Eight Practices To Let Go Of Perfectionism in Parenting: Part 2

Eight Practices to Let go ofPart Two of Eight Practices to Let Go of Perfectionism in Parenting

You can view the first four practices in part One.

These are from a Periscope video I filmed last year. You can watch the video or read the edited transcript below. The transcript includes one practice I forgot to mention in the video.

Practice #5 is Authenticity

The next practice for letting go of perfectionism and performance is to practice authenticity and to practice imperfection. To courageously let others know who you really are warts and all. And doing that with your kids.  I think this is really hard in some families especially if Dad is really busy with work. If he’s just kind of tired and exhausted and distracted and focused on sports and hobbies; if he’s just distant and disconnected.  And so the kids wonder: “What does he really think of me?” It’s sad, that can be such a trap, at home for kids and for families where “Dad pays attention or Dad shows up, when I play soccer or play baseball.” and “Dad gets excited and pays attention to me when I’m doing really well, in sports, but if I’m not, then he’s not really into me.”

Practice #6 is Getting Support and Accountability

Practicing vulnerability is hard. I hear and see this when people talk about Facebook how it’s hard to be vulnerable, it’s hard to tell the truth about where you struggle. And what happens to a lot folks is they struggle on their own, keep it hidden, until it gets unmanageable and then things blow up and it leaks out somewhere.

So, tell others the truth.  Share with safe people. You don’t have to broadcast everything to anyone, but finding folks that you can really disclose who you really are can help you learn to trust that it’s worth it. One of the best things that our family has done this year (we took a break for a while) but we’ve got a small group of friends from church that we get together with once a week  and that’s been great to get support and talk with other parents about where they’re at and where we’re at. To get encouragement and support.

Practice #6 is the practice of having fun as a family. One practice I forgot to include in the video is a suggestion from my son: practicing having  fun and being playful.  Humor and laughing at yourself. If you struggle with perfectionism or anxiety, it can be difficult to loosen up and laugh. My son likes to invent board games and weapons out of cardboard.  My youngest and I like to express playfulness with verbal and physical comedy.  It’s hard to be perfectionistic when you are trying to make someone laugh by making goofy faces!

Humor can be threatening and misused.  As with the other practices, if this is something new or difficult for you, you may need to go slow and get some support for this one.  Our favorite memories as a family are the times we can laugh together, when the kids can tease me.  It reminds me to take a break from all the weighty matters matters in life.  It also helps me not to take myself so seriously and to be too hard on myself.

Practice #7 is Self-Care  clearing your mom or dad if you struggle with perfectionism is to practice self care. For folks that have faith and are believers part of that self-care can be a prayer and worship.  Managing your stress as a mom, as a dad, by simplifying an overwhelmed and busy schedule can really help with with healing up and and getting off this rat race, this treadmill and getting some perspective about what why are we doing, what we’re doing, why are we so busy and tired and overwhelmed.  Practicing self-care and pulling back to evaluate what you’re doing as a family and who are you trying to please and who are you doing it for can help you figure out things.  To figure out what things are unhealthy, things that need to go, things that in your schedule that you need to cut out or have healthy boundaries about and say “no” to.  This will give you the space to pay attention to your heart, to pay attention to your stress level and pay attention to your kids and be aware of how they’re doing.

“Shifting from human doings to human beings” you’ve heard that phrase.  It takes time. It takes time to just enjoy sitting and being and not doing anything. I think stillness, the discipline of stillness and solitude and silence and not being busy is increasingly being lost.  I know we feel that as a family running around, especially right now with Christmas performances, concerts and things like that. But it’s great to just be able to spend some time, an evening, or a bit of time in the morning disconnected from screens, not having to be entertained but just hanging out and talking and going for a walk or just enjoying the deck and the sunshine.

So, that’s what I’m going to go do. I hope that you guys have a great weekend. If you’re a mom or dad that struggles with perfectionism in yourself or with your expectations and perfectionism or controlling behavior and speech with your kids I hope that some of these things might resonate with you.  I encourage you to take action one or two practices. If it seems overwhelming, just get started.  I hope the best for your family. If you have any questions or comments feel free to comment below or tweet me on Twitter and send me a message. I would love to hear if you have any questions or if you have any suggestions for future blogs or videos. 

