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Archive for the ‘Perfectionism’ Category

15 Signs That You May Be A Perfectionist (and 20 Ways to Overcome Perfectionism)

SOURCE:  Rachel Fintzy Woods, M.A., LMFT

When your colleagues at work compliment you on a talk you just gave, do you dismiss their remarks and berate yourself for the one slide you forgot to include in your Powerpoint presentation?

If your husband tells you how pretty you look, do you counter with a comment like, “I really should lose five pounds”?

Do you have a critical voice in your head that constantly takes you or other people down a notch?

Signs that you may be a perfectionist:

  1. You are painfully aware and extremely critical of mistakes and perceived inadequacies. You have trouble beginning projects. You procrastinate a lot.
  2. You strive to be the best in all your endeavors, even in areas that don’t really interest you.
  3. You spend an excessive amount of time on projects, double-checking and revising your work. You obsess over minor details.
  4. You have trouble completing projects. You quit projects prematurely, often out of frustration at the process not being easy or your not being an instant natural at the task.
  5. You have difficulty making decisions. Sometimes even ordering from a menu or deciding what outfit to wear can be challenging for you.
  6. You think in all-or-nothing or black-and-white terms. For you, there is no middle ground. You use the words “should,” “have to,” and “must” a lot.
  7. You make unrealistic demands of yourself or other people, and your interpersonal relationships are often tense (or end) as a result.
  8. You suffer from social anxiety or social phobia.
  9. You avoid trying new things, for fear that you won’t excel at them or will make a mistake.
  10. You rarely feel “good enough.” You struggle with low self-esteem.
  11. You are prone to feelings of shame, depression, or anxiety.
  12. You often experience a feeling of emptiness.
  13. You suffer from stress-related physical conditions.
  14. You struggle with compulsive overeating, restrictive eating, other eating disorders, or body dysmorphic disorder.
  15. You struggle with alcohol or other substance use.

Saying ‘yes’ to any of these items is not necessarily an indication that you are a perfectionist – however, endorsing more than a few of the items may indicate that perfectionism is an issue for you.

Perfectionism can be defined as placing undue pressure on oneself and others to meet impeccable standards and being hyper-critical of mistakes. Where it is healthy to strive for excellence, perfectionism often leads to depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, eating disorders, substance abuse, self-harm, problems at work, and procrastination.

As author Brene Brown puts it, “When perfectionism is driving, shame is riding shotgun, and fear is that annoying backseat driver.”

When we succumb to perfectionism, we fight a losing battle, because we can never be good enough, simply because we are human and thus imperfect. This internal war causes tremendous stress. In fact, many of the issues that motivate us to seek psychotherapy involve some variety of perfectionism. We perceive ourselves as not sufficiently nice, thin, smart, attractive, interesting, intelligent, capable – the list goes on and on. So, we develop the belief that “if only” we had this, that, or the other thing, we’d be happy – and all the while we are chasing a mirage.

Being a perfectionist is an exhausting way to live, in which we are focused on the unreachable goal rather than paying attention to and appreciating the journey.

There are many reasons for perfectionism, some rooted in a traumatic childhood in which we felt unsafe, helpless, or unable to cope with life – and, wait, wouldn’t that be all of us to some extent, given our extremely vulnerable state as small children?

We could also have had a perfectionistic parent, who we could never please. If we received a score of 98% on a school exam, our parent questioned us about the 2% we got wrong. We might have adopted this perfectionistic approach to life ourselves.

Whatever the case, perfectionism is dangerous.

