Is It Okay If Your Child Is A Perfectionist?

    Is It Okay If Your Child Is A Perfectionist?

    Parents often take pride in knowing that their children do their best in the activities they pursue. But, sometimes, “doing their best” comes from a place of perfectionism, which experts say can take a toll on their mental health. How do you know when your child is a perfectionist, and what’s the connection between perfectionism and anxiety? Find out here.

    Perfectionism, An Overview

    Before we proceed deeper into the discussion about perfectionism and anxiety, let’s first define perfectionism.

    Generally, perfectionism is defined as the tendency to strive toward self-improvement and set high standards for oneself. Experts also say it is a “multidimensional phenomenon” with two primary higher-order factors, namely perfectionistic concerns, and perfectionistic striving.

    Perfectionistic concerns point to the perception that significant others set high standards for them. It also relates to concerns about the mistakes they made and the tendency to second-guess their abilities. Perfectionistic striving points to the tendencies to set high expectations and standards for oneself.

    While perfectionism isn’t considered a mental disorder, it is highly associated with other mental health conditions, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and bipolar disorder.

    Healthy vs Unhealthy Perfectionism

    Despite the association between perfectionism and anxiety (and other mental health issues), parents must know that perfectionism can be healthy, too.

    Healthy perfectionism means the child is doing their best with the time and tools they have, and then moving on regardless of whether they achieved their goal or not. Kids with healthy perfectionism may set high standards, but they also have gentle acceptance of self. Furthermore, they can manage their behavior so that it doesn’t interfere with their life.

    Now, unhealthy perfectionism – the one associated with mental health issues – happens when people set impossibly high expectations for themselves. In most cases, they perceive that their achievements fall short of their spotless standards. Kids with unhealthy perfectionism often think in terms of “all or nothing.” They have to get all things right, otherwise, they see it as a failure. And when it’s not perfect they become anxious.

    Parents whose kids have unhealthy perfectionism might also notice that their kids value performance over other aspects of life.

    Characteristics of a Perfectionist Child

    Children who do really well academically may appear to have no problems. But one study said that high academic performance can launch a vicious cycle of achievement and perfectionism: the more they achieve, the higher their desire to achieve more⁴.

    This is why perfectionism and anxiety are closely related. For this reason, parents must watch out for the following signs that their child has unhealthy perfectionism⁵:

    • Being self-critical or easily embarrassed
    • Having a perception that their work is not good enough
    • Showing anxiety even in the slightest of mistakes
    • Being sensitive to criticism
    • Exhibiting feelings of inadequacy

    Kids with unhealthy perfectionism also tend to be socially inhibited and emotionally guarded. They might also be critical of others.

    How Parents Can Help

    The first thing that parents can do is to watch out for the signs of unhealthy perfectionism and intervene when necessary. You can intervene by:

    • Being a good role model in handling achievements and oversights.
    • Helping them set realistic goals and reasonable standards.
    • Putting more emphasis on the process than results.
    • Continue giving them support, affection, and love despite them not reaching their goals.
    • Avoid comparing siblings or children.
    • Teaching them to learn from errors, revise, and restart.
    • Guiding them in providing and receiving comments.

    Of course, don’t forget to get in touch with their teachers. If their perfectionism interferes with their daily life and the way they interact with others, it’s best to bring them to a healthcare professional.

    Key Takeaways

    Unhealthy perfectionism and anxiety go hand in hand. Kids who just can’t seem to do it perfectly often feel bad about themselves. For this reason, parents must watch out for the signs of unhealthy perfectionism and intervene with the guidance of a health professional.

    Learn more about Parenting here.

    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


    1. Perfectionism,, Accessed November 15, 2021

    2. Perfectionism,, Accessed November 15, 2021

    3. Relationship Between Child Perfectionism and Psychological Disorders,, Accessed November 15, 2021

    4. The vicious circle of high academic achievement,, Accessed November 15, 2021

    5. Perfectionism in children,, Accessed November 15, 2021

    Picture of the Authorbadge
    Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. Updated Sep 12
    Medically reviewed by Ruben Macapinlac, MD, DPPS