Integrating Compassion with the Wisdom of God’s Word


The purpose of Aunt Dara’s Christian Advice Column is to glorify God by addressing human needs with compassion and the wisdom of God’s word.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Building a Relationship with a Perfectionistic Parent

Dear Aunt Dara,

You have never met anyone like my father.  He is an entrepreneur and is into various business ventures.  He has more LLC's than I have pairs of shoes.  Nobody gets along with him.  You do what he says the way he says to do it.  He has a guy working for him who is just there to smooth over employees and rehire guys he didn't mean to fire.

Growing up with him, we had weekly meetings to discuss my objectives for the week.  These felt like board meetings and I had to send him e-mail updates when he was traveling.  He bought me some exercise equipment, and told me that he wanted me to work out 3-4 times a week.  I wrote him a Fathers' Day essay and he made me correct it.  It was a family crisis if I made a B on my report card.  He said my career plans to major in child psychology and help children are no good.  He said I should just do that as volunteer work and use "my brains" do something more lucrative because he won't bankroll my planned degree.  He says my siblings are idiots and washouts, and I am the only child he has who is worth anything.  There are times when he is just impossible.  How do you please this man and have a relationship with him?

Exasperated Daughter 

Dear Daughter,

From the description that you have given, your dad is an ultra-perfectionist.  The problem with a parent who is a perfectionist is that he has unrealistically high standards that no child would be able to meet all the time.  I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but here it is.  You will never be able to please him in everything all the time.  There will always be things about you of which he will disapprove. 

So, how do you have a relationship with him now that you are an adult?  Stop trying to live your life to please him.  It's your life the decisions that affect you are yours to make.  However, do not argue with him.  In his mind he is trying to be helpful and to shape you into the image of you that only exists in his perfectionistic mind.  When he offers you unsolicited advice or criticism, listen very carefully to what he says (he really does mean well) and then say, "Thanks, I will give that some thought."  If you want to really impress him and build a positive relationship, say, "Thanks for caring about me and wanting me to do the right thing.  I will think about everything you said."

Regarding your college major:  Your father cannot live his life through you.  You have to be happy with your chosen career because you are the one who will be dealing with that line of work, day in and day out for years to come.  While it is true that other careers are more lucrative than child psychology, there are many more rewards to a career than a paycheck.  If he is worried that you want to get a degree that won't be using your brain, tell him that a child psychologist must have a doctorate degree in psychology.  Even a psychotherapist must have a minimum of a master's degree.  Either way, you must have a high degree of intelligence to go into the mental health field.  If your earning potential is his main concern, tell him that child psychiatrists make a lot of money because they are medical doctors.  He might be willing to bankroll your medical school so he can brag about his daughter being a doctor.

God bless,
Aunt Dara

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