Perfectionist Parenting May Lead Your Child To A Life Of Sweaty Palms And Sleepless Nights

perfect parentThe next time your child draws on the sofa or fails their spelling test, you may want to hold back on the negative comments. According to a new study, parenting your children to be perfect may make them less perfect and more anxious.

A study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology revealed that parents who practiced perfectionist parenting did make the child strive to be more perfect, but also increased their anxiety. Also, children who were not subjected to perfectionist parenting actually performed better than those who were.

The parents in the study participating in “perfectionist rearing conditions” were told to focus on the child’s mistakes and the negative consequences that go along with them.

This research found that the consequence of this behavior is that it increased the child’s perfectionism but it did not necessarily result in improved performance,” says researcher Associate Professor Jennifer Hudson, Macquarie University, Centre for Emotional Health.

This made the child strive to be more perfect but it also increased their anxiety.

“It is important to point out that there have been several lines of evidence to indicate a relationship between increased perfectionism and higher levels of anxiety,” says Hudson. The results of this research highlight the potential impact that perfectionistic rearing behaviors may have on the development of anxiety in children.

The study also shows the profound effect parents have on their children’s behavior within a short amount of time:

“These results are remarkable given that they show that even a very short interaction between a parent and child can already affect perfectionism and task performance,” says Hudson.

So it seems that when I was seven and carved my sister’s name into the coffee table my parents were right in not punishing me for my wrongdoing but praising my cleverness in using my sister’s name and not my own. The only flaw in my plan was that my sister was 17 at the time.  So, if your child spills a drink or misses a goal in soccer it seems a positive spin on the situation may make all the difference.

(photo: auremar / Shutterstock)

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  • Tinyfaeri

    There’s perfectionism, and then there’s setting and enforcing basic rules like “drawing on the couch is not allowed.” There have been countless studies showing that children respond best and end up happiest when raised in a household with a supportive, loving environment where rules are clearly set and consistently enforced. To me, that means that while there are consequences for breaking a rule, the punishments are given without berating the child – you broke X rule, so now Y happens, minus any “you’re so stupid, why would you do that, go hang your head in shame” crap. Completely permissive (“Good for you on your use of negative space in that couch doodle! Let’s start on the chair next!”) parenting is not beneficial to a child any more than the opposite extreme.
    I do have to say that at 7, a child should darn well know better than to carve anything into a table. I beat the hell out of my parents’ coffee table with my toys… when I was an infant/young toddler. They laugh and say I antiqued it. Had I done the same thing when I was 7, or even 5, that would have bee a very different, louder tune, as it should have been.

  • K.

    “So it seems that when I was seven and carved my sister’s name into the
    coffee table my parents were right in not punishing me for my wrongdoing
    but praising my cleverness in using my sister’s name and not my own.”

    Pretty sure that’s undisciplined, not “non-perfectionist parenting”. “Perfectionist parenting,” as I read it, would be like telling you to carve your sister’s name into the coffee table and then nitpicking the way that you did it because it looks nothing like the Sistine Chapel. It’s not defined by the total lack of guidelines or consequences.

  • Unperfect

    i have a parent like this. Even though I’m aware of how unrealistic it is I still strive for it unconsciously such as on my job or with the opposite sex. Just last night I was in bed and I couldn’t sleep because I thought it was pathetic that I felt lonely. I couldn’t accept that I am a failure with the opposite sex or that for the 6000 day prior to these feelings nothing had changed. I was always a failure with the opposite sex.

    I hate failure so much that I quit activities I am not good at and instead give everything to my perceived strengths. And since I’m so harsh on myself I don’t have many. If I am playing a video game I’ll turn it off the moment I began to see a decline in my performance. I’ll get very angry with myself and call myself labels that equate to being a failure. I make really high mental standards for myself and become a complete mess inside when things do not go as planned. Then I’ll blame myself for not achieving these goals (using laziness or stupidity as a reason) and set them even higher.

    Sometimes at the cost of my own body I’ll push and push until I see the results I want. When I get tired or feel pain I’ll think “you pathetic little bitch. Go ahead and quit. You are a failure anyway. No surprises there. You can’t even perform simple tasks . Look at yourself. Tired already. Pathetic.” The ideal of my perfect image takes a hit and then I push on. It’s a cycle I don’t want to break. I’m so used to it already. It feels safe to be your own critique so you can fix the mistakes before others point them out. That’s what I tell myself.

    The only up side to this is that when I encounter an authority or elder whom shares this quality, we work very well together. My boss loves it when I stay 10-12 hours at work. He/she always has something for me to do and I will strive to meet those high standards no matter how unrealistic they are because everyone else just wants to go home and only thinks about ” me me me” while I think about “result result results” I absolutely love it whenever I hear the words “Not so much detail.” because to me that means I exceeded their expectations. To me that means I am perfect.