The sooner we accept that being called a perfectionist is not a compliment but a warning, the sooner we can take steps to free ourselves from perfectionism:

  1. Count the cost. Make a list of the pros and cons of your perfectionism. How has it helped or hurt you, in the short and long run? How have your career, relationships, physical, emotional, and mental health, spiritual life, finances been affected?
  2. Relinquish the all-or-nothing mindset. You cannot do everything with 100% accuracy. This is simply impossible. Be okay with being human and the inevitable learning curve involved in any project. Allow yourself to do thing imperfectly and incompletely.
  3. In fact, try being imperfect on purpose. Consider the concept that humility attracts.
  4. Focus on the big picture. Stop obsessing over unimportant details. Do not get lost in the minutiae.
  5. Give yourself credit for your accomplishments, large and small, rather than focusing on what you did not achieve.
  6. When it comes to feelings of “not having enough” (such as with consumerism), ask yourself if you really need something and what value it would add to your life. Chances are that you do not need another toy just because the ubiquitous ads tell you that you need it or because your friend or colleague has it.
  7. Set your priorities. It’s not realistic to have 20 items at the top of your daily to-do list. Pick one to three things on which to focus your energy, and devote a reasonable amount of time to each item.
  8. Give yourself a reality check. Ask yourself, “How important is this, really? How much will this matter to me in a week? A month? A year?”
  9. Consider the worst-case scenario and how you would deal with this. Would the world really end if you wore two mismatched socks? If you forgot a friend’s name? If you gained five pounds?
  10. Focus on the process, not the result. Adopt a curious, courageous, and kind attitude, appreciating every step of your journey, even the unpleasant ones, as opportunities to learn and grow.
  11. Practice radical self-acceptance. Appreciate yourself, warts and all, and accept life on life’s terms. You cannot control everyone and everything.
  12. Replace your self-doubt with self-respect, self-love, and self-compassion. Getting to know your real self, as opposed to an idealized image you wish to portray to the world and yourself, is the antidote to perfectionism.
  13. Allow yourself to experience all of your feelings. Perfectionism demands that we feel certain emotions and not other emotions. What often happens in this scenario is that we end up being estranged from all of our emotions, as it’s almost impossible to pick and choose what we’re going to feel. The healthier choice is to bear compassionate witness to the full gamut of your emotions, without judgment.
  14. Make healthy relationships a priority. Let other people know your true, magnificently imperfect self. This is the only way to develop authentic relationships.
  15. Take good care of your body, mind, and spirit. The basics: good nutrition, regular exercise, sufficient sleep, relaxation, fun, intellectually challenging projects, an active social life, meditation, and connection with a higher (i.e., bigger than you) purpose.
  16. Don’t overthink things. Just dive in there. You can revise later, or try another one of the options on your list.
  17. Remove the words “should,” “should have,” “must,” “have to,” and “if only” from your vocabulary, and replace them with “want to,” “choose to,” “prefer,” and “now I’ll…” Let go of the past, which you cannot control. Focus on now and your next step.
  18. Understand that while your perfectionism and associated wish to control your feelings and environment may have developed from childhood attempts to deal with anxiety (it’s scary being a helpless child), you are older now and can employ other more-effective methods of coping.
  19. Don’t let fear dictate your behavior. You can feel uncomfortable and take action all the same. Your inevitable mistakes don’t define you. Done is better than perfect.
  20. Determine your most important values and life purpose, and let these guide how you allocate your time, energy, and resources. Use these ideals as guidelines, not absolutes, to avoid perfectionism in this area. Although you may continue to keep to-do lists, refrain from letting your lists (and thus your achievements) determine your self-worth and direction.

We are all human.

None of us is all good or all bad. And this is okay. As you shed the perfectionism habit and embrace being the glorious person who you really are, you’re likely to be a lot more relaxed, happier, easier to be around, healthier, and, yes, more productive.

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You Need to Accept the Reality of Failure

SOURCE:  Rick Warren

”There is no one on earth who does what is right all the time and never makes a mistake” (Ecclesiastes 7:20 GNT).

In America, failure is almost the unpardonable sin. We idolize success.

But that kind of pressure creates major stress on people. The fear of failure has many different faces. It can cause you to be indecisive, a workaholic, and a perfectionist who clings to safety. Because we’re afraid to fail, we shun all kinds of risks.

