The Perfect Father

“Did you make your bed, Jeff?” “Yes Dad.” “Did you take out the trash, Jeff?” “Yes Dad.” “Did you mow the lawn, Jeff? “Yes Dad.”

I remember growing up in a house that was all about “doing.” Take out the trash, clean the house, make your bed, wash the car; everything seemed to evolve around doing. The problem was, I could never seem to do what was asked of me good enough or right. ‘Right’ to a perfectionist, I later learned in life, can only be completed at his or her own hands; and even then they will find something wrong.

The Perfect Father
The Perfect Father

Regardless of how hard you try, trying to please a perfectionist is futile. And even worse, there are no accolades. Even when what you do is to the satisfaction of a perfectionist, you receive no credit. After all, that’s the way it should be done, and you shouldn’t be rewarded for simply doing something the way it should be done, right?

After I became a father, I realized I had adopted a lot of this perfectionist perspective of life; raising my children the same way I was raised. The dishes, the bed, the trash; it all was playing out in front of me again. Only this time I was the perfectionist and my children were the ones never being able to live up to my expectations.

The ah-ah for me was when I recognized that not only could I never live up to the expectations of my father, or could my children now ever live up to mine, but the more devastating revelation was, I couldn’t live up to my own expectations. It’s one thing to let Dad down, but what’s worse is letting you down. I didn’t see it then, but I do see it now, that a lifetime of disappointing someone else had led to a lifetime of disappointing myself, and I had hid that disappointment behind the mask of perfectionism.

When unrealistic ideals become your expectation you will never reach them. And not only will you never reach them, you will live in a perpetual state of disappointment. No one will ever live up to your expectations, including yourself, and you will never be happy with your life.

To break the perfectionist cycle, give ‘em a break.

The first thing I started to do was, “lighten up.” I began to go easier on my kids. When I wanted to say something negative about a task they completed, or when I walked by as they were loading the dishwasher, not the way I would do it but it was still getting the job done, I didn’t correct them; I held my tongue. I chose my battles.

Then next thing I did was ask my children their opinion. As a child, under a perfectionist father, I never had an opinion. My father always told me that if he wanted my opinion he would give it to me. I went through so much of my life not knowing I had a choice in any matter, I simply did what I was told. Not having a choice as a child leaves you inept when it comes to making choices and decisions as an adult.

I changed when I started giving my kids the freedom to make their own decisions – within reason of course. Asking your children their opinion helps develop their sense of self-worth. They begin to believe they matter, and that they can help contribute to life rather than just being told all the time how to live it. Learning how to guide my children’s lives rather than dictate them turned out to be a saving grace in our relationship. I had to come to accept that my kids were good working at getting “gooder.” If you see your children as wrong trying to be made right, you will spend a lifetime trying to fix them rather than enjoy them. They will be moving out on their own, and they never became yours before they left.

Connect With Your Kids At All Cost.

If you suffer from perfectionism, lay down everything you think is right so you can make your children feel that they are right. Help your children develop a strong sense of self-worth and confidence by giving them opportunities to make mistakes, find their own way and to formulate their own opinion rather than giving it to them.

Stop Being So Stubborn & Hardheaded.

Don’t swallow your pride; vomit it up for the last time so you can get it out of your way once and for all.

Say you’re sorry before it’s too late.

Start by forgiving yourself first.

Let go of the way you were raised; your parents did the best they could at the time.

Think about all of the things you wished your father did for you, and now do it for your children. There’s still time.

As long as you are breathing you have time to make things right.

There is such thing as a perfect father; it’s a father who recognizes he’s been a perfectionist; at the detriment of his own life and the lives of his children, and one who choses to let go of the way he thinks it has to be for the growth, development and benefit of the one(s) he’s fathered.


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