‘Wanting to do it perfectly as a parent is counterproductive’

In fact, every parent sometimes wonders if they are doing it right. “In most cases, there is no right or wrong in education,” says professor of pedagogy Maartje Luijk. “Wanting to do it perfectly as a parent is counterproductive.”

Many parents would do well for themselves and their child(ren) if they no longer aim for a ‘perfect upbringing’. Why? Because about half of the parents are exhausted, according to a recent survey.

Heavier than ever

How could raising your child have become so tough? Professor of Family Pedagogy Maartje Luijk, Erasmus University Rotterdam, conducted research into this. Her conclusion? “Raising doesn’t just seem harder than ever, it is.” According to Luijk, this has to do with three things.

The first is that today we have an enormous amount of information. That is not a good thing, it is part of the problem and causes many parents to find parenting more difficult.

Read also: This open letter to moms who want to be ‘perfect’ is going viral

The second reason Luijk notes has to do with the fact that parents nowadays think that parenting should be perfect. Whoever makes a mistake or makes mistakes, damages his or her child for the rest of his life.

Ask for help

A third trend is the increased individualization. Where the old saying goes “It takes a village to raise a child“, parents almost never ask anyone from their environment for help. According to Luijk, this has something to do with ‘demand shame’. A study by the Social and Cultural Planning Office even shows that two-thirds of parents do not dare to ask their environment for help. “While time and time again research shows that this support can help make parenting a little easier. Parenting works best when you do it together.”

There is no such thing as one normally emphasizes Luijk. “No two children are the same; we should celebrate that variation. Differences are normal. Especially in the first year of life, children develop very quickly and there is a lot of variation in the pace. Just take all the sleep. One baby sleeps 20 hours a day, while the other hardly seems to want to sleep. And that’s totally okay. We should not take the average as a starting point; that doesn’t say much.”

Fall and rise

Luijk’s advice to current parents is: accept variation, embrace imperfection and ask those around you for help more often. “Education is by definition not perfect. It’s trial and error. Recognize that. Everyone is doing something and that’s fine. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Wanting to do it perfectly is counterproductive and is not good for anyone. Not for yourself, because it stresses you out, and not for the child, because stressed parents are often not nice parents. Let it all go a bit more, lean back more often. Good enough is better than perfect.”

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