The 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.