Avoiding the Perfect Parent Trap

There is no perfect parent.


We would be so much healthier and happier in the process if we would just realize that it’s our humanity that reveals our need for the kind of help that every parent longs for.  And that looking for help can be healthy.

There are over 70,000 parenting books for sale on Amazon.

Apparently there are experts.

Instruction books.  How To’s and Ultimate Guides.  Step-by-Steps.

But none more important than what God says in His Word.

“Get wisdom, get understanding; don’t forget or turn away from the words of my mouth. Don’t abandon wisdom, and she will watch over you; love her, and she will guard you. Wisdom is supreme—so get wisdom.  And whatever else you get, get understanding.”  Proverbs 4:5-7

I know that I was a far-from-perfect parent, and raising four children in a culture that said, “if you just try hard enough, you can do anything you set your mind to!”, was a huge obstacle in the lesson called humility.  Part of growing up is figuring out what the rules are.  Teaching boundaries.  And, wait–for–it– recognizing your own limitations.  You might want to play basketball in the NBA or the WNBA, but if you’re 4’11” and practice 24-7 there is still a very slim chance that you will play professionally.  Granted, some skills can be honed and you might even exceed in a sport or specific talent while you’re in high school, or maybe even college, but no level of self-esteem or high level training can make the adjustment of your stature.  It just might be that you were meant to do other things.

“Listen, my son. Accept my words, and you will live many years. I am teaching you the way of wisdom; I am guiding you on straight paths.  When you walk, your steps will not be hindered; when you run, you will not stumble.  Hold on to instruction; don’t let go.  Guard it, for it is your life.”          Proverbs 4:10-13

That is not to say that the lessons learned from participating in extra-curricular activities can’t teach you other life skills that could prove valuable to you as an adult.  Sometimes figuring out that you can’t always be the best at everything is a huge wake up call; but realizing your true potential and focusing on those things that you do excel in can be a freeing experience.

And that applies to parenting as well.

While I can readily admit that I wasn’t a perfect parent, it frustrated me greatly when I felt like I failed in some area.  Where did those feelings of failure come from, exactly?  Was it because I thought I had it all together, ready to raise the next generation, only to realize that I wasn’t cut out for this parenting thing?  Maybe.  Or maybe I thought that I had to be perfect, and that if I messed up it meant that I must be terrible at something I thought should come naturally.  Or maybe because some other parent seemed to have it all together, was crafty, creative and organized and I wasn’t–meant that I was only sub-par.

Let me offer a few other possibilities:

1.  I allowed my past to dictate my present.  If I were to base my parenting skills on what I know from my own childhood, I might stack up pretty evenly on the good days, and even pride myself on being smarter than my parents on others.  But the truth is, I am not my Mom and I’m not married to my Dad.  Our life circumstances are very different from my parents and though I genetically inherited some of their personality traits, I can never use that as an excuse for bad parenting or to drive me to do “better”:  I alone am responsible for the choices I make and any life experience or education I might have gained along the way pales in comparison to the wisdom that we need to parent.

And only God can give you that.

2.  I’ve allowed the world to paint a picture of the family that is very different from God’s design.  If you have more than one child, (or sibling) then you know there is no such thing as a cookie-cutter parenting.  Every child is different and because God created them with their own little personalities (even with multiples), you will quickly find that just because a form of discipline or instruction worked with one child, there is no guarantee it will work with the next.  When I was growing up I would watch shows like “Leave it to Beaver” and “The Partridge Family” and “The Brady Bunch” and think, “How fun it would be to be in a family like that!”–all the while, putting others in a picture-perfect world that minimized mine and made it seem more like a paint-by-number.  Truth is, we are more like that rudimentary art form:

We start with a blank canvas and as God fills in the pieces, it all comes together to make a unique piece of art that is our very own.

3.  I’ve forgotten that parenting is the most difficult but greatest responsibility in the world.  It is hard.  You can read every manual out there and come to the realization that no one has quite written the one that you need.  Except GOD.  His instructions are always good and always right.  His instructions come with pure motives–for you to know the One who created you–and to know that He loves you and created you for a purpose.

When we get our minds in the right perspective and our focus is not on our own abilities, but in His, we can walk through the parenting process with confidence–

not in ourselves, but in God. 

“My son, pay attention to my words; listen closely to my sayings. Don’t lose sight of them; keep them within your heart.  For they are life to those who find them, and health to one’s whole body.”Proverbs 4:20-22

I know.  You want quick, easy answers.  That’s why we read “How-To” books.  We find someone who’s already figured it out and can give us the Cliff Notes.  But there’s no shortcut.  You are in this for the long-haul, and when you get to the end of the road you will be wishing it could last a little longer…

So, hang in there.  Stay in The Word.  While you might be reading an Old Testament story (like Isaac and Rebekah in Genesis 25) that shows you what not to do, the lessons are there.  Most often the thing that affected my parenting on a daily basis was whether or not I spent time in the Word, in prayer and in worship.  Using the Psalms to get my perspective on God–His power and His promises, I could face the most difficult of days knowing that HE was in control and that His desire was for my good–and the good of my children.

“But as for me, God’s presence is my good. I have made the Lord God my refuge, so I can tell about all You do.”  Psalm 73:28

“Yahweh is great and is highly praised; His greatness is unsearchable. One generation will declare Your works to the next and will proclaim Your mighty acts. I will speak of Your splendor and glorious majesty and Your wonderful works. They will proclaim the power of Your awe-inspiring acts, and I will declare Your greatness.  They will give a testimony of Your great goodness and will joyfully sing of Your righteousness.”   Psalm 145:3-7

One of my favorite lines from the classic, Anne of Green Gables is when Anne (an orphan who was adopted by a single woman and her brother) is leaving home to attend college.  Watching her leave, neighbor Rachel observes, “God knew she needed you.” to which mom Marilla replies, “He knew we needed her.” 

You’ve been given a gift–and a great responsibility, yes.

But relax.  Enjoy. Treasure the moments.  Do your best always but trust God to work out the details.  He is so much more than an observer in this journey–He will guide you and walk beside you.  Don’t limit Him by being short-sighted.

What you believe about God will influence who you are becoming as a parent.

It matters.  Trust me.  I’ve raised four and now am praying for wisdom for the next generation–my eleven grandchildren.

“Let your eyes look forward; fix your gaze straight ahead.  Carefully consider the path for your feet and all your ways will be established.” 

 Proverbs 4:26

Why not claim some of these verses for your family?  Post Scripture where you can see it.  Let God’s Word remind you of His promises as you fill your mind with Truth.

Here are a few free printables to help you!

3 replies »

  1. Love this so much, Vickie. I’m at the end of my parenting journey. Something the Lord has shown me is that what I considered failures at times were really His way of teaching my children about “real” life. Our mistakes and failures as parents are used by God to teach character to our children. I love how He takes a bad thing (like my bad decisions or poor reactions) and turns it into a good thing. Thank you for sharing this today. It’s encouraging!


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