Eight Practices To Let Go Of Perfectionism in Parenting Part 1

Eight Practices to Let go of

Eight Practices to Let Go of Perfectionism in Parenting

Here’s a recording of a Periscope video I did last year on perfectionism in parenting and an edited transcript below.

Today’s blog will be the first four practices.  The next blog will be on the second half and include an additional practice I forgot to include that my son recommended to me.

Here’s three signs that you might have an issue with perfectionism in parenting I didn’t included in the video:  feeling Stressed out, Shouting a lot and struggling with Shaming your kids or feeling Shamed.  If you feel that way or notice this going on, if you notice decreased joy in your role and work as a parent, if you feel decreased closeness with your kids even if you spend a lot of time with them or if you talk a lot with them but don’t feel connected at a heart-level, I hope watching this video or reading this blog will help you and your family.


This is something I work on with a lot of adults. I see the effects of their parents’ perfectionism, their stress and anxiety, on them. I hesitate to talk about this a little because I don’t want to come across as shaming parents. Because that’s one thing about perfectionism: shame feeds it and it doesn’t help to feel bad. Feeling bad about your parenting doesn’t help, long-term that doesn’t sustain change. Feeling bad about who you are and how you’re doing as Mom or Dad just feeds that vicious cycle.

At the same time, I do want to encourage parents to be aware of how protectionism affects their kids because that’s one of the ways that perfectionism is harmful to kids and families is that it makes parents really self-focused and selfish.

My kids are 19, 16 and 12 (now) – girl, boy, girl – and this topic, this issue of perfectionism and performance-based love and acceptance is something kind of near and dear to my heart because I just want my kids to experience grace and unconditional love. But it’s so tough and we can we can slip and get sucked into focusing on behavior, focusing on how we look outwardly to other people to other families and get caught in comparison and jealousy and things like that.

So, a little bit about my family for some context then we’re going to talk about practical ways to let go of perfectionism. One of the key ways that this is a challenge and difficult – or has been in the past – for our family, is that each of my kids have been involved in musical theater and music and performance so we’ve had lots of talks about “How do you balance working hard, to do your best, to do things with excellence to do quality work and not get sucked into your self-worth and your approval and your sense of yourself being based on what you do?”

I’ve always tried to affirm and notice the kids for who they are regardless of how well they do with auditions or school work, test results in projects to turn in things like that. But it’s tough, I got to admit, I can slip it into that myself and brag and boast about when they do well.  And with social media that’s a challenge that I see and I hear folks talk about a lot in the counseling office about feeling discouraged and anxious, less than, not good enough, because they see how well other people are doing, how well other families are doing, how well-behaved other kids are in the grocery store or at church and they start feeling discouraged and feeling like they’re failing as a parent.  So here are eight practices, I hope will be encouraging to you.

Practice #1: Self-awareness. To replace performance and perfectionism and getting caught in that trap, the first practice is self-awareness and identifying what’s driving any type of perfectionism, procrastination, avoidance or controlling behavior as Mom or Dad.

For me, one of the things is insecurity. Honestly, when my kids are doing well that’s a boost, that makes me feel good. And we want to be proud of our kids but I notice – self-awareness – that I know I’m getting off track and getting unhealthy when how well they’re doing…I’m more concerned about how I feel, how that makes me feel better, than how they feel and how that’s growing them and how that’s helping them gain some self-confidence. And I’m losing track of what their experiences, and what they’re going through, are teaching them about life and character and forming them into the people that I hope that they will be. So self-awareness, practicing self-awareness about where you’re at with this, can be really helpful.

Practice #2 is Patience: the other thing that can help with parenting and communication is being patient with your kids.  You might have heard the phrase “tiger mom”, it’s from a book written by a mom who really drove her kids down in California. (I didn’t read the book, I’ve read some articles and interviews with her.) There can be a culture of pushing kids academically with music, with extracurricular activities, with the kind of the goal of making it in the ultra-competitive college application process and hoping that they stand out.

