It's Good for Your Kids to See You as an Imperfect Mother

Mistakes and negative emotions are human and valid. Therefore, showing yourself as an imperfect mother will help your kids to assume and face that reality.
It's Good for Your Kids to See You as an Imperfect Mother

Last update: 07 September, 2021

As a mother, it’s likely that, from the moment your child arrived in the world, you’ve felt the pressure to perform your role as a mother to the best of your ability. Every mother strives for perfection in her work. This is true even before delivery, when she tries to comply with all health recommendations during pregnancy. However, you should know that it’s not bad for your child to perceive you as an imperfect mother. On the contrary, it’s necessary and healthy.

What mother hasn’t gone to bed at night feeling guilty for having lost her temper with her little one? Who hasn’t wondered how it must have affected her child to see her crying or screaming that evening?

We fear that our actions will condition their personality and their future. And, therefore, sometimes we try to resemble a robot, a machine rigorously programmed not to make mistakes.

Fortunately, you’re human, and, believe it or not, those failures that torment you now can actually be beneficial for your child’s development.

Why is it good for your children to perceive you as an imperfect mother?

A mother and her toddler daughter touching one another's noses.

A real relationship

How would you feel if your partner or best friend only showed you their positive emotions? What would you think if, when they were sad or angry, they avoided you or faked an emotion they didn’t feel? We all want our emotional relationships to be sincere and honest. And we want the other person to show themselves as they are because this is precisely what builds trust and bonding.

For the same reason, it’s counterproductive to try to be perfect in front of our children. Even if we think they’re still small, they perceive more than we think and will realize that something isn’t right. They’ll then wonder why you’re trying to hide it, which prevents mutual trust from being established.

It’s not about overwhelming them with our adult problems, which they can’t understand or solve. They will, however, appreciate you showing yourself as a human and being real with them.

Normalize imperfection

Children come into the world with no knowledge or experience of how to behave and function. They learn from their parents what’s expected, acceptable, and appropriate. So, if you try to appear perfect in their eyes, you’ll convey to them the idea that flaws aren’t an option in life. Imagine the pressure of growing up with perfection as the only way?

If you accept, show, and normalize your mistakes, you’ll be giving them permission to fail, make mistakes, and learn from their falls. It’s extremely necessary and healthy for them to be aware that we all make mistakes and that this is something completely natural. By showing yourself to be human, you help them not to blame themselves or be ashamed of the mistakes they may make.

Model coping strategies

At the same time, we all know that children learn by imitation to a high degree. By observing your behavior, they acquire and internalize tools that they will later put into practice on their own. Therefore, by accepting and showing your mistakes, sadness, and frustrations, you’ll be serving as a model of how to deal with these emotions.

If they see you overcome a fall, they’ll learn how to do it. If they see you accepting your sadness as valid, they’ll imitate your attitude and coping strategies. Invariably, we all have bad days and your children will have them, too, so it’s really valuable that, through your example, you teach them how to get through those times.

A mother snuggling in bed with her two young daughters.

Let them see you as an imperfect mother

In short, be open, honest, and natural with your children. Allow them to perceive you as an imperfect mother. If one day, you feel sad, you can cry.

If one day, you’re tired or angry, you can say so. And, if you make a mistake, normalize it and follow the necessary steps to make it right. With your attitude, you’ll be teaching your little ones resilience and emotional intelligence, values that will be very useful in life.

All children feel that mom and dad are heroes, but the natural process of development leads them, at some point, to understand that they’re human and imperfect.

Idealizing parents leads children to have unrealistic expectations of others that will lead to difficulties in their social relationships. So, remember that your only task is to be honest and loving, but not perfect.

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  • Rycroft, C. (2018). Idealización, ilusión y desilusión catastrófica. Revista de Psicoanálisis83, 337-351.
  • Oros, L. B. (2005). Implicaciones del perfeccionismo infantil sobre el bienestar psicológico: Orientaciones para el diagnóstico y la práctica clínica. Anales de Psicología/Annals of Psychology21(2), 294-303.