Parents have a tendency to think that the light shines out of their children’s bottom. Some think their kid’s drawings rival the work of Picasso, that every song they sing could land them a recording contract and that their beauty is impressive enough to score a modelling contract.
I on the other hand have never felt that way. That is not to say I don’t love my children – because I do so dearly – it’s just that I have always had a realistic, as opposed to unrealistic, expectation about their abilities and achievements.
I don’t tell them they are perfect because guess what? They aren’t because no child is. Kids make mistakes all the time. They are sometimes disrespectful, rude, selfish and greedy. They all have their periods when they are lazy, upset, whingey and mean to their siblings. Just like adults. You will catch just as many grownups displaying the same character “flaws” that you find in little people.
When you tell someone that they are perfect, you actually make a fatal mistake, even when you think you are giving them a compliment. We all know deep down that we aren’t perfect. No matter what our age we are all aware of our shortcomings. So when you place that label on a person, you give them a heavy load to carry, an unrealistic expectation to live up that they would honestly much prefer to throw away.
People were born to be real, not to fit into some cookie cutter mold of expectations. When you constantly brag to someone about how perfect they are, you set them up for disappointment, increase their anxiety and blanket them with an underlying feeling of pressure that never really goes away. Perfect people aren’t real and real people aren’t perfect. We all have flaws and issues that make us unique. We all lose it sometimes. We all have something that we wish we could change about ourselves.
It is instead a gift when you tell your child, partner or parent that they aren’t perfect but you love them anyway. You give them permission to be imperfect, real and inadequate in areas when they can’t help it. You help release them from their self-imposed shackles of expectations that previously kept them afraid to make mistakes or fail.
It’s a gift because the truth is we all fail. Failing, making errors and falling down are in fact how we all learn in this journey called life. In the end, affection is more important than perfection. Don’t tell anyone they are perfect – instead love them for their imperfections. Grant them permission to be whoever they were born to be. Kiss them, hug them, love them, imperfections and all.
And for those parents who think their children are without fault, when it comes to having tiffs with other children or grading at school, I encourage you to keep your eyes wide open because no child is perfect. If you turn a blind eye to bad behavior it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen or that no one else saw. Before you demand perfection from anyone as a a parent, partner, friend or work colleague, I beg of you please: make sure you don’t have any yourself. As they say, let he who is without sin cast the first stone. So before you point your fingers, make sure your own hands are clean.