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Parents and Perfect Children

Jan 27, 2011 | By Harvey Craft

The perfect childSome parents have unreasonably high standards for their children in school and elsewhere. Healthy children don't have to be perfect, just normal.

Parents and other adults may occasionally describe a child as perfect. Generally, that description is meant as a compliment rather than an accurate assessment. Unfortunately, some parents have standards for academics and behavior that set children up for failure and possibly serious emotional problems.

Why Parents Shouldn't Strive for Perfect Children

The main reason that parents shouldn’t strive for perfection in raising children is that it's an impossible task. Humans are all inherently flawed in a variety of ways. Still, many parent push kids toward academic perfection, or straight A's.

Making all A's year after school year is very unusual - less than 1% of all students ever make it. Making perfect grades is not a bad thing, unless it deprives a child of normal development in other aspects of development, like social relationships, leisure, extracurricular activities, and other aspects in life that contribute to normalcy.

Parents may unwittingly use children to compensate for their own past failures. Children become objects through which parents correct their developmental disappointments.
A father who couldn't make the high school football team may involve his son in athletics as early as possible - not because the boy wanted to be an athlete, but because dad couldn't be one. And a mother may insist on honor roll grades so she can feel better about her lack of achievement.
In either case, it's not the goal that is flawed, but the reason behind it and the possible effects on the child if he or she cannot meet the expectation.

Parents are not Always to Blame for Perfectionism in Children

A perfect all A's report cardFactors outside the family can place stress on children to strive for perfection. The Hollywood or Madison Avenue notion of beauty exposes girls to a bombardment of images of female celebrities who garner more than their share of publicity. Models on magazine covers have what appears to be perfect skin that has, in reality, been air-brushed to appear smoother.

Television offers heroes and heroines for younger children. They often become enormously popular as models or athletes. The various media offer children worlds that rarely present life as it is, rather some distortion of life that often requires perfection. When children try too hard to imitate someone's altered view of life, it can lead to a variety of undesirable behaviors, like bulimia or anorexia.

Other children may simply come to feel that they do not match up to the beautiful people, and experience low self-esteem, depression, stress, obsessive-compulsive behavior, and other problems. Also troubling is the possibility that perfectionism might cause children to judge others based on appearances or income.

Real perfectionists are pursued by fear of failure, and failure for them is much harder to overcome than people who understand that mistakes are an ordinary an acceptable feature of everyday life. Striving to do one's best while understanding one's their best has limitations is OK. Reasonable people can accept and forgive limitations.

Parents can Help Children Achieve Success Without Perfection

Parent encouraging childIf children can easily achieve outstanding grades, they should be encouraged - not forced - to do so. If a children has a gift, parents should guide the child in such a way that the gift can be nourished and develop in a healthy way that does not interfere with normal development.

Too much emphasis on physical beauty or straight A's can be harmful even if children are beautiful or brilliant. An understanding of gift is essential. That is, a gift is something a person receives, but individuals are gifted for reasons beyond their responsibility.

Knowing that success for most people requires much less than perfection is important. Indeed, many wealthy citizens had average grades and average educations but possessed good organizational skills, creativity, and confidence.
Parents need to assess themselves and the bad habits that they might unwittingly teach to their children. These might include obsessive-compulsive tendencies, negativity, lack of patience, and an array of irresponsible behaviors.
Children generally become responsible adults by the models they have at home, and being responsible is likely as important to success as perfect grades.

Beware Rewards and Punishments

Children must be loved and know it. Giving children material things to excess may make parents and children feel good, but excessive giving by parents is no substitute for telling children that they are loved and spending time with them.

Rewarding good behavior and punishing bad is a dangerous routine if parents use it to shape a personality. When children learn that doing good is rewarded, they are likely to become materialistic. The reward becomes the goal and the appreciation of doing the right thing because that’s what good people do is lost.
Likewise, children who know that any transgression - however small - will lead to punishment can grow to fear that parents can withdraw their love easily. This feeling can create fear and attachment to others who seem to offer love.

Better than artificial rewards are validation and recognition of things well done and showing appreciation for chores. Some denial of privileges may be appropriate, especially if it is related to bad behavior. For example, phone or TV privileges may be denied if it is clear that a child is not studying because of too much phone and TV. Still, it is good if children participate in making a plan so that they have some control of their destiny.

There are no perfect people. There are excellent people, good people, and responsible people. They are everywhere and form the solid backbone of society. Perfection is OK if children can manage it, but it is no guarantee of success.

About the author:
Harvey Craft
 is a retired educator and former principal, with extensive experience in teaching grades six through to twelve. He is NBPTS certified in Adolescent Science and now spends his time in educational research, consulting, and freelance writing.
Click here to contact or read more articles by Harvey Craft.

Tags : perfectionism, perfect, kids, children, rewards, punishment, achievement, success, healthly

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