Intrusive parenting leads children to be overly self-critical

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Children should be given a conducive environment to learn, and part of learning always involves making mistakes and learning from them

It is typical for parents to hover on their children. Usually, it comes from a good place, a desire to see their children fare well out there in the real world. According to new studies, however, intrusive parents result in their children becoming overly self-critical.

What’s the harm of being self-critical, you may ask? Well, such tendencies, especially during adolescence, are linked to the development of depression and anxiety.

Parents’ high expectations may push their children to achieve better academic performance, says a study conducted by the National University of Singapore. However, such behavior from parents have unintended consequences.

In a five-year study by NUS’s department of psychology, researchers looked in on how maladaptive perfectionism—or "bad" form of perfectionism—develops in Singaporean primary school children.

When parents become too involved in their children’s lives, said lead researcher and assistant professor Ryan Hong, children believe that they are not good enough.

"As a result, the child may become afraid of making the slightest mistake and will blame himself or herself for not being ‘perfect,’ he said.

“Over time, such behavior, known as maladaptive perfectionism, may be detrimental to the child's well-being as it increases the risk of the child developing symptoms of depression, anxiety and even suicide in very serious cases.”

The study assessed seven-year-olds from ten primary schools over a five-year period (2010 - 2014), and the parent in each family who was more familiar with the child was involved in the study.

"Our findings indicate that in a society that emphasizes academic excellence, which is the situation in Singapore, parents may set unrealistically high expectations on their children,” Professor Hong added.

"As a result, a sizeable segment of children may become fearful of making mistakes. Also... they can become disinclined to admit failures and inadequacies and seek help when needed."

Many studies concerning maladaptive perfectionism usually focuses on its effects on adolescents and college-age children, but this particular study demonstrates its link to young children as well.

For parents who have high expectations of their children, professor Hong urges them to take a step back and be mindful not to push their children too far.

“Children should be given a conducive environment to learn, and part of learning always involves making mistakes and learning from them,” he said. “When parents become intrusive, they may take away this conducive learning environment.”

Parents should also refrain from blaming their children for not performing up to their standards.

They should also make it a point to turn mistakes into a learning experience instead.

READ: Over-parenting damages children’s personal growth, study says

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