Coach Mom Newsletter - Jun/JUL 2011
Guilt. Moms fight it all the time, striving
to be the perfect mom, setting too high
standards for ourselves and those around us.
Perfectionism can wipe a momma out and cause
ripples of destructive patterns in the
I hope that the messages you get from
Mom are an encouragement to you in the
midst of parenting’s ups and downs. Though
no one can be a perfect mom, there is one
change that will always make us a better
mom. Living with grace – accepting God’s
grace, and extending grace to ourselves and
everyone around us – is key.
If you struggle with perfectionism,
expecting too much of yourself and others
around you, this month’s guest contributor
Becky Harling will help you think about how
that impacts your family and will give you
tools to adopt a healthier mindset.
And look below for info on how to win a copy
of Becky Harling’s book
Freedom From Performing: Grace In An Applause Driven World
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by Becky Harling
My husband and I sat
across the desk from our daughter’s fifth
grade teacher stunned by his words, “Mr. and
Mrs. Harling, your daughter is such a
perfectionist that if we don’t help her,
it’s going to become more severe in her teen
That wise fifth grade
teacher was right. By the time our precious,
perfectionist daughter was 16 we were
battling an eating disorder.
Eating disorders prompt some deep
introspection into family dynamics.
For me personally, it was time to
take a hard look at how my perfectionism was
impacting my daughter. Truth be told, she
came by it naturally. I had been a
perfectionist as long as I could remember.
Growing up, I felt a lot
of pressure to bring God my best, but my
best felt difficult to measure. How could I
know for sure if I had brought God my best?
I couldn’t, so I set higher goals for
myself: read my Bible more, keep better
prayer list, get better grades in school, be
kinder to my siblings, on and on it went.
When my performance wasn’t perfect, I felt
like a failure. After all, to be a Christian
meant to be like Christ. He was perfect, and
I could never quite get there. With failure,
my perfectionism only got worse. I would
rededicate, recommit, and restate my
intentions to try harder to be like Jesus.
Perfectionism followed me
into adulthood and when I became a mother,
my perfectionism skyrocketed. I had
unwritten rules for myself; Never speak a
sharp word to my children, make sure they
don’t get dirty (difficult because at the
time my oldest was a baby and we were living
in Sudan, East Africa, where the dirt and
dust continually blew in our windows!) read
them stories, play educational games with
them every day, spend time praying with them
every day and pray over them every night. I
wanted to enjoy every minute of being a mom,
but my rules left me uptight and worried
about whether I was parenting the “right”
After that parent
/teacher conference it became clear that my
perfectionism was negatively impacting my
stirred up anxiety and fear in them.
It diminished their understanding of
grace since they weren’t seeing enough grace
modeled in our home. And, most importantly,
I believe it took away from their
understanding of God’s love.
In the parable of the prodigal, (Luke
15) Jesus paints the portrait of God the
Though He is perfect and holy He
doesn’t impose perfectionism on His kids.
Instead, He offers grace, love, forgiveness,
understanding and acceptance even when they
I was going to find freedom from
perfectionism, and offer that freedom to my
kids, I had to internalize God’s grace to
the core of my identity.
As I began to study grace as it is
taught in the Bible, I found that the word “grace”
in the Greek refers to God taking great
pleasure, delight and favor in us. His grace
is not measured out in proportion to how
well we perform.
Freedom From Performing: Grace In An
Applause Driven World, I define grace in
“Grace tells me I am fully known,
loved, forgiven, empowered and pursued by
more I internalized God’s grace, the more I
was able to offer a human version of that to
My kids are now all
They love and serve God.
I’ve apologized for the pressure I
once put on them to be perfect and asked
As they’ve watched me internalize His
grace and find freedom from performing –
they too are learning to relax and enjoy
Harling is author of
Freedom From Performing: Grace In An
Applause Driven World (Navpress, 2011.)
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Satisfied with doing an excellent
(or something close) job.
accept nothing less than perfection.
pride in accomplishments and is
supportive of others.
Critical of themselves and others.
toward their goals by a desire to
toward their goals by a fear of not
reaching them (failure).
goals high, and might even enjoying
the fun of going past them.
sets initial goals way out of reach.
the process of chasing a goal as
much or more than the actual reach
of the goal itself.
the goal and nothing else.
Generally happy, and bounces back
easily from disappointment.
happy and easy going. Critical with
self when high expectations go
failures as inducements to further
learning and work.
to fail. Views mistakes as signs of
being personally unacceptable.
Procrastinates because of the fear
Self-critical, leading to low
always loved children, and I thought when I
had my own kids I would be happier than any
other time in my life. Instead, I find that
I am more stressed out than ever before. I
have two active boys ages three and five. I
feel like I spend all day every day running
around after them picking up toys and
cleaning. I’ve always been super tidy, and I
sometimes feel anger welling up about all
the messes. I know I should probably not do
all the cleaning up for them, but I want to
do it myself to make sure it gets done
right. When one of the boys’ teachers
mentions a behavioral problem in the
classroom, I obsess over it and can’t get it
off my mind for weeks, feeling like a
failure as a mom. I am trying to train them
in a way that they will turn out right, but
I don’t seem to be enjoying the journey
along the way. I feel like a pitiful mother
most of the time. Please help!
The first step to change
is recognizing that change is needed.
It sounds like some perfectionist
ways may be hindering your joy in the
journey. First, recognize that parenting is
a messy venture! Realizing children are only
small for a season, and that a boy’s
“energy” often peaks at age five (in my
opinion!) helps you get through times that
are difficult. Then work to shed the burden
of perfectionism, so that you and your
family can lower your stress levels and
enjoy daily life a little more.
you might consider for overcoming your
motivate change, identify ways
perfectionism is hurting you and your
few days, write down your perfectionist
thoughts (I didn’t do well enough, I’m
not a good mom, etc.) Watch for triggers
and patterns, then prayerfully approach
Write down scriptures that remind you of
God’s love, grace and acceptance. Post
them where you will see them daily.
Teach them to your children.
Train yourself for positive thinking.
Make a conscious effort to notice all
that is good with your work and the
achievements of others (and
compliment yourself and
others…especially your husband!)
your goals to realistic ones (i.e. the
house is straightened before naptime,
dinner and bed instead of constantly
throughout the day.)
Lower your expectations to allow your
family to work as a team (i.e. children
can help with jobs such as sorting
conscious effort to interpret mistakes
(by you and others) as opportunities for
growth and excellence.
these things, seek the Lord’s help.
as you grow in peace and grace!
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