A five-year-long study has unveiled that making children to work harder so they good marks in schools is not at all healthy for them and may even lead to negative consequences. Researchers said that such children could be more vulnerable to depression and remain anxious.
The research carried out on primary school students in Singapore has found that whose parents showed intrusive behavior, were having too many expectations from their children to deliver good academic performance and overreacted when the child made a mistake were at increased risk of being overcritical of themselves.
Prof. Ryan Hong from the National University of Singapore said that such behavior makes children highly critical about themselves. They may feel afraid of making even a single mistake and would blame themselves for not being perfect. Such a behavior known as maladaptive perfectionism is not at all healthy for children’s health.
The researchers recruited children aged seven years old from 10 primary schools in Singapore. From each family, the parent who is more familiar with the child was involved in the study. The researchers assessed two sides of maladaptive perfectionism in children- firstly, self-criticalness and secondly, socially prescribed perfectionism.
The researchers said that their work demonstrates the link between parental intrusiveness and self-criticalness in young primary school children. To know about parental intrusiveness, the researchers made children play a game and their parents also accompanied them.
The game required children to solve puzzles within a restricted time limit and the parent could help the child when he/she felt the need to do so. The researchers wanted to see whether or not the parents intervened with the child’s problem-solving attempts.
Similar assessments were carried out when children were eight, nine and eleven years old. The researchers assessed the data collected from 263 children and found that 60% of them were classified as high and/or increasing in self-criticalness and 78% were classified as high in socially prescribed perfectionism.
It was noticed that both aspects of maladaptive perfectionism were present. “Our findings indicate that in a society that emphasizes academic excellence, which is the situation in Singapore, parents may set unrealistically high expectations on their children. As a result, a sizable segment of children may become fearful of making mistakes”, said study’s lead researcher Hong.
The pressure would not help increase a child’s performance, in fact, would affect his/her health. Therefore, the researchers have suggested that parents should motivate children rather forcing them to get more grades in school.
Hong agreed that it might be difficult for parents to not have high expectations from their children. But they should provide them a favorable environment to learn and making mistakes is part of learning. But when parents become intrusive then children are not able to get a positive environment for growth.
Hong said rather than asking your child, ‘Did you get full marks on your test?’ parents can try and ask, ‘How did you do on your test? There is a difference between the questions. The first one conveys a message that the child is expected to get a full score in the test. But the second one does not pass on such a message rather is meant to let the child share things.