and pursue dreams without fear of failure.
Rutter (1987) defined resilience as “the positive pole of individual differences in people’s response to stress and adversity”.
I am not perfect as a parent but I do want to do better about letting my children live in an area of grace where they have a healthy response to stress and adversity that allows them to bounce back and take it in stride as a step in the right direction.
Ways to promote vulnerability and resilience in kids
Our children must know it’s ok to make mistakes or to fail.
one of the greatest gifts we can give our kids in childhood is the ability and safe space to make mistakes as they learn. Instead of expecting perfection in tasks or bravery in moments they feel uncertain, we can guide them and direct them in correcting mistakes and processing feelings.
They need to learn healthy ways to express emotions.
If we help them understand that it’s perfectly fine to cry, to get angry, or to be cautious when necessary, then they will have a healthy understanding of their own needs in the moment which will hopefully also improve their own future mental health.
As parents we can help them process emotions they don’t know how to handle.
Anger is a real emotion. And being angry is ok. Hurting someone or breaking an item is not a healthy expression of frustration.
Similarly, screaming from excitement has its time and place.
When we teach children both how to label their emotions and then appropriate outlets for both positive and negative feelings it gives them the freedom to express themselves versus bottling or lashing out.
This is normalizing healthy emotions, both positive and negative.
Encourage kids to grow through “practice makes progress” versus perfection
In moments of failure or the feeling of less than, it’s an opportunity to emphasize that every opportunity we have is to do our best even if our best is simply practice and progress.
Ready to help validate your child or student’s emotions?
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Kara is an author and advocate for positive, grace-filled parenting. She is homeschooler to her 5 children living on a farm in New England. She believes in creative educational approaches to help kids dive deeper into a rich learning experience and has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development. She is passionate about connecting with and helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!