I’ve been reading this book called The Conscious Parent: Transforming Ourselves, Empowering Our Children by Dr. Shefali and it is kicking my butt left and right.

Seriously.  It’s the kind of book where I’ve highlighted every third sentence, and most chapters have me hitting myself upside the head with a real lightbulb (aka: DUH!) moment.  Or ten.

When I’ve got my ducks in a row – or at least feel like I can form a coherent thought on the whole thing – I’ll post a book review and talk about some of the parenting insights I’ve gained.  As for today, though, let’s look at a post from Dr. Shefali’s website called The Idea of Perfection.

There’ve been plenty of articles about the dangers inherent in pursuing perfection, especially when it comes to our children.  Why it’s unhealthy for the parent.  Why it’s stressful for the child.  The kind of people your children grow into when they’re raised in a pressure cooker.

None of that is news to me.

But Dr. Shefali presented me with a perspective I hadn’t considered before.  Our push to give our kids everything – plentiful food, clothes, entertainment, extracurricular activities, educational opportunities – both drastically misfires and comes from a lack within ourselves.

Giving our children so much, so relentlessly, teaches them to see life as an endless source of pleasure.  They become hooked on convenience and luxury, reliant on excesses to make them happy, which works for them as long as those comforts are available.  But what happens when there isn’t an abundance?

Suddenly our kids don’t feel quite so good about themselves.  Where are they supposed to find their happiness if they aren’t bopping off to the toy store to get the latest gadget?  And it’s our insistence on filling every single bit of their lives with stuff to have, eat, or do that twists their minds into that knot.

Dr. Shefali notes that “our children need more than anything to learn that it is in the essentials of life that peace is to be found, not in the frills.”  Instead of running from soccer to horseback riding to ice skating, our kids need to recognize their inherent goodness in what she calls their as-is state.  Their very being, as it already is, is perfect.  All the luxuries we’re piling on top of their lives do nothing more than complicate the matter.

So why do we push for perfection?  People argue that they’re providing their children with opportunities they never had themselves…making life better for the next generation and all that jazz.  I think Dr. Shefali’s theory holds a lot of merit, though.  She argues that we cram our kids’ lives full of material things, hobbies, and experiences because we’re restless when it comes to the “stillness of our own spirits.”

We’re busy overcompensating.  Anxiety about our own self-esteem and detachment from our innate divinity drive us to foster an image of perfection through our children.

Except perfection is an illusion.  A falsehood that we’re forcing onto our children to relieve our own anxieties.

Rather, Dr. Shefali points out that by “living our own lives purposefully and authentically” we can release our children from a drive for excess.  This allows them the freedom to live their own lives based on their sense of inner godliness, a light that shines outward to affect everything around them.  It’s this light that will help children find peace in the simple, everyday things of life.

Giving up the idea that we need to do in order to be perfect would be life changing.  Not only would it free parents from this endless pursuit of the impossible dream – and an exhausting pursuit at that – but it would help our children grow into adults that are at peace with themselves.  And that sounds like exactly what we were all hoping for in the first place.