The desire as parents for our kids to be successful and be able to graduate high school and get a job and take care of themselves – that, that’s legit – but it really helps to get some perspective and to be patient with their growth, and patient with their maturity level. Allow them to be kids. Stretching them but not pushing them to the breaking point and causing lots of stress and anxiety. I talk with a lot of single adults who are still struggling to find their way they don’t have it figured out and their parents really pushed them.

Having your kids just follow your agenda and expectations doesn’t set them up for success because then they don’t have the ability to problem-solve and discern who they really are and what they end up doing, or pursuing, doesn’t end up being a good fit for who they are, the way of doing things, their personality, their strengths, their temperament. That can be really confusing and disillusioning: when you pursue a college degree, a career path, and get the message that “this is going to make you happy and this is going to make you successful” and you’re just miserable.

Practice #3 is practicing Presence.  This is a whole other topic (blog), but just listening well, spending time with your kids to hear how they’re doing with school how they’re doing with relationships, how they’re doing personally is practicing presence. Listening for how they’re feeling and viewing themselves, what their self-image is, what the messages that they’re telling themselves are, can be really helpful.  But that means spending less time on TV. That might mean spending less time on social media or even Periscope. Setting healthy limits so that you can spend time because those conversations come in the middle of spending time, in the middle of the rhythms of the day and rhythm of the week.

Practice #4: Praise and Positivitity. Another practice is praise and positivity.  And that can be with yourself.  Our kids observe and know the things that we really believe based on the things that stress us out and make us fearful and anxious.  They sniff out the hypocrisy in the things we really value. For example, if we are really critical and negative of other people, other families, then they pick up on “That’s not OK.” and “This is what Mom and Dad are expecting and if I don’t want to be criticized if, I don’t want mom or dad to think poorly of me, then I’d better not look like or act like that person.” And if we speak critically or negatively of other families that can be damaging because they likely pick up on where we’re judgmental and that makes them at risk to be perfectionistic and inauthentic with other people.

So work on your issues.  Don’t pass on your negativity.  Don’t pass on your anxiety.

I’ll post the next four practices is part two of this blog.

If you struggle with perfectionism as a parent or with the affects of a parent’s perfectionism, what do you think of these practices so far?

How might you incorporate these practices in your life this month?

For the perfect Christian Mom

A poem for the Christian Mom

A early Mother’s Day poem for the mom who’s already planning the perfect Mother’s Day for herself and the family.

Afraid of anger
Ashamed of tears
She’s always smiling
But hasn’t laughed in years

Tons of friends
Always on the phone
Everyone loves her
Yet she feels so alone

Husband won the lottery
Such a great wife
“Proverbs 31” woman
Weary of life

Immaculate house
Everything in place
Driven to perfection
What she needs is grace

Grace from the hiding
Grace to let go
Grace for the fears
Grace to be known

Procrastination is Not Self-Care

Procrastination is not self-care.

I started this week with the plan to do some writing tonight.  I’ve been thinking about two different blog posts for the past two weeks (Social Media is the new Materialism.  Instagram is turning us into hoarders and cat ladies. And a post on the Space Between Being and Doing).  And I was feeling a bit bummed that I didn’t post a 1 year anniversary of the blog post last week.  (I did do a short Periscope video.)


This weekend it hit me: this month that I’m closer to 50 years old than I am to 40.  And I’m still not doing exactly what I’d like to be doing.

My dream or desire to be working for a church doing family, small group or counseling ministry hasn’t happened yet.

But maybe I’m doing what I need to be doing for now.

Maybe I need to keep working at counseling, coaching, writing and speaking in the places and with the people I have right in front of me and keep improving to serve the church of Portland as a whole.  Instead of on staff with one church.


This post almost didn’t happen.  After getting home and eating dinner, I ended up procastinating instead of writing.