For many of us, that fear of failure has an iron grip on our hearts. Even some of the best and the brightest people in the world are the most impacted by a fear of failure.

That’s why I urge you to internalize this one simple message: We’ve all made mistakes. It’s not just a “you problem”; it’s a human problem. The Bible says, “There is no one on earth who does what is right all the time and never makes a mistake” (Ecclesiastes 7:20 GNT).

Not only have you made mistakes in the past, but you’ll also make more in the future. I guarantee it. Even playing it safe and refusing to take risks is a mistake. As a pastor, I hear people ask all the time, “What if I fail?” I want to ask them, “What do you mean ‘if?'”

You’ve already failed many, many times in life. So have I. You’re a failure in some area of your life right now. And you’ll fail a lot more in the future.

Even superstars stumble. The greatest professional basketball players only sink half their shots. The best professional baseball players will get out two out of every three at-bats. Failure is normal.

You’ll never overcome your fear of failure until you fully accept the reality that you’re not perfect.

The Bible says there is only one failure you need to fear: “Be careful that no one fails to receive God’s grace” (Hebrews 12:15 NCV).

You need grace. We all do!

Only when we let go of the fear of failure will it let go of its maddening grip on our lives. Once that happens, we can fully accept the grace of God

Perfectionism is Ruining Your Life

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud/Dr. John Townsend

One of the biggest mistakes a person can make is to become preoccupied with perfection. That’s different from envisioning perfection as a goal.

It’s about whether perfection is a goal, or something that you demand. Believing that you can realistically attain perfection is no different than wandering through the desert, ever-thirsty, toward a mirage that only recedes toward the horizon. A lot of people obsess over perfection. This obsession is a massive waste of time and energy.

Perfectionism is a distraction, a justification for procrastination, an excuse for never getting anything done. When perfectionism is about one’s own striving, it is hostility aimed inward. When it is aimed at others, it is a cold and compassionless hostility toward the world. Perfectionism is a refusal to accept reality, and it is rooted in fear. To the perfectionist, nothing will ever be good enough.

For many people, perfectionism originates in childhood, with parental pressure to achieve. This can be motivated by a lot of things, from parents measuring their own status by the achievements of their children, to an egotistical desire to imprint their child with capabilities they wish they had themselves. Whatever the cause, perfectionism often has an opposite effect from what these parents would hope for their children to develop if they want them to become high achievers. Perfectionists are much less likely to take risks because they are afraid of failing, and the willingness to take risks, along with the adaptability to learn from one’s mistakes, are two essential characteristics of high achievers.

Perfectionists fail to accept that the world, and all of the people in it, are flawed. Understanding that concept is something that can fuel compassion, foster empathy, and help you develop healthy structures for continuously improving your own performance.

It’s fair to say that doing something the wrong way, whether at work or in a relationship, feels bad. By contrast, doing something the right way feels good. This is a core concept underlying the self-regulating systems of internal rewards that drive motivation. With a healthy, growth-oriented mindset, navigating these pathways will help us to increase our capacities in the most important areas of our lives.

In order to put that idea to use, we must be willing to make mistakes along the way. Sometimes we will not do things the right way. Someone who accepts that reality would understand that the mistakes we make are learning opportunities, glean what lessons they can from their experiences, and work on improving. The perfectionist fights reality. They do not want the bad feelings that come along with making mistakes. They drastically overestimate the pain that will be caused by those bad feelings. They become paralyzed. They do not grow.

Perfectionism is an incapacitating force. It stops us from connecting with the real, but it also stops us from connecting with others. The inward perfectionist will never feel good enough to be loved or appreciated, the outward perfectionist will always find the flaws in the details, unable to find redeeming virtues that are plainly visible to the rest of us.

Habits are hard to break, but the mechanics of overcoming perfectionism are easy to put into practice. All you have to do is be willing to make a lot of mistakes. Understand that that’s what we’re all doing all the time, continuously messing up, learning, and doing better.

