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What is perfectionist parenting?

The dictionary defines perfectionism as the refusal to accept any standard short of flawless. By extrapolation, perfectionist parenting is a child-rearing doctrine where parents set unrealistically high expectations for their children. Whether it’s a hundred percent in every test, a win in every game, or perfect behavior at all times, anything less than the best is deemed unacceptable.

Unlike authoritarian parents, not all perfectionist parents are harsh. Many are loving and nurturing, too. Yet they model their perfectionistic tendencies through an obsessive zeal towards their own personal and professional goals, and by defining their self-worth by the sum of their life’s accomplishments alone.



Derogatory effects of perfectionist parenting

As a perfectionist-in-remission myself, I have, until recently, failed to see my perfectionist tendencies as a character flaw. But once I started observing how my verbal and non-verbal cues were impacting my five-year-old son, it became apparent that perfectionism is detrimental to raising mentally strong and resilient children. Here’s why:

Low self-esteem

Perfectionist parents set lofty goals. The children, either, manage to achieve those goals (a “success”) or they fall short (a “failure”). This binary thinking leads to excessive self-criticism, second guessing actions, and a crippling fear of failure. There is no middle ground, no room for celebrating improvements, personal bests, or hard work.

This attachment of worth to outcome rather than to the journey leads to low self-esteem. Some children may become so demotivated that they’re afraid to try new things altogether. This resignation leads to a vicious cycle of failure by non-action.

Imposter syndrome

When perfectionist children do manage to achieve success, they may feel like they simply got lucky. Such children are in a constant panic of the next test, which might expose them as imposters. This deep-seated anxiety is the root cause of unhappiness in them even (and especially) when they are at the top of their games.

Health concerns

Perfectionists have a tendency to disregard their physical and emotional well-being in their quests to succeed. If perfectionism remains unchecked and attains neurotic levels, it could be the source of a hoard of physical and mental disorders, including anxiety, depression, eating disorders, substance abuse, and even suicide.

Is your child a perfectionist in the making?

The derogatory effects noted above don’t happen overnight. So how can you identify whether your young child is at a risk of developing these tendencies before it’s too late? Here are some tell-tale signs:

Obsession with flawlessness

If a child suffers a meltdown every time things deviate by an iota from the plan, then chances are you have a perfectionist in the making.

Lack of sportsmanship

Being a sore loser is another classic sign. If your child is fiercely competitive, focused on the scorecard above everything else, and hates losing, he may be tending towards perfectionism.

An all-or-nothing approach to challenges

Because perfectionists have an inherent need to be right the first time, they may postpone doing things until they are a hundred percent sure they will succeed.

Excessive self-criticism and difficulty letting go

Berating oneself, getting frustrated when faced with roadblocks, having meltdowns, or finding it difficult to let “perceived” negative outcomes go are all signs of a perfectionist in the making.

Techniques to curb perfectionism in your child

Small children, being plastic, can be easily molded in their habits with conscious and committed effort. Here are some techniques that have worked for us:

Teach failure

Do a self-assessment and see if you are only showing them the shiny bits of your personality and glossing over the areas where you are struggling. If it’s a yes, then change your narrative.

Acknowledge your blunders. Let them know, repeatedly, that you (and for that matter no one) is perfect, and nobody gets it right the first time. Show them your failures with as much love and care as you show them your successes. Model for them how to be a graceful loser when things do go wrong.

Embrace mistakes as part of learning

The one thing you have to keep emphasizing with perfectionist kids is that it’s normal to make mistakes.

Make room for errors. Give them ample opportunities to build their “failure muscle” by playing games of chance. Tell them stories about famous “failures,” like Rowling, Edison etc., and remind them, using historic examples, how some mistakes can lead to fortunate serendipities.

Appreciate effort

There’s a shloka in Bhagavata Gita which, loosely translated, means, “You have a right to your work only and never to its fruit.” This segregation between work and outcome is the core wisdom that you must pass to your children. Celebrate hard work irrespective of the outcome, even when the results don’t bolster your sense of false parental ego.

