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Family Life

The "Perfect" Parent Myth

The idea that there are "perfect" parents who raise happy, well-adjusted problem-free children is a myth. We need to acknowledge that they simply do not exist.

Rather, parents should strive to do the best they can, given their own specific set of circumstances, based in reality.

Real-life parenting

At any one time, on average, children may have a handful of behaviors that their parents find challenging. These might include not following simple requests, avoiding chores, spending too much time watching TV or playing video games, squabbling with siblings or having difficulty completing homework, for example.

Other common challenges include managing temperament issues. Children may also want too much independence, or not enough. Or, they may prefer friends or activities not approved by parents.

Mistakes are OK

It is normal to feel worried, confused, angry, guilty, overwhelmed and inadequate because of your child's behavior. That is part of being a parent. It is self-defeating to try to be perfect, or to raise perfect children.

All parents and all children make mistakes as they try to communicate, deal with one another and solve problems.

Try to trust yourself and your instincts. As a parent, you likely have good intuition and knowledge of your children. Don't be too afraid of making mistakes. Children are resilient and forgiving, and they usually learn and grow through their mistakes. Parents tend to be just as resilient and forgiving.

Flexible parenting

Parents who "live for their children" put themselves in a tough position. They set themselves up for possible disappointment, frustration and resentment. They are also being unfair to their family.

Parents should not expect to receive all their personal fulfillment from their children or from the parenting role. They need other activities to fulfill their self-images, and other sources of love and nurturing. And they need time to be adults and time for themselves—and a break from children and parenting responsibilities.

As a parent, aim to develop your own philosophy within a flexible and adaptable framework. It should feel comfortable. Take into account your own expectations, parenting style, and temperament. Also consider how they fit with each of your children and your partner and their own unique preferences and temperaments. Your approach and philosophy will vary from child to child, mainly because of their own unique traits.

Reach out for help when you need it

Along the way, remember that professional help is available if problems ever become too intense and it becomes hard to cope. Reaching out for help can avoid secondary difficulties such as a decline in school performance, increased family stress or serious emotional problems. A good start is discussing the issue with your primary care physician.

Take comfort in the fact that in the vast majority of cases, children do turn out well. Along the way, try to keep your sense of humor, trust your instincts and seek out help and advice early rather than late. While parenting is a great challenge, it can also be one of the most rewarding and enjoyable experiences of your life.

More information

Last Updated
Adapted from Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5 to 12, 3rd edition (Copyright © 2018 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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