There is a relevant passage from a book called Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. The scene takes place at a tennis academy. It’s a conversation between two players, one of whom is suffering from debilitating perfectionism:

“Suppose I were to give you a key ring with a hundred keys, and I were to tell you that one of those keys will unlock it, and this door we’re imagining opening in onto all you want to be, as a player. How many of the keys would you be willing to try?”

“Well, I’d try every darn one,” Rader tells Lyle.

“Then you are willing to make mistakes, you see. You are saying you will accept 99% error. The paralyzed perfectionist you say you are would stand there before that door. Jingling the keys. Afraid to try the first key.”

Profile of a workaholic

SOURCE:  Ray Pritchard/CareLeader

Workaholics.

You’ve got them in your church, and at times, you can relate to them yourself.

A workaholic is a compulsive worker: he chooses to work a lot, think about work, and then work even more.

What does the Bible say to workaholics?

Ecclesiastes 6:7–8 says, “All a man’s labor is for his mouth and yet the appetite is not satisfied. For what advantage does the wise man have over the fool? What advantage does the poor man have, knowing how to walk before the living?” (NASB). His “appetite is not satisfied.” The Hebrew word translated “appetite” may also be translated as “soul.” This is yet another reminder by Solomon that we were made for more than food. A man may get up, go to work, come home, go to bed, and then do the same thing for the next fifty years. After that he retires to Arizona, plays golf, and then he dies. So what? His soul has not been satisfied by anything he has done. He dies unfulfilled even though his friends said nice things about him at his funeral.

What are the signs of workaholism?

The modern term workaholic refers to those people who are addicted to their work. For them, work is life, and the more they work, the better they feel. Here are three telltale signs of workaholism:

  1. Their total energy is given to their work so that they have nothing left to give at home.
  2. They constantly think about their work even when they are not at work.
  3. They find it difficult to relax when they are away from their work.

What are common characteristics of a workaholic?

Workaholics generally are Type A personalities: committed, aggressive, demanding, perfectionistic, goal-oriented, high achievers, impatient with weakness, easily frustrated, having enough stamina to work twelve hours a day six (or seven) days a week. They love the long hours and the high pressure job. One man said, “I don’t know how I got rich. I only worked half-days: the first half or the second half.”

What wrong beliefs do workaholics hold?

From God’s point of view workaholics make three fundamental mistakes. To be more specific, they believe three heretical ideas:

  1. “It all depends upon me.”
  2. “If I don’t do it, nobody else will.”
  3. “My worth depends upon my work.”

Like all heresies, there is a grain of truth in each statement. Work is good. It was created by God for the benefit of the human race (Gen. 2:15). But for a person to believe his worth depends upon his work is to deny the truth of the grace of God. Workaholics are simply repeating the Galatian heresy—that we are saved by grace but kept by works (Eph. 2:8–9; Gal. 3:3).

The truth is, it all depends upon God. Everyone comes to that conclusion sooner or later. Unfortunately, some people have to die to find it out. Happy are those who understand the difference between living to work and working to live.

Fear of Failure

SOURCE:  Shannon Kay Mccoy/Biblical Counseling Coalition

Maria describes her relationship with food as a love/hate affair.

Food is her BFF (Best Friend Forever), her secret pal, and her lover.

She loves to plan special times with her favorite foods—on her way to work, during every work break, at lunchtime, on the ride home, at dinnertime and during midnight cuddling. She loves every tasty morsel while she is eating it. However, with the food nestled in her stomach, she begins to hate it. She hates that her eating is out of control. She hates that she feels bloated and ten pounds heavier. She hates that she has failed another diet. She knows she has to change her disordered eating, but she fears failing again.

Fearing Failure

The fear of failure is being afraid of not accomplishing a desired goal. Fear of failure might cause people to sabotage their own efforts to avoid the possibility of a bigger failure or to avoid trying something new altogether.

