Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

7 Ways You May Be Failing Your Perfect Child

Children labeled as "perfect" suffer in a number of ways.

Key points

  • Perfect kids tend to suffer silently.
  • Kids labeled as perfect often feel misunderstood and invisible and avoid activities that they don't excel at.
  • The parent-child relationship may become damaged as a result of excessive pressure to present as perfect.

I have been hearing about this issue over and over again from the kids and adults labeled as the perfect children in their families. Most children want to please and be recognized for their accomplishments. Nonetheless, there is a hefty price to pay for being in that category. This price is paid in childhood and often throughout adulthood, long after the kids have left the childhood home.

Yes, most parents admit to having a favorite child, and that child is often the most accomplished and successful. These driven, talented, and hard-working kids make their parents feel both proud and effective as parents. They are often born with easier temperaments and require less prodding and reminders than their less perfect siblings.

At first glance, they appear to have it easy. Life just seems to be much simpler for them. Let's slow down just a bit here. There is a price that these children pay that parents often miss.

7 difficulties that seemingly perfect kids have in common:

After reading these, parents may want to think twice about what it means to be the favorite or perfect child.

1. In an effort to remain the perfect child, these children may avoid activities or pursuits that they don't excel at.

This makes a lot of sense. If their goal is to remain perfect, then why would they engage in a task that might compromise their reputation? This is a style that may last into adulthood, robbing one of the joys of activities that might be fun despite a lack of excellent performance.

2. The perfect child may be suffering silently.

These children might not want to share issues about mental health struggles, problems with friends, trouble at school, etc., because they feel that there is no room for that. They may feel that that emotional space is to be occupied only by their siblings. Imagine what it must be like to have to struggle silently.

3. Perfect kids often describe being painfully aware of the resentment of their siblings, who were frequently compared to them.

In far too many instances, this colors the sibling relationship in a very negative manner. These siblings may experience the resentment of their less-perfect siblings throughout childhood and adulthood.

4. Surprisingly, these children often feel misunderstood and invisible.

Yes, they have achieved quite a bit, but what about their feelings and perhaps silent struggles? In childhood, they may have inadvertently been taught to be good and quiet. This sort of message is never a good one and may lead to troubled relationships in adulthood fraught with avoidance and a lack of authenticity.

5. Being labeled as perfect may be a set-up for all sorts of self-destructive behavior.

After all, if children or adolescents feel that they don't have permission to discuss their less-than-perfect thoughts and feelings, they may develop eating disorders, somatic symptoms, and a variety of other issues in order to both get the attention they need and their needs met. Please keep this in mind before describing your offspring as perfect. Perfect is an almost impossible label to live with,

6. Consider that you are sending your children the wrong message about what is important in life.

Do you really want to teach your kids that straight A's are more important than the quality of their relationships and the importance of being a good person with flaws and some rough edges? Everyone needs permission to be less than perfect.

7. Kids who feel pressure to be perfect often resent their parents.

Do you really want to create a fractured relationship with your children? I highly doubt it. Again, I suggest moving on to something way more realistic than perfection. Perfection is neither desirable nor achievable.

More from Barbara Greenberg Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today
More from Barbara Greenberg Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today