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Coach Mom Newsletter - Jun/JUL 2011

The Problem with Perfect

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 family.

I hope that the messages you get from Coach 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  (Navpress, 2011)!

Bless you!

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Is Your Perfectionism Impacting Your Kids?

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 years.” 

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” way.

After that parent /teacher conference it became clear that my perfectionism was negatively impacting my kids.  It 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 perfect Father.  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 mess up.

 If 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.  In Freedom From Performing: Grace In An Applause Driven World, I define grace in this way:   “Grace tells me I am fully known, loved, forgiven, empowered and pursued by God.”  The more I internalized God’s grace, the more I was able to offer a human version of that to my kids.

My kids are now all adults.  They love and serve God.  I’ve apologized for the pressure I once put on them to be perfect and asked their forgiveness.  As they’ve watched me internalize His grace and find freedom from performing – they too are learning to relax and enjoy God’s grace. 

Becky Harling is author of Freedom From Performing: Grace In An Applause Driven World (Navpress, 2011.) www.beckyharling.com

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High Achiever or Perfectionist?


High Achiever


Satisfied with doing an excellent (or something close) job.

Will accept nothing less than perfection.

Takes pride in accomplishments and is supportive of others.

Critical of themselves and others.


Pulled toward their goals by a desire to achieve them.

Pushed toward their goals by a fear of not reaching them (failure).

Sets goals high, and might even enjoying the fun of going past them.

Often sets initial goals way out of reach.

Enjoys the process of chasing a goal as much or more than the actual reach of the goal itself.

Sees the goal and nothing else.

Generally happy, and bounces back easily from disappointment.

Less happy and easy going. Critical with self when high expectations go unmet.

Views failures as inducements to further learning and work.

Afraid to fail. Views mistakes as signs of being personally unacceptable.

Goes for it.

Procrastinates because of the fear of failure.

High self-esteem.

Self-critical, leading to low self-esteem.

Source: http://stress.about.com/od/understandingstress

Ask Coach Mom

Dear Brenna,

I have 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!


Dear Julie,

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.

Some things you might consider for overcoming your perfectionism:

·    To motivate change, identify ways perfectionism is hurting you and your family.

·    For a 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 those areas/times.

·    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!)

·    Change 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 silverware). 

·    Make a conscious effort to interpret mistakes (by you and others) as opportunities for growth and excellence.

·    In all these things, seek the Lord’s help.

Bless you as you grow in peace and grace!


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