I watched the rest of the SpongeBob Squarepants movie and some of 50th Anniversary episodes of Doctor Who with my daughter.

But then we came across this great TED Talk by Tim Urban: Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator

It is hilarious!  It’s not only humorous, it’s also a powerful talk by a guy who gets it what procrastinators think and feel.

While listening, it hit me, “Procrastination is not self-care.”

I’ll be writing more on self-care and the healthy rhythm between Being and Doing soon but that idea, Procrastination is not self-care, I think is a gamechanger for me.  The resulting feelings when I procrastinate compared to when I take care of myself in a healthy way, are worlds apart.

If you struggle with procrastination, I think this video will help you see procrastination in a new, humorous light.

It helped me hop on here real quick and I’m looking forward to getting to those two other posts here soon.

Is there anything you are procrastinating on these days?

When you mess up


Made a mistake on my last Periscope broadcast on private practice and platform building.

I tried filming in landscape mode, it looked fine from my perspective. But for viewers of the broadcast it was upside down.

And, when I tried to share books and websites I recommend, they ended up backwards and upside down! 

Instead of staying down, disappointed and embarrassed I decided to just write down some learning from it.

Our mistakes are just learning and progress.

Sometimes it’s just a reminder of being human.

And really, I wouldn’t want to be anything else.

That would be weird. 

A short note to perfectionists 


Don’t worry about being perfect.
You’re not fooling anyone.
So, really, why try?

You’ve been imperfect all your life.
You’ve got lots of practice.
And, here’s the thing:
It hasn’t killed you so far.

So, just show up.
Have fun.

Stop with the 
over-thinking & “preparing”
the contingency planning
the risk and image management
… with the control

There’s a whole fellowship of the broken and imperfect
waiting for you to join in the celebration
of living a life at ease
with who you are

Waiting to 
learn and
be awesome 
with you.

Trust me, you won’t be alone.
What you’re doing, trying to be perfect, is lonely.
There’s lots and lots of us out here.

Smart People Anxiety

  One of the great things about working and living in Portlandia is the people.

I’ve found Portland is kind of a mecca for some of my favorite types of people: creatives and artists.

I enjoy meeting with folks who are insightful, thoughtful, compassionate, those who sometimes are slow to speak outside the counseling office because they want their words to be well-considered. Often they are introverted but not all. Many are grad school students at the seminary, involved in leadership or ministry. They care deeply about people, often very empathetic and authentic. They inspire me because they see things beyond the surface. Their everyday walking around, thoughts are art. I’d love to read their memoirs or journals. They fascinate me.

The downside though is often creatives and artists because of the way they see the world and the depths to which they think and process things can really struggle with anxiety and depression.

They have high highs and low lows. They quickly can go from “Everything is awesome to everything has gone to hell”. (They’d describe this much better)

They get paralyzed by their introspection

Overwhelmed by the intensity or the changes of their emotions

They can feel isolated and misunderstood.

And frustrated at feeling out of control.

If you add, for many of my clients and grad students, being devote in their faith; they can be vulnerable to another layer of anxiety around believing they are not doing enough for God or for others.

For example, they may feel overwhelmed at the enormity of a social justice issue, at how big the problem is or how much work and changes needs to be done in that area. And they can have a hard time turn off or turning down how concerned or troubled they are about the issue.

When I see this, one thing I tell them is they are suffering from what I call “Smart people anxiety”.

It’s not the simple, garden-variety anxiety or depression – it’s complicated!

Strong thinkers are strong feelers.

There’s levels and layers to their anxiety!

Their anxiety doesn’t just get triggered and then follow one railroad track to a catastrophic ending.

Their anxiety branches off in multiple and elaborate permutations that quickly can overwhelm them.

It becomes a huge suffocating mess to untangle.

Because of how creative and thoughtful and imaginative they are.

Another phrase I use as way of talking and exploring this other than “smart people anxiety” is “Inception level anxiety” or “Inceptionesque anxiety”.

Inception being the movie directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Leonardo DiCarprio.

