We want to give our kids every opportunity to be well-rounded: to be good at school, good at sports, well-liked and perhaps even to cultivate a special talent in the arts.
But in our zeal to be perfect parents, it’s all too easy to create a dangerous sense of perfectionism in our kids, says Dr. Ian Tofler, a Los Angeles-based psychiatrist and co-author of Keeping Your Kids Out Front Without Kicking Them From Behind.
“A successful parent,” says Tofler, “is one that can be supportive and involved while still realizing that the child is a separate individual with her own unique needs and goals.”
Tofler urges parents to keep their eyes as open as possible to those instances when they might be pushing their children to excel in areas that reflect the parent’s unfulfilled ambitions, rather than the child’s passion.
These blurry borders can cause children to believe that their parents’ love is contingent on the fulfillment of these goals, to the point where parents and children both lose their sense of perspective.
A much-publicized case in point is 7-year-old Jessica Dubroff, who died in her attempt to become the youngest pilot ever to fly across the country. And we’ve all heard the stories of Japanese students committing suicide because of disappointing test scores, and young ballet dancers starving themselves to the point of exhaustion or even death.