If a perfectionist affects their health for the worse because of the constant pressure they put on themselves in pursuit of perfection, what happens when said perfectionist becomes a parent? We often think about the impact that parents make on their children who are influenced by the way they are raised, but have you stopped to think for a moment about what happens to parents themselves, because of their parenting style, especially when it comes to mental and physical health?
If you’ve not done so yet, you should familiarize yourself with the research conducted by an American sociologist who has uncovered the effects of 3 major parenting styles...
"People may underestimate ‘the impact of their parenting on health,’" says Dr. Kevin Shafer, a Ph.D. in sociology at Brigham Young University in Utah. According to one of Shafer's studies "third" parents, such as stepfathers, are more likely to develop depression in comparison to other fathers, because of the confusion they experience in terms of parenting expectations.
These fathers don’t understand the psychological effects their parenting has on their physical health. Effects that he claims can be expressed in problems in the digestive system, migraines and more. As part of his research, Shafer examined in depth three main parenting styles and their impact on parents' health for better or worse and concluded that the way we parent is related to the length and quality of life experienced as parents.
Helicopter parents often set out to “rescue” their children, seemingly always hovering over them like a helicopter. If the child forgets their gym clothes or doesn’t finish their homework in time, the parent will drop everything to get them those clothes and will even do their homework for them. These parents tend to watch and protect their children more than necessary and you’ll probably find them standing by the slide in the playground watching and making sure their kids don’t fall with hand sanitizer at the ready.
According to Dr. Shafer, helicopter parents "parent from a place of high anxiety, a need for control. They're often perfectionists who put intense pressure on themselves and view their child as a reflection of their own success." Sadly, all that stress and pressure put the parent at a risk for depression and burning out and it is also linked to the development of various health problems such as indigestion, insomnia, and weakened immune systems. Ironically, such protective parents may get sick with a virus they are so trying to prevent their child from catching. This stress can even lead to heart disease.
The recommendation for helicopter parents is to take a step back the next time they feel the urge to "save" their children. These parents can take a moment of thought to reflect on all the things they’ve survived during their childhood, for example, leaving the house without a cellphone! The understanding that we must let our children make mistakes sometimes and learn on their own will allow these parents to also give themselves the freedom from constant stress.
This parenting style is characterized by an educational approach that advocates "black or white." Authoritarian parents tend to give orders to their children in every matter and make clear that there is only one correct way of doing things, and of course, it’s theirs. Yelling and threats of punishment are more common among authoritarian parents and the argument of “because I said so" may be used quite often. Authoritarian parents base their parenting on the need to avoid anxiety, but ironically they may develop it over the years of child-rearing.
It is important to remember that, in many ways, the desire to avoid fear and the desire to control often collapses when children grow up and rebel against authoritarian parents. In such situations, parents who have tried to avoid feeling anxiety will feel that they are experiencing it at its peak. Beyond that, the anger that sometimes accompanies authoritarian parents at all stages of raising children has a huge impact on their health. Irritability and anger poison the body and cause accelerated heart rate, pressure in the head and chest, sore muscles and more. All of these can lead to vascular diseases and even heart attacks.
One of the coping methods that authoritarian parents can adopt for moments of anger is called "stop, sit, breathe." The principle behind the method is that our brain translates sitting and lying positions as safe and relaxed states, which disrupts the flow of chemicals secreted during a tantrum. It is almost impossible to feel the same level of anger sitting versus what you feel when standing up. Even if you are an authoritarian parent and your child has just done something that you think deserves a swift and harsh reaction, take a minute to sit down and think about your course of action.
This parenting style is considered the healthiest way to raise children according to Dr. Shafer. Parents with positive authority tend to allow their children to explore new things by setting clear boundaries that are not as strict as those of authoritarian parents. Parents who adopt the positive authority style are also usually warmer and more emotionally accessible, they demonstrate respect and courtesy towards their children and focus on identifying the motives for their children's behavior rather than the behavior itself.
This parenting style, which has balance and self-confidence, has influences that cross the boundaries of effective and proper education and are also expressed in the health of the parent themselves. Studies have shown that people with self-confidence tend to be healthier and live longer. In addition, trust and optimism are qualities that have been shown to protect the body from disease. The positive authority also allows for a stronger and closer relationship between parents and children, and thus also reduces parents' anxiety levels, since they know more about their children and trust them more.