How Our Parenting Style Creates Perfectionism in Our Children
Let’s face it. Our children face double standards daily. “Do as I say, not as I do” is the message we are giving them with most of our parenting styles. We want our kids to excel in school, sports, and activities yet we know that kids should be encouraged to relax and just be kids. As parents, we see perfect families on holiday cards, Facebook, and Instagram.
Whether we realize it or not, that can affect how we push our children to do well. Maybe even too well.
How can parents balance the desire for our children to succeed with the desire for them to enjoy their childhood without moving into wanting perfect children?
Our kids look to us for an example of how they should act and behave in social and personal situations, as such, it is important to remember that what we say should match our actions if we are to raise healthy kids.
However, when our parenting style is ridden with expectations that are out of reach for our children and teens, they may begin to develop a case of perfectionism. They can become high-achievers that have a tendency to have anxieties, emotional outbursts, and other difficulties with their personal and social lives as they strive for ever-alluding perfectionism.
As parents, our goal is to have our kids stand on our shoulders and do better than we did. Accomplishments and achieving excellence are the standards we want to hold our children to, but when push comes to shove, are all the soccer practices, dance recitals, math tutors, and cheerleading tryouts absolutely necessary for their successes later on in life?
We want to teach our kids to aim high and pursue their passions, but sometimes, this drive to master new things from an early age can become detrimental to their perception of life later on down the road. We are talking about how some characteristics of idealistic perfectionism in our kids can affect their emotions, self-confidence, how they deal with stress, and decision-making abilities. Here are three major issues I see when our parenting style ends up raising perfectionists.
Perfectionist Parenting Styles Can Affect Our Children's Mental Health
For children with perfectionistic tendencies, their mental health can become debilitated because they are discontented about everything they do. They hold impossible standards for themselves, enabled by our perfectionist parenting styles, that they can never reach and that eats up their confidence to do anything in the long run.
Mental health issues such as social anxieties, suicidal ideation, obsessive behaviors, and eating disorders may arise because their cognitive development is stunted by their perfectionistic goals. Perfectionistic children will tend to be self-critical and overly sensitive to criticism. They may exhibit signs of constant anxiety about failing and making mistakes, which leads them to become socially isolated and emotionally closed off from peer relationships. They can become guarded and over-critical of others, too.
Perfectionism is Counterproductive
When we have a perfectionist parenting style with our kids, they may become inhibited to continue to pursue their goals when they face challenges. They believe that they are never really good enough and they avoid taking risks. Kids with perfectionistic characteristics lose motivation quickly as they are so afraid of making a mistake or facing failure. They become so worried that they become counterproductive because they will avoid hard work and new experiences altogether.
Procrastination and avoidance become the norm when perfectionism overcomes a child’s worldviews. They develop a sense of depression and are frustrated about basic work ethic. While they believe that they are the problem, children with perfectionist tendencies usually try to blame others for their lack of motivation. In reality, they just become so afraid of not being able to meet their own flawless standards and your perfectionist parenting style that they become easily frustrated and give up before they even begin.
Children who need perfection in everything they do also have a higher risk of burning out, which is also very counterproductive to their natural potential.
Perfectionism Stunts Growth
Expecting perfection with your parenting style can keep children from growing emotionally and mentally. The perfectionist in the family (adult or child) may point out our weaknesses and the weaknesses of others in an attempt to feed their low self-worth. These actions can keep a family from bonding and grow as a unit.
What Can You Do?
Avoid creating an environment of perfection with your parenting style is a good place to start. Even if there’s a perfectionist child in your family, consider the following:
- Create a Mission Statement for your family. This will give you purpose.
- Create a Vision for each of your children.
- Allow independence. Don’t label a child or put them in a box, this fosters comparisons between multiple children.
- Choose unconditional love, regardless of whatever choices your child makes.
- Praise for effort rather than the outcome. This builds resilience and grit.
- Encourage standards of excellence based on your view of your child’s potential. One child’s “A” in math may not be as difficult to achieve as another’s “B.”
- Set goals together as a family that are S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound) during Family Meetings.
- Learn to embrace the parenting style of a listener, listen to your kids more than talking at them.
- Show through your example that failure is a good thing (ask any successful person).
- Provide a non-judgmental environment for your kids to communicate and learn.
- Help them challenge themselves about their low self-worth or low confidence.
- Create opportunities for them to have small wins, this will boost their confidence in whatever they pursue later on.
- Be an example of humility when you fall short of your own goals.
It’s tough to sharpen our parenting styles without trying to be perfectionists, especially when we have a culture of over-achievement in kids’ education, performance, and training. When we can take our eyes off of ourselves and our own perfectionist expectations, we may be better able to equip our kids with a realistic worldview of failures and mistakes.