Many people are afraid of failing at some point in their lives. But fear of failure crosses the line when it becomes debilitating. It can render them immobile—preventing them from ever moving forward. There are three characteristics that contribute to the fear of failure:

  • People-pleasing
  • Perfectionism
  • Pessimism

People-pleasing

People-pleasing is simply the fear of man. Proverbs 29:25a states, “The fear of man lays a snare.” The fear of appearing as a failure to others controls and confines a person’s thoughts and actions.

Maria desperately wants to please her relatives at the Christmas family reunion by showing them that she lost the extra weight gained since having two kids. She worries about what they will think or say so she decides to go on a crash diet. She fails to complete the diet, doesn’t lose weight, and decides not to go to the Christmas family reunion.

Perfectionism

Perfectionism at its core is pride. It refuses to accept any standard lower than perfection. People with this mentality set excessively high standards, strive for flawlessness, and are overly critical of themselves and others who fail to reach their standards. Fear of failing in perfectionism renders a person useless. This too is a snare, because God’s Word tells us “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23).

Maria makes an appointment with a nutritionist. At the first meeting, Maria sees that the nutritionist is a little pudgy around the waist. Immediately, Maria is turned off to whatever information is given and leaves the appointment determining never to return again. She fears failing to eat right, because the nutritionist did not live up to her expectations.

Pessimism

Pessimism is fearing that whatever is hoped for will not happen. There is no confidence in the future. Pessimists look at challenges with a “glass-half-empty” mentality. They refuse to believe the best and eliminate positive expectations. This is a serious problem that comes from within the heart. The Psalmist cries out to himself, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” (Ps 42:5). His faith wrestles with his fear. There is a sense of despair for the future.

Maria is pessimistic about the weight loss program at work. She has no confidence that she will lose weight. She has tried so many different diet programs resulting in nothing but utter failure. She thinks to herself, “Why would this program be any different? I will fail at this too.”

Do you struggle with the fear of failure like Maria? Overcoming the fear of failure begins with acknowledgement. It takes courage to admit and face your fear of failure. Next, you must explore the causes of your fears. Are your fears rooted in people-pleasing, perfectionism, or pessimism? Finally, seek God’s solution to the problem of fearing failure by trusting in God, boasting in God, and hoping in God.

Trust in God

People-pleasing comes from a self-focused desire to be significant in the eyes of others. People-pleasers fear failing to please others, dealing with their disappointment, and losing their credibility. This is misplaced allegiance which in turn is sin. When people are controlled by pleasing people, they are not pleasing God. To overcome that snare, they must put their trust in God. Proverbs 29:25 proclaims, “… whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.” Trusting in God keeps people safe from the snare of people-pleasing. Trusting God—and following him—protects them from concerns over what others think or say about her.

Boast in God

Perfectionism is fear of showing weaknesses by failing to meet high standards of perfection. It is rooted in self-centeredness. It promotes self-praise and self-glorification, which is a sin. The Bible teaches, “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness… God’s power works best in my weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9; 11:30). The power of Jesus Christ dwells in those who boast about their weaknesses instead of trying to cover them up.

Hope in God

Pessimism is a choice. The pessimist chooses to view life from a despairing perspective. But this denies the omniscience and omnipotence of God. The fear of failure implies that God doesn’t know what He is doing in your life or that He doesn’t have the power to fix it. Fearing failure demonstrates a lack of hope in God. Yet passages like Psalm 42:5 encourage us, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation.” The psalmist challenged his own pessimism and chose to put his hope in God.

Maria acknowledges that she is a people-pleaser, a perfectionist, and a pessimist. Through prayer and an earnest desire to seek the Lord instead of her own self-focused desires, her heart has begun to change. When the temptation arises to fear failure, she chooses to trust God instead of pleasing people; she chooses to boast in God instead of her own achievements, and she chooses to hope in God.