Inception is about a team of people that get hired to create dreams and implant new realities and memories into their targets. A young member of their team played by Ellen Paige has a talent for creating very realistic elaborate dreams. The more realistic the dream world and images she creates, the greater the chances at their deception, their inception, will work.

In the movie, with a challenging target, they attempt to plant a dream, within a dream, within a dream. The problem is the deeper they go the harder it is to distinguish the dreams from reality.

For artists and creative, I think this is a part of what makes their anxiety or depression harder to untangle and treat. They can quickly build elaborate constructs, metaphors, inner worlds and word pictures for what they are going through. We all do this when we go through struggles and experiences, we try to make meaning, to make sense of things. Creatives can overdo this. They can attach so much meaning and attach so many different things to their stressors and triggers; they don’t just catastrophize, they globalize. What might be, what it might mean, quickly becomes reality.

Thing is, it often isn’t completely true, or true at all. Because it might mean something doesn’t mean that is the best or truest interpretation to hold. Just because it feels, or seems real, doesn’t mean it is.

Here’s a few things that the team from Inception did that might help you if you struggle with this type of anxiety:

  • They set limits. When one of their team went down into the psyche, into the dream state, of their target they set alarms to pull them out of the dream. This prevents them from getting trapped in the dream and disconnected from reality forever. If you struggle with rumination and worry you can set limits too. You can literally set an alarm, a time limit, just like the Inception team to remind you to get out of your head and go do something else. You set limits by having a designated space to worry. You can journal. The thoughts can seem a while lot smaller on a page, and you can literally close the book on them when you write them down. Journalling also slows you’re racing thoughts down because we usually can’t write as fast our thoughts. You can also set limits by having boundaries on the types of conten, and how negative it is, that you allow as input or what you create and dwell on. For example, what types of music, media, news, people – and how much and how long – you expose yourself to.
  • They had a totem. Each member of the team had a something to hold, something with someone weight, that they could “carry” with them down into the dream to root them to reality and help them distinguish what was real and what was a dream. DiCaprio’s character had a top that he kept in his pocket and held onto. For folks struggling with the anxiety of quitting tobacco, they often use a totem of their own, a “worry stone” to help them focus on the present and work through a period of craving. For folks with this type of anxiety, focusing on what’s present, being mindful, focusing on things external to them instead of their thoughts (diaphragmatic breathing and exercise help), focusing on their core beliefs, what’s most important, what they know to be true, instead of thinking too far ahead or focusing on their ruminations and visualizations can be very helpful. These are a few ways of grounding themselves and reconnecting with reality.
  • They didn’t do the work alone. DiCaprio’s character, because of his past, lost objectivity. He started to struggle with what was real. It made him vulnerable to making selfish, poor choices that comprised the team’s mission. His past was haunting him. He needed the others on his team, especially Paige, to keep him on track.

If you’re a creative or introvert, struggling with how powerful your anxiety or depression can be, I hope this post will encourage you to use your powers of insight and imagination “for good”.
Watch here on the blog for more posts on anxiety and depression.

In the meantime, what do you think? If you’ve seen the movie, anything you’d add?

And, most importantly, anything you’ll do with this?




Something a little different: an audio blog

Had the day off today so had some time to go to lunch and was thinkIng about this Andy Stanley quote

“Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone. Because if we all did for one what we wish we could do for everyone, it might change the world. But certainly, it would change one person’s world. It may even change your world.”

I pulled out my iPad to take an audio note to capture some thoughts to write up later for a blog and then I thought, Why not just post the audio?

It may not be polished or professional and you’ll hear chatter and street noise but if you give it a listen I think you’ll see why it’s something I’d like you to hear from me, not just read.

It may be completely wrong but I’m fine if it’s a mistake. I’m reading Seth Godin’s Poke The Box and it’s inspiring me to just initiate, poke the box, and see what happens.

I’m not waiting around anymore, like I did for years, to have everything in place.  I want to do a podcast eventually. In the meantime, this is practice and learning. So, thanks for bearing with me. Feel free to give me feedback, would love to hear if you have any advice.


Here’s the link, my first audio blog.