Change vocabulary

Changing your vocabulary, body language, and facial expressions are crucial when it comes to combatting perfectionism. You must try to remove the positive and negative connotations from success and failure, and redefine them if needed.

When your child comes home with a scorecard that says 97, don’t look disappointed about the “missing” 3. If he, himself, is feeling unhappy about not getting the perfect score, remind him that the scorecard, in no way, reflects his real knowledge about the subject. As long as he is learning and getting better with time, the results are immaterial.

Address concerns from the beginning

It may seem easy to brush off children’s concerns as non-issues. But when a child is in the throes of anxiety for an impending exam, don’t undermine her worry. Empathize and talk about it instead.

Addressing concerns from the start and reminding kids that nothing catastrophic will happen if they don’t succeed helps to nip fear in the bud. With time, this alters their perspective and they learn to self-talk themselves out of their anxiety.

Love unconditionally

Your child is who he is. As easy as it seems to accept this, every day, parents disregard this universal truth in favor of culturally revered perfectionist ideals. Our job is to push back as hard as we can and keep loving our children in their uniqueness.

If your child is a happy “average” student or a non-athlete, don’t force him to be “above average” or an athlete. Encourage him, sure. But encourage him to do his best and be his best – not the societal standard of the best.

Balance excellence with failure

This is not to say that you should not motivate your children to excel. You must. However, striving for excellence should never be confused with becoming perfect. Grit, focus, determination, and hard work are all great qualities to be nurtured, but a healthy respect for failure and the ability to be a lifelong learner should be given equal weight.

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We spend a lot of time prepping for the arrival of a baby. But when it comes to the arrival of our breast milk (and all the massive adjustments that come with it), it's easy to be caught off guard. Stocking up on a few breastfeeding essentials can make the transition to breastfeeding a lot less stressful, which means more time and energy focusing on what's most important: Your recovery and your brand new baby.

Here are the essential breastfeeding tools you'll need, mama:

1. For covering up: A cute nursing cover

First and foremost, please know that all 50 states in the United States have laws that allow women to breastfeed in public. You do not have to cover yourself if you don't want to—and many mamas choose not to—and we are all for it.

That said, if you do anticipate wanting to take a more modest approach to breastfeeding, a nursing cover is a must. You will find an array of styles to choose from, but we love an infinity scarf, like the LK Baby Infinity Nursing Scarf Nursing Cover. You'll be able to wear the nursing cover instead of stuffing it in your already brimming diaper bag—and it's nice to have it right there when the baby is ready to eat.

Also, in the inevitable event that your baby spits-up on you or you leak some milk through your shirt, having a quick and stylish way to cover up is a total #momwin.

2. For getting comfortable: A cozy glider

Having a comfy spot to nurse can make a huge difference. Bonus points if that comfy place totally brings a room together, like the Delta Children Paris Upholstered Glider!

Get your cozy space ready to go, and when your baby is here, you can retreat from the world and just nurse, bond, and love.

3. For unmatched support: A wire-free nursing bra

It may take trying on several brands to find the perfect match, but finding a nursing bra that you love is 100% worth the effort. Your breasts will be changing and working in ways that are hard to imagine. An excellent supportive bra will make this so much more comfortable.

It is crucial to choose a wireless bra for the first weeks of nursing since underwire can increase the risk of clogged ducts (ouch).The Playtex Maternity Shaping Foam Wirefree Nursing Bra is an awesome pick for this reason, and because it is designed to flex and fit your breasts as they go through all those changes.

4. For maximum hydration: A large reusable water bottle

Nothing can prepare you for the intense thirst that hits when breastfeeding. Quench that thirst (and help keep your milk supply up in the process) by always having a water bottle with a straw nearby, like this Exquis Large Outdoor Water Bottle.

5. For feeding convenience: A supportive nursing tank

Experts recommend that during the first weeks of your baby's life, you breastfeed on-demand, meaning that any time your tiny boss demands milk, you feed them. This will help establish your milk supply and get everything off to a good start.

