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Breaking the Barrier of the Perfection Mindset

Does your teen need to look a certain way before she leaves the house? Does your teen freak out when things don’t go as planned? Or has your teen simply stopped trying because he’s afraid that he can’t measure up? If so, your teen has a “perfection mindset.” In this article, I’ll explain the importance of moving your family from an atmosphere of perfection to one that allows for imperfection and greater connection.


Creating the Atmosphere of Acceptance at Home

Teens face intense pressure to be perfect. They try to meet their teachers’ demands, their coaches’ expectations, and online they try to look and act in a way that is acceptable to their peers. The last place you want your teen to feel like he can never measure up is at home. You can have expectations and an encourage excellence in your teen, but when your teen feels unloved because they can’t meet your expectations, you have a problem.

As teens grow, they make more choices, have more exposure, and make more mistakes. Your job is to take advantage of these mistakes to create life lessons for your teen. That doesn’t mean there are no consequences for inappropriate behavior, but it does mean that you should see these failures as golden opportunities to embrace what they have been taught. The mistakes and life experiences that test your family’s values are often the best way to help your teen become certain of what he believes.


Stops and Starts to Curb the “Perfection Mindset”

1. Stop demanding perfection and start allowing for imperfection. A home where “second best” isn’t allowed creates an atmosphere of perfection. Allowing for imperfection communicates that it’s okay to not always be the best. Your demand for perfection isn’t helping, in fact it could be at the core of your teen’s destructive behavior. Unrealistic expectations cause some teens to burn out, give up, or make risky choices in order to be accepted by others.

2. Stop hiding your faults from your teens and start sharing your struggles. Do you admit your mistakes? Do you say you’re sorry? Your teen knows you’re not perfect, so stop pretending you are. Instead of listening to you brag about your past accomplishments, they need to hear about the challenges you faced. Your struggles and how you’ve overcome them gives your teen hope that he can overcome his challenges too. It makes your teen feel comfortable to share what’s really going on. In fact, your relationship is likely to grow closer as you share your imperfections. If you’re struggling right now, be honest. Set a good example for your teen, not a perfect example.

3. Stop demanding that everything and everyone needs to look perfect and start letting go of your demands that everything needs to be in perfect order. When you make comments about your teen’s appearance––how they dress, eat, wear their hair, and on and on, you’re laying heavy burdens on your teen. Remember your teen is growing, changing, trying new things, and they won’t look good all the time. Your critiques translate to your teen that he has to look perfect and put together in order to be loved and accepted by you. Let your teen know that he don’t have to look or act a certain way in order to be loved by you.

4. Stop correcting your teen’s behavior all the time and start connecting with your teen’s heart. No one wants to be corrected all the time. If you’re too busy telling your teen what to do, you won’t have time to create a relationship. When your teen makes a mistake, talk to your teen about what he’s thinking and how he feels. Use these mistakes as opportunities to affirm your relationship, lean in, listen, and walk through the tough times together. As you draw closer, you will earn the opportunity to train your teen about how to deal with life’s ups and downs.

5. Stop talking all the time and start listening to your teen. For more than a decade you’ve told your teen what you expect and promoted your family’s program. It’s exhausting and it puts up a wall between you and your teen. Now it’s time to train your teen for life. You don’t have to always be the expert. Start listening to your teen’s heart and give the lessons a break. You’ve done a good job and now during the teenaged years you can pause and calm down, so that your child will be drawn to you and come to you for support—instead of pushing back against your constant correction.



Hey moms and dads … you don’t walk on water and neither does your teen. And the demand that he is expected to do so has a potential of damaging your relationship. Yes, you can have a spirit of excellence, want good things for your teen, and have expectations they can reach. But also give room to fail, to make mistakes, and to not have it all together. Your teen wants to know more than anything else that he is loved when he has it all together and just as loved when everything is falling apart. It’s the atmosphere that you create and not the expectations you initiate that determine the type of relationship you have with your teen. Allow genuineness and authenticity to be the norm in relating while encouraging and challenging your teen to great things.

Author: Mark Gregston

Mark Gregston began working with teens more than 40 years ago as a youth minister and Young Life director. He has authored nearly two dozen books, has written hundreds of articles, and is host of the nationally-acclaimed Parenting Today’s Teens podcast and radio broadcast.