When I first heard a podcast about No More Perfect Kids, the phrase “perfection infection” caught my attention right away. It is so easy for the comparison game rampant in our culture to slowly infiltrate our homes. Under the guise of seeking excellence and preparing our kids for the “real world,” we often raise the bar of expectations too high.
I love this question from page 46:
“We want to do our best, and we want our kids to do their best, but when does excellence cross over into perfection?”
The answer: “Excellence allows for many ways to accomplish something…Perfection says there is only one way. Excellence motivates us to do well within the reality of our temperaments, our talents and our circumstances.”
“When we expect excellence from ourselves, we work toward a goal cushioned with grace” (emphasis added).
Not only does this take pressure off of kids, but I am relieved that I don’t need to have it all together immediately either!
This concept was very timely as I created a Family Job chart last weekend. While I am convinced that children should contribute to the family by helping around the house, my fear that they will become lazy, messy adults often drives me to expect performance akin to a hired cleaning crew. I frequently devise elaborate routines that none but a drill sergeant can follow and then get angry at the lack of results.
In an attempt to try something new, this time I carefully considered each kid’s age, ability and preferences in assigning weekly house cleaning tasks. For example, it doesn’t work for the child who tends to sleep later to be in charge of unloading the dishwasher. This merely results in my yelling at said child every Saturday when the dirty breakfast dishes sit on the counter til afternoon!
I also gave my older children leeway based on other activities they may have on the calendar, instead of requiring everyone to work at the same time. They know that enjoying screen time and other fun activities is dependent on finishing their jobs, which serves to motivate more than my nagging (go figure!). Giving them freedom to choose when to complete tasks within a framework of time renders a positive attitude shift as well.
Another challenge I frequently encounter is the propensity of my children to do tasks less effectively or efficiently than I do. Go figure again! After reading No More Perfect Kids, I realized that checklists can be helpful in determining the end result (ie – what does a clean bathroom look like?), but the methodology and process of cleaning may vary.
“It’s easy to think that your way is the right way – or the only way.” Kathy says. “Remember 2+2=4, but so do 3+1 and 4+0. There are different ways to get to the same result.”
Is it still ok to show my children how to do a particular job? Yes, by all means. Leaving children to entirely figure things out alone isn’t parenting. After all, there are “tricks of the trade” that help immensely in completing any task…from washing the dishes to setting the table.
My goal going forward, however, is to focus more on effort and age-appropriate results and to let go of my concept of perfection. I’ll let you know how it goes!