What does this mean for your life? You will be breastfeeding A LOT. Nursing tanks, like the Loving Moments by Leading Lady, make this so much easier. They have built-in support to keep you comfy, and you can totally wear them around the house, or even out and about. When your baby wants to eat, you'll be able to quickly "pop out" a breast and feed them.

6. For pain prevention: A quality nipple ointment

Breastfeeding shouldn't hurt, but the truth is those first days can be uncomfortable. Your nipples will likely feel raw as they adjust to their new job. This will get better! But until it does, nipple ointment is amazing.

My favorite is the Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter. We love that it's organic, and it is oh-so-soothing on your hard-at-work nipples.

Psst: If it actually hurts when your baby latches on, something may be up, so call your provider or a lactation consultant for help.

7. For uncomfortable moments: A dual breast therapy pack

As your breasts adjust to their new role, you may experience a few discomforts—applying warmth or cold can help make them feel so much better. The Lansinoh TheraPearl 3-in-1 Breast Therapy Pack is awesome because you can microwave the pads or put them in the freezer, giving you a lot of options when your breasts need some TLC.

Again, if you have any concerns about something being wrong (pain, a bump that may be red or hot, fever, or anything else), call a professional right away.

8. For inevitable leaks: An absorbing breast pad

In today's episode of, "Oh come on, really?" you are going to leak breastmilk. Now, this is entirely natural and you are certainly not required to do anything about this. Still, many moms choose to wear breast pads in their bras to avoid leaking through to their shirts.

You can go the convenient and disposable route with Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads, or for a more environmentally friendly option, you can choose washable pads, like these Organic Bamboo Nursing Breast Pads.

9. For flexibility: A breast pump

Many women find that a breast pump becomes one of their most essential mom-tools. The ability to provide breast milk when you are away from your baby (and relieve uncomfortable engorged breasts) will add so much flexibility into your new-mom life.

For quick trips out and super-easy in-your-bag transport, opt for a manual pump like the Lansinoh Manual Breast Pump .

If you will be away from your baby for longer periods of time (traveling or working outside the home, for example) an electric pump is your most efficient bet. The Medela Pump In Style Advanced Double Electric Breast Pump is a classic go-to that will absolutely get the job done, and then some.

10. For quality storage: Breast milk bags

Once you pump your liquid gold, aka breast milk, you'll need a place to store it. The Kiinde Twist Pouches allow you to pump directly into the bags which means one less step (and way less to clean).

11. For keeping cool: A freezer bag

Transport your pumped milk back home to your baby safely in a cooler like the Mommy Knows Best Breast Milk Baby Bottle Cooler Bag. Remember to put the milk in a fridge or freezer as soon as you can to optimize how long it stays usable for.

12. For continued nourishment: Bottles

Nothing beats the peace of mind you get when you know that your baby is being well-taken of care—and well fed—until you can be together again. The Philips Avent Natural Baby Bottle Newborn Starter Gift Set is a fan favorite (mama and baby fans alike).

This article is sponsored by Walmart. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.


A viral video about car seat safety has parents everywhere cracking up and humming Sir-Mix-A-Lot.

"I like safe kids and I cannot lie," raps Norman Regional Health System pediatric hospitalist Dr. Kate Cook (after prefacing her music video with an apology to her children."I'm a doctor tryin' warn you that recs have changed," she continues.

Dr. Cook's rap video is all about the importance of keeping babies facing backward. It's aptly called "Babies Face Back," and uses humor and parody to drive home car seat recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

"Switching from rear-facing to forward-facing is a milestone many parents can't wait to reach," Dr. Cook said in a news release about her hilarious video. "But this is one area where you want to delay the transition as long as possible because each one actually reduces the protection to the child."

Last summer the AAP updated its official stance on car seat safety to be more in line with what so many parents were already doing and recommended that kids stay rear-facing for as long as possible. But with so many things to keep track of in life, it is understandable that some parents still don't know about the change. Dr. Cook wants to change that with some cringe-worthy rapping.

The AAP recommends:

  • Babies and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat.
  • Once they are facing forward, children should use a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness for as long as possible. Many seats are good up to 65 pounds.
  • When children outgrow their car seat they should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle's lap and shoulder seat belt fits properly, between 8 and 12 years old.