Our greatest hope is found in Jesus Christ. The gospel reminds us that our failures are not a surprise to God. He uses our failures to teach us flexibility, humility, patience, perseverance, compassion, and persistence. Ultimately, our failures, when surrender to God, help to grow us into the image of Jesus Christ.

Parenting: Who’s Running Things Around Here?

SOURCE:  Chris and Michelle Groff/Family Life Ministry

 The undeniable fact is that God expects parents to lead the family.

Aaron and Jennie wanted the best for their daughter Claire. They knew a good high school resume was important to get into a prestigious college. They also knew this didn’t just happen; it required years of preparatory work.

Over the years, they pushed Claire to excel in school and extracurricular activities—the ones she would need in order to be a “success.” Aaron and Jennie sacrificed a lot of time and energy to help Claire lay the groundwork for her future.

Early in her life, Claire sensed how important her achievements were to her parents. She wanted to make them proud of her. Whether it was her grades, sports, cheerleading, or clubs, she did it all and excelled at most. But sometimes she neglected more mundane responsibilities because she knew she could count on her parents to bend over backward to make sure she overachieved on the “important stuff.”

For example, when Claire rushed off to school and left her room in a mess, her mother would clean it up because she knew Claire would be exhausted when she came home. Claire’s back-to-back activities were often on different sides of town, so her parents took turns leaving work early to drive her from one to the other. When Claire remembered before a club meeting that she’d signed up to bring brownies, her mother would drop everything, go to the store, and make the brownies so Claire could work on her homework instead.

So who really was running Aaron and Jenny’s household? It was Claire.

Her needs came first, and her parents formed their schedule around hers. Her parents’ desire for success led them to sacrifice their time, money, and energy for the goals they had for Claire.

That may sound noble at first, but a closer look at the role of the central authority will show you how turning the hierarchy in the home upside down actually results in less growth and maturity, less preparedness for the world, and the possibility of a serious case of entitlement on the part of the children.

So what is a proper biblical authority structure for parents and children?

A hierarchy for healthy families

The undeniable fact is that God expects parents to lead the family. In fact, He spelled out a hierarchy designed for healthy family functioning: The husband is to be the loving, self-sacrificing head of the wife and kids. With this authority comes the most challenging task of all: to love his wife the way Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5:23). Talk about a high calling!

Next, the wife is to be intimately involved in and consulted on family decisions. (See Ephesians 5:21 and 1 Peter 3:7.) Just because she is subject to the husband’s headship doesn’t mean she has no authority. In reality, lots of child-raising responsibilities are delegated to Mom, and Dad must support her in those tasks.

Finally, children are to obey their parents and learn from the loving, empathetic relationship that develops with them. (See Ephesians 6:1-4.) God designed the family in such a way that parents are to function as a team of true, loving, central authorities. This lays the foundation for everyone to fulfill his or her responsibilities to the family with love rather than selfishness or pride. (See Ephesians 5:21-6:4.)

Parents must learn the dynamics of exercising authority together. Intuitively, kids will learn to master the divide-and-conquer approach to dealing with authority. They will quickly recognize the weaknesses in the parental team and learn how to pit Mom against Dad when it works to their advantage.

For example, if Mom has a particular way of dealing with problems and Dad has another, the children will learn to choose which one is better for them as each individual situation crops up.  They can run to the rescuer to avoid consequences and to the dictator when they need a problem solved.

Kids are much more likely to learn how to solve problems and face consequences when their parents are united in their approach and fully supportive of each other.  These parents are able to provide clearer boundaries and a greater sense of security to their kids.

This may require parents to have team meetings from time to time in order to work together.  Ideally, you’ll discuss these difficult parenting issues in private so you can agree on boundaries and deliver effective consequences as a unit.  Even if you don’t have time to consult one another before each issue, you’ve got to be supportive of the other parent and keep your disagreements private and behind closed doors.

