Rooted In Wonder:
Nurturing Your Family's Faith Through God's Creation
Master Naturalist, Bible teacher, author, wife, and mama of four! Join our adventures of discovering God while adventuring in creation.
Sweating profusely, I was grateful to still be upright and breathing. Modifying the moves to the Beachbody work out is a challenge no matter how easy the instructor makes it look. At fifty-six and woefully out of shape, I realize that no matter how hard I work, I will never achieve a perfect beach body. So what keeps me coming back to this eclectic exercise group on Saturday mornings? A little phrase the petite young mom modifying the modifications for me proclaimed, “purpose over perfection”. Pressing on in my attempts to master the moves would keep my heart rate up and strengthen my core. The purpose for which I exercise is more important than perfecting the exercise.
Perfection. It’s a motivator for some, a killjoy for others. Most of us love the idea of having a perfect marriage and perfectly behaved children. Yet the effort required to attain those ideals is often more than we bargain for, and many of us end up as “discouraged perfectionists” and quit trying. For others, it’s the silent killer of all happiness because we don’t fully grasp the truth that perfection isn’t possible this side of heaven.
Frustration can get the best of us even on a good day, but look out when we feel like our instructions have been ignored or worse yet defied. Ever find yourself saying (or yelling) “How many times do I have to tell you….?!” to your kids? If only children would keep their glass at the top of their plate, return shoes to closets, and recharge devices after using. I’m thinking if we have to ask that question, then the answer is at least one more time, but perhaps it needs modified.
As my mind wanders into the recesses of my parenting days I find that question flew out of my mouth when I was disappointed, agitated, or frustrated. And if I’m honest in my full assessment of those times, it may have had more to do with my lack of training or unreasonable expectations for their stage of development than it did for their defiance or disobedience.
What if we asked questions like, “How can I help you remember to …?”, “What can we do to make this work?”, “What part of this task it too hard for you?” Whether it’s making a bed, finding a place for possessions, or cleaning the bathroom, understanding the purpose and modifying expectations for the task may help you find success.
Can toddlers be taught to replace their cup where they got it at the top of their plate? Is it possible to never play “where’s the missing shoe” game again? Will anyone remember how to load the dishwasher correctly?
The answers depend on our willingness to look at the purpose of the activity without the concern for the perfection of it. Toddlers can be taught to set the cup on a circle we’ve placed on the table. Shoes can make their way to closets or shelves, even if they’re not lined up perfectly. Dishwashers clean dishes in a variety of arrangements.
What if we took the “purpose over perfection” philosophy and applied it to our parenting? Teaching responsibility, obedience, and character traits would be less stressful if we looked at their progress instead of lack of perfection. How could prayer help us press through the trenches of training our children to develop the skills we long for them to master? Could encouragement unlock the secret to success?
I am reminded of the Apostle Paul’s declaration when it comes to perfection, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on…” Philippians 3:12
The next time you’re tempted to toss in the towel, try these modifications to help you focus on the purpose behind your request and not the perfection of its fulfillment.
Once you’ve taught a skill and given time for practice, trained with encouraging feedback as you monitored their progress, I believe you’ll find your question becomes “When did you learn to….so well?” And when you find yourself falling short in the five modifications listed above, reassure your own heart, “Purpose over perfection”.
Childhood is fleeting. The days are long but the years are short. One day no reminders will be necessary and practice will have made perfect progress. Lest your desire for that day overshadow these days, be forewarned. There just might be a lump in your throat and a tug on your heart as you realize your modifications are no longer needed.
Raising kids stirs something deep in our souls — an innate knowing that our time is finite. Taking my kids outside in creation, I’m discovering how to stretch our time and pack it to the brim with meaning. God’s creativity provides the riches of resources for teaching the next generation who He is and how He loves us. Join our adventure and discover inspiration and resources for refusing rush, creating habits of rest, living intentionally, and making the most of this beautiful life!