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[Editor's note: Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.]

Suicide rates for girls and women in the United States have increased 50% since 2000, according to the CDC and new research indicates a growing number of pregnant and postpartum women are dying by suicide and overdose. Suicide rates for boys and men are up, too.

It's clear there is a mental health crisis in America and it is robbing children of their mothers and mothers of their children.

Medical professionals urge people to get help early, but sometimes getting help is not so simple. For many Americans, the life preserver that is mental health care is out of reach when they are drowning.

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg just released a plan he hopes could change that and says the neglect of mental health in the United States must end. "Our plan breaks down the barriers around mental health and builds up a sense of belonging that will help millions of suffering Americans heal," says Buttigieg.

He thinks he can "prevent 1 million deaths of despair by 2028" by giving Americans more access to mental health and addictions services.

In a country where giving birth can put a mother in debt, it's not surprising that while as many as 1 in 5 new moms suffers from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, more than half of new moms who need mental health treatment don't get it. Stigma, childcare and of course costs are factors in why women aren't seeking help when they are struggling.

Buttigieg's plan is interesting because it could remove some of these barriers. He wants to make mental health care more affordable by ensuring everyone has comprehensive coverage for mental health care and by ensuring that everyone can access a free yearly mental health check-up.

That could make getting help more affordable for some moms, and by increasing reimbursement rates for mental health care delivered through telehealth, this plan could help moms get face time with a medical professional without having to deal with finding childcare first.

Estimates from new research suggest that in some parts of America as many as 14% or 30% of maternal deaths are caused by addiction or suicide. Buttigieg's plan aims to reduce those estimates by fighting the addiction and opioid crisis and increasing access to mental health services in underserved communities and for people of color. He also wants to reduce the stigma and increase support for the next generation by requiring "every school across the country to teach Mental Health First Aid courses."

These are lofty goals with a lofty price tag. It would cost about $300 billion to do what Buttigieg sets out in his plan and the specifics of how the plan would be funded aren't yet known. Neither is how voters will react to this 18-page plan and whether it will help Buttigieg stand out in a crowded field of Democratic candidates.

What we do know is that right now, America is talking about mental health and whether or not that benefits Buttigieg's campaign it will certainly benefit America.

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[Editor's Note: Welcome to It's Science, a Motherly column focusing on evidence-based explanations for the important moments, milestones, and phenomena of motherhood. Because it's not just you—#itsscience.]

If you breastfeed, you know just how magical (and trying) it is, but it has numerous benefits for mama and baby. It is known to reduce the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis, and cuts the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by half.

If this wasn't powerful enough, scientists have discovered that babies who are fed breast milk have a stomach pH that promotes the formation of HAMLET (Human Alpha-lactalbumin Made Lethal to Tumor cells). HAMLET was discovered by chance when researchers were studying the antibacterial properties of breast milk. This is a combination of proteins and lipids found in breast milk that can work together to kill cancer cells, causing them to pull away from healthy cells, shrink and die, leaving the healthy cells unaffected.

According to researchers at Lund University in Sweden, this mechanism may contribute to the protective effect breast milk has against pediatric tumors and leukemia, which accounts for about 30% of all childhood cancer. Other researchers analyzed 18 different studies, finding that "14% to 19% of all childhood leukemia cases may be prevented by breastfeeding for six months or more."

And recently, doctors in Sweden collaborated with scientists in Prague to find yet another amazing benefit to breast milk. Their research demonstrated that a certain milk sugar called Alpha1H, found only in breast milk, helps in the production of lactose and can transform into a different form that helps break up tumors into microscopic fragments in the body.

Patients who were given a drug based on this milk sugar, rather than a placebo, passed whole tumor fragments in their urine. And there is more laboratory evidence to support that the drug can kill more than 40 different types of cancer cells in animal trials, including brain tumors and colon cancer. These results are inspiring scientists to continue to explore HAMLET as a novel approach to tumor therapy and make Alpha1H available to cancer patients.

Bottom line: If you choose to breastfeed, the breast milk your baby gets from your hard work can be worth every drop of effort.

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