Fear of discipline

An even more subtle way children indirectly acquire the role of central authority is when parenting decisions are shaped by a fear of discipline or causing pain.  When parents fail to exercise their authority because they can’t stand to see their kids suffer consequences or because they are afraid their kids will be mad at them, the kids have become the authorities in the home.  These fearful parents resort to pleading, bargaining, or whining to get their kids to do what they want, but these approaches undermine their authority and rarely get the responses they are seeking.

Some parents are so afraid of being disliked by their kids that they fail to establish reasonable boundaries for the kids’ behavior.  These parents rationalize with comments like “Well, they were going to do it anyway, so I thought they might as well do it where I can keep an eye on them.”  What’s sad is that the effort to convince their children to like them usually results in disrespect and entitlement instead.

Still other parents are afraid to exercise their authority because they think that enforcing boundaries with consequences will damage their child’s self-esteem.  They believe every experience must be a positive one or their child will become discouraged and lose heart.  But one of the reasons God gives people trials is to build perseverance, maturity, and confidence.  Parents who believe in their children and support them in their struggles without rescuing will find that godly self-esteem is a natural by-product of the process of struggling through discipline.  (See James 1:2-4 and Romans 5:3-5.)

In contrast to the parents who are afraid to exercise authority, other parents exercise it too harshly.  These parents run the family like a drill sergeant, barking out orders and expecting everyone to jump at their commands.  They often insist on “first-time obedience,” expecting their kids to obey every command without challenge, excuse, or delay.

While we all want our kids to obey the first time we ask, the dictatorial approach sends a message that we aren’t willing to listen to our kids.  It emphasizes our power and authority over the value of having an authentic relationship with our kids.  This makes obedience difficult for rebellious kids and mechanical for compliant kids.  In neither case is the child learning from his or her experiences because the parents are forcing their will on the child rather than walking beside them and using the experiences to shape their character.

Far from having the positive influence they desire, an overbearing parenting style can cause kids to become preoccupied with the power disparity.  As a result, many kids can’t wait to get out from underneath this power structure as soon as possible.  In the meantime, they will look for passive/aggressive ways to exert their own power.

As parents, it is time to reevaluate what it truly means to exercise godly authority.  This is not being permissive or domineering but rather being balanced as God is balanced.  He will help us learn to exercise our authority well and how to maintain a careful balance between truth and love.  God expects and equips us to exercise our power empathetically and judiciously, with the overarching goal of encouraging each member of the family to grow into the person He designed them to be.  Pray for the wisdom to be that kind of parent.

Bringing it home

God created families with a particular hierarchy in mind, and parents are at the top of that hierarchy.  For dictators, this is a comfortable position.  For rescuers afraid of disciplining their kids, it can be more difficult.  But a balance of bonding and boundaries is essential to being a godly authority that earns respect by treating his or her kids with respect.  A balanced parent sets boundaries, gives age-appropriate choices within those boundaries, and delivers consequences when kids stray.

Kids will sometimes assume the position of authority in a family when the parents cede power to them, either by making the children’s activities the most important events of each day or by failing to deliver consequences when they are deserved.  Take some time to reflect and pray about your responsibilities and priorities for your family.  Is family time sacred, or does it get sacrificed in order to get to the next practice, game, meeting, or event?  Do you eat dinner together often, or is life too hectic for that?

Do you lovingly discipline your children when they make poor choices, or are you afraid of their reaction?  What about the reaction of other parents?  Do you worry that you might be seen as a bad parent if your kids are not doing all the things the other kids are doing?  Or do you insist on first-time obedience and fail to consider that it’s important for your kids to know the reasons for asking them to do something?  Is your attitude “my way or the highway” where your kids’ thoughts, opinions, or reactions are ignored just to get things done?

Take heart!  God knows your struggles and your tendencies.  Ask for help, and wait to hear.  Spend some time with your Bible and look for God’s wisdom.  He will speak through the words on those pages.  Be empathetic and earn the respect of your kids through clear boundaries, consistent consequences, and a willingness to walk with them through the struggles of life.

