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How Does Perfectionistic Parenting Affect Children?

by Sandy Kreps

Wanting the best for your child is normal, but wanting perfection can be damaging to her. Perfectionism can make parenting more stressful, conditioning your child's behavior to be firm and unyielding in a world that requires flexibility and the ability to adapt. Perfectionist parenting can lead to anxiety, depression and fear of failure in children.

Stress and Anxiety

According to an article in "Psychology Today," perfectionist parents often measure their own success by the achievements of their children, which puts tremendous stress on kids to succeed. Children can perceive this pressure as criticism, and they worry that a mistake or a less-than-perfect performance will disappoint their parents and cause their parents to think less of them. The child might link being loved with being perfect, a message that can make even a routine math test or Saturday softball game a cause for anxiety.

Fear of Mistakes

A child of perfectionists often fears making a mistake that will disappoint his parents. This fear can condition the child to avoid challenges because he doesn't want to risk making a mistake. Children can become less playful and less creative, sticking to the games and projects they know are safe. Because children of perfectionist parents focus so much on performance and outcomes, they might have more difficulty learning and retaining new information.

Developing His Own Perfectionist Attitude

When a child feels pressured by his parents to perform perfectly, he might be headed down the path to perfectionism himself. Children of perfectionists often continuously try to please their parents, leading to the child adopting the same perfectionist attitude. Children who strive for perfection are more likely to experience low self-esteem, depression and anxiety, which can continue into adulthood, according to the "Psychology Today" article.

Possibility of Rebellious Behavior

Most children exposed to perfectionistic parenting become perfectionists themselves, but sometimes a child who feels that he can never please his parents might give up even trying, possibly turning to rebellious behavior. This is especially true of younger siblings, if they feel that older siblings are actually achieving perfection in their parents' eyes.

Suggestions to Prevent Perfectionism

Instead of shooting for perfection, parents should encourage excellence, and support their child when he experiences failure. When your child knows you love him even if he fails, he'll feel free to take chances and pursue his goals without the anxiety that comes from worrying about disappointing the people he loves most.

About the Author

Sandy Kreps has more than 15 years of experience writing for books, magazines and online publications. Specializing in green living, parenting and home life, Kreps contributes regularly to "Green Child Magazine" and several websites. Her first book, "Fresh Start: 31 Days to Simplify, Declutter and Rein in the Chaos," is available on Amazon. Kreps holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and mass communication from Kansas State University.

Photo Credits

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