The pressure on today’s parents to do everything and be everything for their kids is a real problem for some families. From online mommy wars and judgmental looks from in-laws to the subtle one-upping between friends and shaming that goes on over social media, it’s no wonder that moms and dads feel the need to be the perfect parents.
So, what exactly is a perfectionist parent? Some perfectionist parents are perfectionists in every aspect of their lives. They excel at everything they do—otherwise, they wouldn’t bother trying. They make major
sacrifices to meet their goals. By most standards, these individuals are successful people. Yet, they never feel quite good enough.
Other perfectionist parents may fear “messing their kids up for life,” or they may fear if they don’t help their child get into an Ivy League college they’ll have failed as a parent. Some of them expect perfection from themselves and others expect perfection from their kids. While they may think their standards will lead to excellence, their need for perfection ultimately backfires.
Signs you might be expecting yourself to be a perfect parent include:
♦ Criticizing yourself often
♦ Blaming yourself when your child doesn’t succeed
♦ Comparing yourself to other parents and feeling like you fall short
♦ Constantly second-guessing your parenting choices
According to Amy Morin, LCSW, perfectionist parenting sets a child up to believe that if he doesn’t achieve the highest standards, he’s a failure. Putting too much pressure on kids to be perfect sends the wrong message. A child may cheat on his schoolwork to get good grades because he may think you value achievement over honesty. Research shows that children of all ages need to be able to make mistakes without fear of major consequences in order to learn.
Whether you expect yourself to be perfect or you expect perfection from your child, these strategies can help:
Consider your language
Whether your child just won a ribbon in the science fair, or his team lost a game on the field, avoid telling him that his performance was a complete success or that losing was terrible. Instead, ask your child to identify what he did well and what he thinks he can do better next time.
Cut your child some slack
If you find yourself yelling at your child because he didn’t make his bed correctly or you are angry with him for getting some spelling words wrong, take a deep breath. Remember that kids are supposed to make mistakes because each mistake is a learning opportunity.
Send healthy messages
Let your child make mistakes and fail sometimes. Talk about failure as a learning opportunity and acknowledge that failing a test or not making the school play is hard, but it’s not the end of the world.
Pay attention to your child’s effort, not the outcome
Rather than praising your child for getting an A on a test, praise her for studying hard. Or instead of telling her that she did a great job scoring two goals in the game, tell her that you noticed she hustled hard. Then, she’ll be more likely to focus on doing her best rather than making sure she achieves at all costs.
If you’ve been a perfectionist parent but you’re able to dial it back a bit, don’t sweat it too much. It’s clear you’re working hard to be the best parent you can be. And your willingness to acknowledge your weaknesses and learn from your mistakes will serve as a good role model for your child.
Focus on what you do
right in parenting
OK, so you might not be the best at coming up with educational, enriching activities on a daily basis, but you are great at sewing Halloween costumes and baking cookies on the weekends. Acknowledge your strengths and practice a little self-compassion where you’re not a superstar.