Education Week: Perfectionistic parenting harms parents and children

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Thereapists Steven Moody, pictured, and Jeffrey Reber discussed the paradox of perfection in their multi-day Education Week series.
Perfectionistic parenting causes imperfect relationships and is harmful to both parents and children, according to therapists Steven Moody and Jeffrey Reber.
Moody and Reber discussed various aspects of perfectionistic parenting with an Education Week audience.
First, Moody addressed the negative effects of perfectionistic parenting on children. These effects can include anxiety, depression, eating disorders and fear of failure.
“We’re not born into perfectionism. A couple comes home from the hospital and they’re excited to be parents,” Moody said. “They don’t say, ‘I can’t wait to give them anxiety and depression. I can’t wait to give them an eating disorder.’ We know that that’s not what they’re trying to do. But sometimes the way in which they go about parenting is very perfectionistic, and they have these high expectations.”
Parents put this kind of pressure on their children because they are receiving pressure to be perfect as well, Moody said.

Comparison is one of the sources parents feel pressure from. Moody provided a Christmas card as an example of how parents will compare their children to someone else’s children.

“However, with the Christmas card, that’s at Christmas,” Moody said. “If you look on social media, you’re getting this every single day. So stop comparing yourself to people on Facebook. Stop comparing yourself to people on Instagram. Stop comparing yourself with Christmas cards.”
Two other sources of perfectionist pressure on parents are judgment and fear.
“Parents are feeling the pressure to be perfect, and as a result, children are feeling the need to be perfect and both are failing here,” Moody said. “This isn’t what God wants. He doesn’t want us to feel this pressure to be perfect parents.”
Reber then discussed coming closer to Christ and how parents can free themselves from the burden of perfectionism.
Perfectionism is bred in culture, Reber said.
“That pressure comes from, as we’ve talked about since the very first day, a false understanding of perfection,” Reber said. “After our four lessons, if there’s anything you walk away with, it’s got to be that perfectionism does not equal perfection. Flawlessness does not equal perfection. Perfectionism is a relationship.”
Reber was referring to the relationship between Christ, parents and children.
Marriage and parenting are the hardest things people do in life, Reber said. They are also the two things that allow God’s children to become most like him.
Reber shared family anecdotes that demonstrated the wide range of emotions, from rage to joy, that parents are capable of feeling because of their children.
Parents do not need to be concerned with their children getting perfect grades, careers or sports records. The most important concern for parents is that they teach their children of Christ, according to Reber.
“The purpose of this life, eternal life, is to have an intimate relationship with our God,” Reber said. “It is not to explain all the characteristics and features of God, although that is important. It is to know Him. So what achievement ought we to want for our children? An intimate relationship with the Savior.”
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