Can 'Perfectionist Parenting' Hurt Your Child?

Parenting is hard. No one will ever argue that fact. We all want our children to be happy, well-adjusted, self-sufficient people, who grow into kind and successful adults, right? It seems like a tall order, especially when your kids are little and you consider the day a success when food doesn’t end up on the ceiling or on the family dog. Some parents, in an attempt to raise “perfect” children, take their parenting measures to an extreme. Some call it being a “Tiger Mom,” others are helicopter parents. But do these tactics actually work?


A new study from Singapore, where “high-pressure parenting” is ubiquitous, showed that putting too much pressure on your kids might have a negative effect. In their research, the scientists looked at “parental intrusiveness,” or how often parents intervened to correct, undo, or criticize their child’s behavior.

From the Washington Post:

And here’s the part where the study becomes alarming. The children with intrusive parents were more likely to be overly critical of themselves, and this tendency increased over the years. And that high or increased level of self-criticism was correlated to elevated levels of depression or anxiety.

“When parents become intrusive in their children’s lives, it may signal to the children that what they do is never good enough. As a result, the child may become afraid of making the slightest mistake and will blame himself or herself for not being ‘perfect.’ Over time, such behaviour, known as maladaptive perfectionism, may be detrimental to the child’s well-being as it increases the risk of the child developing symptoms of depression, anxiety and even suicide in very serious cases,” study author Ryan Hong explained.


What is important to note is that the researchers distinguish between “parental involvement” and “over-parenting.” Being an active participant in your child’s development can be very helpful and beneficial. But being overly critical, and creating an environment where the child feels like she can’t do anything right on her own can be disastrous.

Hong’s advice boils down to: Cut down on the helicopter parenting. If you must be a Tiger Mom, encourage rather than pressure children. Let children make mistakes.


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