Many parents confuse higher education and perfection as requirements for happiness. Raising a child isn’t just about getting them into the best school, teaching them to be fluent in three languages and having them look like little dolls in a display case.
Something that many studies are now telling us is that parents who set high expectations for their children end up causing serious shortcomings in the lives of their children.
They’ll most likely reach adulthood thinking that they aren’t good enough, that they’ll never be able to live up to their parents’ expectations.
These ideas can be summarized by a simple relationship: trying to raise perfect children results in having depressed children. Respect their individuality, let their voice be heard and only worry about making sure they’re happy.
This is how we nourish their hearts so they can grow into free-thinking, healthy adults with full lives. Let’s reflect on that.
Pushy parent syndrome: the dangers of perfectionism
There’s a curious story that perfectly illustrates this idea: in Rome there’s a tomb from 94 BCE that always attracts the attention of tourists.
The inscription on the headstone reads: “Here lies Quintus Sulpicius Maximus, a Roman youth who lived only 11 years, 5 months, 12 days. He died days after participating in a poetry competition for adults.”
It was well known that little Quintus possessed a special talent. Today he would probably be classified as a child prodigy. So much were his talents that his parents took him to all the poetry, literature and competitions in Rome to compete with adults.
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It’s said that the child died after collapsing with exhaustion from working so much and being unable to live up to the heavy expectations his parents had set for him. This story serves as a classic example of “pushy parent syndrome”.
The current obsession with having perfect children
Many parents dream of having beautiful, talented children that are destined for professional success tomorrow.
- The mistake here, without a doubt, is orienting the little ones “to the future”, forgetting that what’s most important for children is the here and now: the joy of the present moment.
- As parents we want the best for our children, but we need to maintain a balance. Children should be able to enjoy their childhood.
- It’s important to educate the hearts of children. We need to guide and counsel them, not set them on a one way track to live up to our expectations.
Keys to easing off perfectionism when raising children
Avoiding harmful perfectionism is the most important thing. It violates the child’s rights and causes suffering, instead of bringing happiness. To avoid this, we need to keep these principles in mind:
Parents should watch their attitude and language
Sometimes there are parents, that although not demanding with their children, look on as their own children set expectations for themselves in a somewhat tragic way.
This is because, at home, children pay attention to our language and attitudes. If we are really critical about our environment and set really rigid standards for ourselves, children who see this behavior will emulate it.
Hearing things like, “I made a mistake at work, I just want to die. It’s a disaster,” can have a serious impact on a child.
Be careful of the expectations you set and protect your children
We’ll give you an example: your son is really proud of himself for getting a good grade in math. You, instead of sharing in his happiness, tell him you expect him to do even better next time.
That’s not right: help your children to appreciate their accomplishments, to know the value of hard work, but not to feel humiliated if they don’t accomplish everything they set out to do.
Hope for the best, but accept that everyone makes mistakes
- A mistake or failure isn’t the end of the world, but a way to learn and overcome. Allow your children to excel in whatever they wish, but also leave room for them to make mistakes themselves.
- Foster tolerance, understanding, confidence and a healthy sense of self-esteem. A child that trusts you enough to tell you about their doubts and mistakes is a child reaching out to connect with you, and that is a special privilege.
We know that we live in an era of social crisis and that we need our children to be well prepared for tomorrow in order to have access to more opportunities and to create a better world.
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Now, that doesn’t mean we should set aside the value of educating them in emotional intelligence to grow up into happy adults, fully able to give the best of themselves.
It’s a vital project that everyone, including mothers, fathers, educators and even social institutions, is responsible for: teaching children happiness, not perfectionism.