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Taken from Parenting by Design, copyright © 2014 by Chris and Michelle Groff, with Lee Long.

 

Don’t Worry, You Won’t Be a Perfect Parent

SOURCE:  Relevant Magazine/Lisa Pennington

You will mess up, and that’s OK.

I am the absolute worst potty trainer in the history of planet earth. My kids, even though they are smart and clever, don’t seem to catch on to the concept of using the toilet until they are much older than average. I try everything, read everything, use crazy techniques (Once I tried floating Cheerios in the potty, don’t ask how it went.) and still they don’t figure it out on my timeline.

I think it’s God’s way of reminding me I’m not perfect.

He does that from time to time, or daily. God points out I’m not the one in charge here. As much as I would like to have a formula for parenting, there is a huge gap between what seems like the best way and what actually happens.

Parenting is a series of obstacles we dodge and prepare for only to trip and fall at least half of the time. We just have to get back up and keep going with God’s grace.

We get this idea in our head that if we make the “right” choices and do the “best” job then our kids will turn out “great.” But what is right, best or great is not as clear as we would like. Even something as simple as teaching a child to tie his shoe can turn into World War III without warning. You show him how to loop the shoelaces, he doesn’t understand, you try a little harder, he cries, you cry, you buy him some Velcro sneakers in defeat. You lose your confidence, you wonder if he will be able to handle the next step in his life, you start looking at the price of vacations on an island in the South Pacific.

We get this idea in our head that if we make the “right” choices and do the “best” job then our kids will turn out “great.” But what is right, best or great is not as clear as we would like.

So what do we do when we our plans don’t work? Even the very best moms and dads have kids who make poor choices. Hey, even the first man who had the perfect Father made some pretty awful decisions! We have to accept that despite all of our valiant efforts, there is a place in our child we can’t reach—I like to call it the God place.

The God place is the area deep inside of each of us only God can see, touch and repair. We can show our child how to tie his shoe, we can explain why it’s necessary to tie a shoe, we can even wear our own laces joyfully—but we can’t make him want to do it. We don’t have the power to make our child want something, no matter how much we try. That is between your child and God.

It’s our job to love, teach, enforce and set an example, then trust God to do the rest. Patience is the key. That and a lot of prayer. Oh, I don’t mean prayer for your child, although it’s important. I mean prayer for yourself not to lose your mind over this little person who seems to be dead set on pushing every boundary.

If you mess up (which you will!), God will take those lessons to shape your child. Either way, the result is God’s job.

You have to trust God to reach those places in your child. If you raise your child well, God will use your efforts and build on them. If you mess up (which you will!), God will take those lessons to shape your child. Either way, the result is God’s job.

Trying techniques and theories and chore charts and reward systems are all good options. But once you have put the system into place, don’t believe for a second it is going to assure an outcome you want. From babies who won’t sleep to toddlers who won’t eat to teens who refuse to enjoy, well, anything, we must give our kids’ needs over to God. Some people need different lessons, and only God knows what they are.

Before you get completely discouraged and decide to give up trying and just go hide in the closet with a bag of chocolate, believe that your role as a parent is important. You have a place in your heart too where only God can reach, and He speaks to you there on behalf of your child. You will get inspiration and encouragement from Him to try new ideas and you will be amazed at how His ideas produce a better outcome than any of your plans could have.

Just because you can’t guarantee the outcome you want doesn’t mean you don’t try. Remember your efforts are a tool of God, not a guarantee. Even though you are a huge piece of the puzzle for your child, you are only one piece.

And by the way, all of my children are now fully potty trained despite my inadequacies. I fumbled my way through it each time and learned some valuable lessons from those days. First, I learned to lean on God for inspiration and grace when I didn’t know what to do. Second, I learned to always keep a few towels in the back of my minivan. Both of those lessons have come in handy many times since!

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