Why We Don’t Have To Be Perfect Parents

Do you ever feel like a bad parent?

Sleeping dad with baby

I’m amazed how many parents are highly successful in their career, reaching the pinnacle of achievement and winning awards for the performance – but when they come home, they feel like a failure.  Maybe not all the time, but often enough to think, “Why can’t I figure this parenting thing out?”

Kids don’t come with instructions.  I remember bringing our daughter home from the hospital.  We were surrounded by support, and family and friends pitched in to make the transition less painful.

But soon, they left.  We had this adorable, tiny little girl in our house, and we were clueless.

And terrified.

Sleeping dad with babyFortunately, we (like most parents) began to figure it out as we went.  We made mistakes – lots of them.  We usually didn’t realize they were mistakes until it was too late.

Sometimes we wondered if we were ruining our kids by the mistakes we made.

We read books.  We listened to advice from people we trusted (often conflicting advice).  We swapped stories with other young parents.

We really wanted to do it right.  And we did a lot of things right.  And we kept making a lot of mistakes.  We were just afraid that if we made too many mistakes, we’d mess up the kids.

Looking back, we recognize that our kids didn’t need a greenhouse, where everything was perfect.  They needed a safe place to learn how to handle an imperfect world.

An imperfect home with imperfect parents helps kids learn to handle real life.  They learn about what to do with their emotions, and how to disagree.  They learn what forgiveness looks like when they mess up.  They learn to apologize by being apologized to.

They learn grace.

Parenting is an important task, because the stakes are so high.  Sure, we need to protect our kids.  But we also have to prepare them to handle life on their own.

The older they get, the more we need to trust the journey.  Someday, they’ll be independent.  Will they have what it takes to survive?

If so, it’s not because they grew up with perfection.

It’s because they grew up in the messiness of real relationships that taught them to negotiate life.

As a parent, that gives me hope.  I don’t have to be a perfect parent.

  • I need to care consistently.
  • I need to love unconditionally.
  • I need rock-solid devotion to them, no matter what they do.
  • I need to believe in them when they can’t believe in themselves.
  • I need to make mistakes, and then demonstrate how to handle mistakes.

Our kids are grown now.  We still make mistakes with them.  But they still don’t need us to be perfect.

They need us to be real.

When that happens, maybe they learn to do the same.


What else do kids need from parents to be ready for the “real world?” Comment below:

  • Craig Petinak

    Great post Mike! Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

  • Diane

    Thankfully, I have “grown up” a little, and am more real with who I am as a person now than when the kids were young. I would hope they can see that and they will feel freer to be themselves with my grandkids while giving themselves grace to make mistakes and grow. It’s never too late!

    • “Never too late” . . . and that’s a good thing . . .

  • TyHoad

    This post encourages me more than I could ever say.
    Thank you.