7 Ways Parents Unconsciously Undermine Their Own Children’s Well-Being
Children aren’t perfect (and oh, yeah…neither are their parents)
As parents, it’s natural to want the best for our children. You pour love and attention into them with the best intentions of creating happy, healthy and well-balanced humans that grow into well-adapted adults.
However, sometimes, our well-meaning actions can lead to unintended consequences. One such consequence is creating mini perfectionists, kids who grow up believing that anything less than perfect is a failure. Which can wreak havoc on their sense of self-worth, self-esteem, and self-love.
Nobody intends to raise children who are perfectionists, and yet it happens.
There are four “official” parenting types stemming from the work of developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind, which have since been expanded by parenting experts to include other “unofficial” styles such as authoritarian, permissive, free-range, attachment, and more.
A combination of these parenting styles can inadvertently lead to your child becoming a perfectionist.
If you are someone who grew up with overly critical parents in various ways, some of these may ring true for you. Be mindful of the habits and patterns you’ve inherited from your caregivers and determine which healthy habits you’d like to pass along to your children in a good way.
Here are seven ways parents unconsciously create perfectionists
1. Overpraising — “everyone gets a trophy”
Praising your child for everything they do, even for things that are not extraordinary, can be detrimental to their self-esteem. It can create a sense of pressure and expectation to always do things perfectly. Instead, focus on praising your child’s effort and progress, and provide constructive feedback that will help them improve all along the way.
2. Overprotecting — “momma bear”
Overprotecting your child can prevent them from developing important life skills and independence. It can also make them feel incapable of dealing with challenges or failure, having them constantly seeking outside validation for their efforts. Allow your child to experience setbacks and teach them how to overcome obstacles. Encourage them to try new things, take risks, and learn from their mistakes.
3. Micromanaging — “helicopter parents”
Micromanaging your child’s life can create a sense of dependence and lack of autonomy. Allow your child to make their own (age-appropriate) decisions, guiding them when necessary to find effective solutions to the situation at hand. Encourage them to take responsibility for their actions and learn from their mistakes.
4. Setting unrealistic expectations — “tiger parents”
Setting unrealistic expectations for your child and their success can create a sense of pressure and anxiety, which can lead to a host of issues such as eating disorders, depression, IBS and more. It can also make them believe that anything less than perfect is unacceptable and that they’re never enough. Instead, set realistic goals and expectations that are achievable and meaningful to your child and age-appropriate.
5. Criticizing mistakes — “judgmental parents”
Criticizing your child’s mistakes can create a fear of failure and a sense of inadequacy. Instead, help them understand that mistakes are a natural part of the learning process and encourage them to learn from their mistakes. Reminding them that there is no such thing as failure only opportunities for learning. Offer your kids constructive feedback that will help them improve, rather than criticism that will discourage them from trying.
6. Comparing them to others — “insecure parents”
Comparing your child to others can create a sense of inferiority and a belief that they are not good enough. It can also lead to a sense of competition that can be detrimental to their relationships with others. Social media already does this, creating false personas of “perfect” people in the world. Instead, focus on your child’s unique strengths and talents and help them develop their own unique sense of identity that embraces all of who they are.
7. Being overly critical of oneself — “perfectionist parents”
Being overly critical of yourself can create a negative environment that can affect your child’s self-esteem. It can also make them believe that perfectionism is the only way to achieve success. Instead, model self-compassion and self-acceptance, and encourage your child to do the same. Reminding them that they are perfectly imperfect just as they are.
Parenting is a lifelong challenging task, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. And there is certainly no instruction manual.
However, being aware of these seven ways parents unconsciously undermine their children’s well-being, inadvertently creating a budding perfectionist, can help parents make more conscious and informed decisions in their parenting choices.
By focusing on building a healthy sense of self-esteem, autonomy, and resilience, parents can help their children develop into confident and capable adults who are not afraid of the challenges and setbacks that life inevitably brings us all.