Parents want to raise their children too perfectly. And that leads to psychological problems, also in children

They are called helicopter parents. Parents who protect their children too much and are constantly trying to make their lives perfect. A new study now shows that this is not good for anyone, it causes psychological problems for both parents and children.

We all know the differences with the past. Then as a child you were left more to your own devices. You played with other children or with yourself and were a member of one sports club. If you got reasonable grades at school and had a few friends, you were soon fine. How different is that now? Around you you hear from parents that they teach their toddlers Chinese or at least English and they also learn to read before they go to group 3. It seems as if parents are in a kind of rat race to make their children as perfect as possible.

Pressure from the outside world
Worst of all, this is bad for parents and children. Both become unhappy from the pressure of trying to be perfect. That appears from a new American study among more than seven hundred parents. Nearly 60 percent say they have a burnout, or feel physically and emotionally exhausted. This arises from too high expectations of themselves and pressure from the outside world. Not enough time to play with children, for relationships and for household chores are also things that lead to burnout complaints.

Do less
The sad thing is that doing less is the solution. The more time parents and children have to play together and the fewer sports clubs, music lessons or other obligations children have, the better they will fare. These children are less likely to have psychological problems, such as ADHD, depression, OCD or anxiety. They are also happier when their parents feel good. A downward spiral even occurs: when children have mental problems, parents more often report burnout and shout at their children more. This in turn leads to more psychological complaints in children.

Lead researcher Kate Gawlik of Ohio State College, herself a working mother of four, cites the illusion of perfect parenting as the problem. Expectations are high and nothing can go wrong. “I think social media has really tipped the balance. You can watch people on Instagram or you can even just watch people walking around and think, how do they do that? How do they always seem to have everything in order while I don’t?”

Performance culture
In reality, especially on social media, you only see a very small part of the story. The lying on the floor, screaming toddler in the supermarket is nobody’s business Instagram Story, yes that picture perfect trip to Disneyland. The special talents of the offspring are also widely discussed. “We have high expectations of ourselves as parents and we have high expectations of what our children should do and be able to do. You compare yourself to other families, and there is judgment, whether it is intended that way or not, it does happen.”

It is ‘the performance culture’ that is causing all this misery, according to Gawlik. “When parents have a burnout, they experience anxiety, stress and depression, but their children also do worse psychologically,” adds co-researcher Bernadette Melnyk. “So it’s super important to face the real story if you become burned out as a parent and do something about it by taking better care of yourself.”

Positive parenting
The researchers developed a very effective one Working Parent Burnout Scale. This 10-point survey allows parents to measure their burnout in real time and learn how to use proven solutions. One of those solutions is so-called positive parenting. You give your children a lot of warmth and love, but also structure and guidance. “You teach them in a friendly way the consequences of certain behavior. It is much better to try to be a positive parent rather than a perfect parent.”

Gawlik gives an example: “If you may always prioritize keeping your home perfectly clean, but that leaves you no time to walk with your kids in the evenings, you may need to reorganize or find a way to do both. let work.”

Happy child
It’s not about raising perfect children in the perfect way, but about preparing them for adult life in a positive way. This would prevent a lot of frustration. “Parents do a great job caring for their children, but they rarely prioritize themselves. As parents we can’t do everything. If children see that their parents take good care of themselves, there is a good chance that they will also learn that value. It has an effect on the children and the entire family,” he concludes. “As one parent told me, I would rather have a happy child than a perfect child.”