The Science of Happiness. Register Today
   

Raising Happiness

 

How To Make Your Kid into a Perfectionist

September 3, 2008 | The Main Dish | 1 comment

 

In my last post, I made the case for preventing perfectionism in children, and got a slew of emails from people asking how to prevent perfectionism.

Kids today, especially upper-middle class kids, are under a lot of pressure to achieve. Kids who feel pressure to be perfect are prone to depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. As parents we have a choice: pile on the pressure, or help them see that there is more to life—and to them—than their achievements. Here's how parents create perfectionist children:

  1. This isn't rocket science: parents mold their children into perfectionists by wanting and expecting their children to be perfect. Since no child actually is perfect, when parents push for perfection, kids feel criticized.

  2. Parents who are perfectionists themselves teach their children to be perfectionists indirectly. Are you overly concerned about making mistakes? Chances are your children will be, too. Wean yourself from perfectionism if you think you might be part of the problem (I'll post more about how later this week).

  3. They make their approval contingent on achievement and performance. This is easy to do accidentally – it is classic fixed-mindset thinking. Parents who value their children's achievements more than their character tend to create perfectionists.

  4. Even when children are doing very well, perfectionism-creators find faults: they raise an eyebrow at the one B on a report card full of A's, they point out the bad pitch in a game well-played. Praise kids for a job well done without pointing out what they could have done better. Even better, use only growth-mindset praise.

  5. Perfectionism-creators are unable to see the positive aspects of mistakes, failures, and jobs left undone, feeling that their children's poor performance will reflect badly on them. If you find yourself doing everything within your power to prevent your children's failures—bringing forgotten homework to school, staying up late to "help" rewrite a paper, manipulating the system to your child's advantage—take a step back and ponder whether you really want to prevent your children from learning to deal with challenges and mistakes themselves.

Sometimes parents do everything right and their kids turn out to be perfectionists anyway. Aside from being a perfectionist herself, my mother did very few of the things on that first list, but because she loved us so much and was so dedicated to our success, she protected us from making mistakes in every way she possibly could. Though I did unequivocally become a perfectionist over-achiever, my brother escaped this fate (he's merely very successful, fulfilled, and happy). The good news is that I seem to have kicked the habit – evidence that people are resilient, adaptable, and able to change.

The next couple of posts will give you even more tips for paving the way for both success AND happiness this school year. Next week I'll discuss how you can discourage "maximizing," which is a form of perfectionism, and teach "satisficing," — a goofy word for meeting expectations and feeling good about it.

My friend Kelly Corrigan—a New York Times best-selling author—is happy and successful, but not a perfectionist. She writes here about the things her parents did that made her at ease with making mistakes and accepting good enough as truly good enough. What did your parents do that discouraged perfectionism? What do you do with your children?

Step 2 for fostering success and happiness, but not perfectionism:
Accept that Achievement Doesn't Matter. Seriously.

Related posts:

© 2008 Christine Carter, Ph.D.

Join the Campaign for 100,000 Happier Parents by signing this simple pledge.

Become a fan of Raising Happiness on Facebook.

Follow Christine Carter on Twitter

Subscribe to the Happiness Matters Podcast on iTunes.

Sign up for the Raising Happiness CLASS!

Tracker Pixel for Entry
 
 
 
 
  

Like this post?

Here's what you can do:

Donate
 
  
 
  

Buy the Book!

Learn more about the science of raising happy kids in Christine Carter's popular book.

BUY
 
  
 

This is an excellent topic, great post.  Have you read “The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids” by Madeline Levine?  I’m slowly making my way through it and I just love it – she’s so right on.
——-

Jordan Sadler, SLP | 7:27 pm, September 4, 2008 | Link

 
blog comments powered by Disqus
 

Subscribe to this Blog

Every time a new Raising Happiness post is published, get it as an email or via RSS feed.

Subscribe

 

Most...

  
  
Is she flirting with you? Take the quiz and find out.
image

Greater Good Articles

  
  • The Right Way to Get Angry

    October 20, 2014

    Anger is a tool that helps us read and respond to upsetting social situations. But how can you stop it from getting out of hand?

  • When Does Power Hurt Romance?

    October 2, 2014

    Four new studies reveal how having power affects your willingness to walk in your partner's shoes.

  • The Battle Between Success and Compassion

    October 17, 2014

    If adults want to raise caring kids, research suggests they might need to start by examining the mixed messages they’re sending to kids.

  

Twitter

 

Greater Good Live

  

The Evolutionary Roots of Compassion

The Evolutionary Roots of Compassion

Dacher Keltner explains why Darwin thought compassion is humans’ strongest instinct.

Watch
 

The Greater Good Guide to Mindfulness

The Greater Good Guide to Mindfulness

This invaluable resource, a special benefit for GGSC members, offers insight into what mindfulness is, why it’s important, and how to teach it.

Get the Guide
 

Self-Compassion & the Cultivation of Happiness with Kristin Neff

International House, UC Berkeley campus
November 7, 2014
Self-Compassion & the Cultivation of Happiness with Kristin Neff

This day-long seminar led by self-compassion pioneer Kristin Neff, will offer strategies for cultivating self-compassion, boosting happiness, and reducing stress in yourself and others.

» All Events

 
  

Sponsors

The Quality of Life Foundation logo Special thanks to

The Quality of Life Foundation for its support of the Greater Good Science Center

 
thnx advertisement