What is performance parenting?

Performance parenting

What is performance parenting? 

Every mum, dad or carer wants the best for their child. From their physical development to their academic and sports performance, many parents want their little ones to have everything they need to reach their full potential. Others believe they’re being judged on their parenting performance and that their children’s behaviour reflects back directly on their own identity. 

If these feelings are taken to the extreme, they can have a real impact on adults and children and lead to performance parenting. This article will explain what performance parenting is, what the causes and impacts are and the solutions for it. 

What does performance parenting look like? 

Performance parenting is when adults become hyper-aware of their children’s behaviour, successes and failures and how these reflect back on their own identity as a mum, dad or carer. Also known as performance-driven or trophy parenting, this style is characterised by the behaviours of a parent rather than a child and includes: 

  • Demonstrating ‘perfect parenting’ to others, such as talking about their luxury holidays or healthy eating regimes. 
  • Celebrating their children’s achievements with anyone at every opportunity, including on social media.
  • Emphasising their parenting successes over their struggles, including denying the reality of any difficulties they experience. 
  • Being conscious of the judgement of others and prioritising this over nurturing their child. 
  • Similarly to competitive parenting, this style can lead parents to encourage their children to develop quickly and perform highly academically or in sports. Any success the children have will then be celebrated as a positive reflection on a parent’s performance.

Although parents might not demonstrate all of these behaviours regularly or at an extreme level, it’s important to be aware of these actions, particularly if they’ve started to become habits. As they can start to have a real impact on children and adults if they are repeated over a long period of time. 

What causes performance parenting? 

The causes of performance parenting lie with the parent, their thoughts and behaviours. This means parents who become more self-aware can quickly identify these traits and get to the root of why they’ve appeared. Indeed, some of the reasons why performance parenting occurs include: 

  • The judgement of others: whether they’re worried about what a parent behind them in the supermarket queue will think if they give a child chocolate or the need to impress their friends and family. How parents think others are judging their parenting can have a significant influence on how they then act, e.g. talking to the child loudly in the supermarket about how much of a treat the chocolate is. 
  • Striving for perfection: from getting the most beautiful posts on social media to ensuring a child excels in their academic performance, a tendency toward perfectionism in family life can lead parents to emphasise the ‘ideal’ over the reality of the relationship with their children. 
  • A lack of parenting confidence: a strong belief that the way children turn out is influenced by the actions of parents can lead adults to become uncertain about the best way to deal with their children. This insecurity can drive a tendency towards performing in ways they deem as the ‘correct’ way to parent. 

Understanding the reasons behind parenting in a performative way will help adults consider the impact it might have on themselves and their children, some of which can be negative if the behaviours are repeated or become extreme. 

What are the impacts of performance parenting? 

Although there’s been no official research into the impacts of performance parenting, the main reported result of these traits on parents and children is increased levels of anxiety. Parents feel the pressure to maintain this positive performance and, as a result, can transfer this onto their children, whether it’s through their school grades or behaviour. 

Performance parenting can also cause parents to act in inconsistent ways that focus on influencing their children to become ‘perfect’ rather than nurturing their natural talents and disciplining them in a clear and understanding way. This can lead children to have low self-esteem and lack confidence as a result of undefined boundaries and high expectations. 

As an imitation of their parents’ behaviours, children may start comparing themselves to others and become highly competitive in their school work or sports. This can, over time, harm their interactions with their peers and make it difficult for them to build meaningful and sincere relationships, leading to loneliness and challenges in later life. 

Indeed, there are very few benefits to performance parenting traits, so it’s important that adults who recognise themselves behaving in these ways work to understand the root cause and find more positive solutions. 

What are the solutions to performance parenting?

Any parent wants their child to reach their full potential, but if they find themselves leaning into a ‘performance’ regularly then it's recommended that they switch to more positive parenting solutions. 

  • Get advice: parenting is hard work and every adult has found it difficult looking after their children at some stage. If you’re not feeling confident in your parenting style, then being honest about your challenges and getting some advice from family, friends or professional counsellors is recommended. This will give you the tools you need to approach every hurdle with complete confidence. 
  • Emphasise authenticity: if your natural response is to be nurturing, clear and authoritative, then you can trust your parenting instincts rather than being led by the guidance and judgement of others. By working on being an authentic rather than a perfect parent, you will automatically be calmer and able to approach challenges with ease.  
  • Set boundaries: with yourself and others. For example, recognising when you’re leaning toward these behaviours, such as making comparisons with others, and actively working to stop them is key. Then, when other parents judge your parenting (even if they’re you’re own mum and dad), it's important to have a calm, considered response at hand so you can put it behind you and avoid feeling the pressure to perform.

By finding confidence in your parenting and approaching it in a positive, authentic way you can work to avoid performance parenting and the impacts it can have on your family life.