Sunday, October 10, 2010


Dear Mr. Morton- I am a perfectionist and put much pressure to achieve on my son, age 10. This school year he’s bringing home “B” and “C’s”, which I can’t accept. How can I keep him achieve without putting too much stress on him?- S.L.

Dear S.L.- When parental expectations are too high or too perfectionist, children easily grow anxious and hypersensitive to criticism. I’ve witnessed students try to get even with overly-demanding parents by committing “academic suicide” or by purposefully underachieving. Others develop poor self-esteems and relinquish their natural zest for trying in school…and life.

If your son feels he cannot consistently be good enough to please you, he may eventually throw in the towel or learn to give only minimal effort in school and in life. And why not? If effort doesn’t earn your appreciation, he’ll rationally conclude the less effort, the less to lose emotionally.

Here’s some thoughts. Realign your own ideas about perfectionism and humor yourself…even laugh at yourself and your mistakes. Remember, people only approach perfection when they fill out their income tax or job interview forms.

Like Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth, focus intensely on process, minimally on product. How? Appreciate and encourage your son’s daily efforts and improvements (process) and less on making all “A’s” in school (product). In this manner, your son will feel your appreciation for his daily efforts and improvements, regardless of the outcomes. Everything else will follow, for he’ll learn the true meaning of “winning” and that no one is a loser until they give up and people who don’t make mistakes are the ones who usually don’t make anything at all. Is that why Aaron and Ruth struck out at the plate many more times than they hit home runs?

Psychoanalyst H. David Stein, M.D., (NYC) feels that perfectionist parents do their children more harm than good. He stated, “Kids feel that their parents are dissatisfied with them, even if it’s not stated. They pick up on subtle cues.”

Robert Morton, M.Ed., Ed.S., has retired from his positions as school psychologist and adjunct professor in the School of Leadership and Policy Studies at Bowling Green State University. Questions or comments? Click HERE to contact him at our secure Bpath Mail Form