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How Perfectionism Stunts Children's Growth

How Perfectionism Stunts Children's Growth

Type A Personality.

First born child.

Fiercely competitive.

A strong-willed nature.

These are just some of the things that defined me from a young age. I was my own worst critic and perfectionism was stripping the life right out of me. I remember practicing those endless piano scales over and over and over. I could never just play through the scale if I made a mistake; I would feel the need to immediately start over from the beginning until it was just perfect.

Fast forward into young-adulthood, marriage and the birth of my first-born child. All of these traits clung to me over time. Picture me, feeling the need to match my newborn daughter’s pacifier to her frilly out fits. Plllllleeeeeeeeeeeeeeease! I laugh about it now. I had the overwhelming urge that I needed to have the house perfect, keep up with all my extra curricular activities, and somehow be super-mom and wife in the mix.

It just wasn’t cutting it; it was leaving me lifeless.

Perfectionism once kept me from pursuing my dreams. For years I had such a fear of public speaking, that I hid away when God was calling me to lead women’s Bible studies at church. Perfectionism can keep us from God’s call on our life.

Perfectionism says you are not enough. God says you are perfectly complete in Him.


We sat across the table from one another at the trendy restaurant in town. I looked at her, future first mommy-to-be deep in the eyes and pleaded with her. I begged her to put away her perfectionism before she pushed that sweet baby out. I shared with her my own struggles with it and how I’ve learned, after three babies and ten years of marriage, that there is no such thing as perfect. Babies cry and sometimes we don’t have a solution. Diapers explode and splatter across the wall. Laundry piles up along with dirty dishes, and our house is left in disarray.

With tear-filled eyes, I looked at that future mommy and I told her that she was enough. It was best to throw away the notion that all of her yellow rubber duckies would be in a neat and tidy row. I pleaded with her to embrace the freedom of imperfection. Why do we yearn to be the best at everything? Why to we feed ourselves an unhealthy diet of the lies that we aren’t enough otherwise?

Christ is made perfect in us so that we don’t have to carry the burden of it.

So, as a mommy to an eight-year-old daughter, how can I instill these wonderful truths in her that I’ve come to learn the hard way? How can we, as parents, teach future generations that perfectionism stunts growth and will suck the life right out of them?

Here are some practical lessons you and I can share with them:

Perfectionism stunts confidence

If our children always think they have to be perfect at everything, they may be less inclined to try something new that they may just be average at, but really enjoy. Encourage your children to venture out and try different things. New foods, new sports, new instruments, etc. It’s healthy for our children to feel okay with taking a risk and feeling confident enough as a child of God to do so. We must feed our children’s passionate pursuits, not their egos. It’s okay to just be average at something!


Perfectionism is a never-ending quest

Teach your children that it should be their goal to do their very best. God rewards diligence and hard work. But gently explain that they will never be perfect at something 100% of the time. It’s a never ending quest, and life will be full of devastation and disappointments if they don’t push it aside now.

We don’t have to earn God’s love

The whole idea of earning God’s favor and love is not gospel. The gospel says that in spite of our sin and imperfection, Christ died for us anyways. He meets us in our deepest place of need, scoops us up, and redeems us. Perfectionism is plastered with legalistic tendencies. It says you aren’t enough unless _______.

Christ says you are enough, just the way you are! Teach your child about God’s unfailing grace and mercy. The gospel is a beautiful way of showing our children that!

A weighty resume won’t feed your soul

We pride ourselves in our achievements. Our successes. Our credentials. A weighty resume, full of great accomplishments makes us feel important. Yes, it does… but not forever. A successful resume won’t feed our souls. Talk with your children about what truly matters in life is giving and serving others. Passionately remind them that our crown and reward will be in heaven one day. Colossians 3:23 says,

And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.

God is more concerned with your heart

God looks on the heart and sees our true motivation and desires. Through life struggles and trials that your children face, teach them that God always sees their heart. Are they doing what they are doing just so they can get that pat on the back or public display of accolade? Or is it to give God glory and honor.

Success isn’t measured by a grade, but by unmeasurable grace.

Perfectionism can keep you from being happy for others

If you’ve ever got warm fuzzies over someone failing at something, you may have a serious issue with perfectionism. Are you so bent on being the best at everything, that you struggle with being truly happy for others that are better than you at a particular task? A competitive nature can be great for many reasons, but it can keep you from truly finding the joy in other people’s successes. Teach your children from a young age to praise other when they do good on a test, get that award, or score that goal. It’s a great example of Christ’s love to put others first and be truly happy for them.

Perfectionism is ugly, but bravery is beautiful

Maybe your child finds it hard to be brave. Many children are very shy and have trouble opening up to others. I love the Brave Girls devotional filled with 90 devotions that will encourage your young girl to have friends, to BE a great friend, and to courageously share her faith with her peers. God is our forever and faithful friend, and this book will teach your youngster to be the best friend she can be to others. Teach your growing girls that bravery is beautiful because confidence comes from the Lord!

Each devotion includes:

  • A relevant opening scripture from the Bible
  • A thought-provoking devotion to encourage a faithful and friendly heart
  • An engaging closing prayer to help the reader become the ambassador of friendship God wants her to be!

So whether you are the parent that is still struggling with perfectionism, or your child is alongside you, I hope you find these practical truths helpful!

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Your Turn

How have you allowed perfectionism to plague your parenting? Since perfectionism stunts children’s growth, how can you put these practical truths into play to help encourage your kids?