‘It’s got to be-ee-ee-ee perfect …’ goes the popular eighties’ song where a woman sets out the conditions for all her future relationships. Good luck, honey!’
For career mums juggling the dual rules of worker and mother, being a perfectionist can be a recipe for stress, depression, conflict and lower overall satisfaction with themselves and life.
Of course there are lots of rewards (such as the thrill of achieving) that come from perfectionist behaviour, features of which might include being organised, hard-working and committed to your goals. But sometimes perfectionists are motivated by guilt, fear of failure, or fear of others’ disappointment or censure rather than the rewards of a job well done. It is when the fear of negative consequences is greater than the lure of positive ones that this form of perfectionism becomes less healthy, leading to decreased satisfaction and leaving the perfectionist vulnerable to dejection, shame, embarrassment and a generally low mood.
Headstarts: 100 Tips for Raising Clever, Confident, Creative Kids (Headstarts) is full of summaries of current and recent research about children and parenting. There are tips on sleeping, nutrition, care solutions, behaviour management, nutrition, teaching maths, assessing when you need help (whether it be in maths, behaviour or co-existing with teenagers) and talking about sex. Each is accompanied by information on the source of the information so if you want to, you can access original research. Much of the contents are around reassuring parents that they are normal, their children are normal and any challenges, behaviours or insecurities they have are shared by many other parents and children. Headstarts is practical, readable and reassuring.
Headstarts begins by suggesting that you not be too hard on yourself. Difficult when all around you there are family members, doctors, nurses, friends and passersby offering advice on what you should be doing. Headstarts doesn’t suggest you read every tip here and embrace it, in fact if you did, you’d be much more confused than ever. What it does do is present the findings of research, simplify it for the lay reader and say ‘Okay, now you’re informed, make the decisions that are right for you and your children.’ It also suggests you pick and choose what’s right for you and your child/children at the time, while reminding you that things may change. There is also a warning that current research may not match future research, just like what works for your first three-year-old might not work with your next three-year-old. Overall, it’s suggesting that you learn to listen to yourself, your child and to trust the way that you negotiate with each other. Recommended for parents and those considering becoming parents.
Headstarts: 100 Tips for Raising Clever, Confident, Creative Kids, Dr Cindy Pan & Vanessa Woods
Allen & Unwin 2011