Raising perfect children…sounds like a good goal for parents right? It seems to be a goal many parents try to accomplish. They spend money and time on buying the right clothes and learning the right sports. They help their children with school work and teach them proper hygiene, etc. Surely after parents check everything that needs to be done for the child off the list, the child will function perfectly.
Well, if a child were a lawn mower, or a cheese cake then maybe a check-off list to perfection would work. But, there is no such thing as perfect children. God didn’t make children perfect. In fact, I don’t think He intended them to be perfect.
Think about it, if children were supposed to be perfect in their youth, then why would he give them parents to correct and guide them? It makes sense that children will not be perfect children all the time. Otherwise parents would be erroneous.
What’s Wrong With This Picture?
If children aren’t meant to be perfect in childhood, because indeed they cannot achieve that goal, (none of us can become perfect until after resurrection) then what is the purpose of childhood?
Even though this logic makes complete sense, and probably isn’t even knew to anyone, parents don’t usually act according to this knowledge.
I remember when I was a young, newly married, woman I have visions of perfection for my future children. My children would never have boogers running down their face. My children would always match. My children would never go to church without their hair combed. Etc. I had it all planned out.
When I had my first child, and even my second, I kept myself living in a dream while I dressed my boogerless, perfect children. Surely my children were going to win the perfect child contest. Where ever that competition actually takes place, I don’t know. It has to exist though because parents all around the world are obsessed with preparing their children to win that contest for them.
To win the contest you have to impress the neighbors, be better than the cousins, excel in school, sports, and music, have lots of friends, and be completely obedient to parents.
The list sounds like a good goal, but the problem is–the purpose for the list is pride. The whole objective of making perfect children is generally for the purpose of impressing people, or wining some imaginary parenting contest.
Not long into parenting I woke up, and accepted boogers and mistakes as part of childhood. Only then did I really learn what parenting was about.
A New Perspective
One day years ago a woman said to me, “I’m not one of those perfect parents.”
This statement really made me think. “Was I one of those? Was I the kind of parent who spent my day trying to impress all the people who would never come over? Or, was I doing something different?”
You see, perfect children and perfect parents go hand in hand. The parent who wants perfect children is apt to also want to be the perfect parent. Is this bad?
The Parenting Goal
Well, we should want to magnify our callings as parents. We should want to do our best. In fact, if we don’t, we are held accountable. So, not trying to perfect and correct our children and ourselves is actually a sin. But, is it a sin to forget to comb their hair one Sunday? No. We obviously need to prioritize. Stopping the impulse to micro-manage the family could also be a good idea.
Idealism is good. It is always the root and motivation for a goal. But, we need to be careful about what ideals we choose to be important and what ones we don’t. For instance, spiritual ideals might be much more important than social ideals.
What teachings and corrections are really worth it, and which aren’t? Well, that depends on what the goal for the parent is I guess. My goal as a parent is to make joyful adults, who know what their mission in life is, and can’t wait to fight for it. And, have solid relationships with God and family. This is my goal.
Since making a certain kind of adult is my goal, I have to train the heart of my child and mold his character with work, sacrifice, and moral exactness. Since this is my goal, I need to teach my child to communicate effectively with people and God. This means accepting no answers, following instructions and disagreeing appropriately.
To teach these things will require corrections. But, the corrections will also fit the goal!
The goal is to raise a certain kind of adult, which means I don’t need to feel like me or my child is failure if either of us makes a bad choice from time to time. I can trust in his purpose, goodness and ability to change. And, I can correct everything with love, understanding, and calmness.
Correcting is really important. A person will never reach his full potential (perfection) unless he is corrected time and time again. Even more specifically, a person has to have the opportunity to accept consequences. Each time consequences are accepted the child has the opportunity to learn cause and effect, and to assess his own behaviors. This process is essential for learning self-government.
Self-government is the closest we can get to perfection at this time. But, it is possible. We won’t be perfect at governing ourselves at first. But, over time our hearts will change. They will become more powerful and we will become better and better at leading our actions with our wills instead of our senses, emotions and bodies.
So, wanting perfect children is unreasonable and can create stress in your relationship that will damage your connection to your child. But, lovingly and firmly correcting your child and allowing him to accept consequences will help him become the kind of adult you know he is meant to become to fulfill his life’s mission.
Learn more about Teaching Self-Government here.