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A Teen’s Pressure to Be Perfect

No one is perfect. But sometimes, moms and dads think their kids should be the exception! The problem is that trying to appear flawless can prevent your teen from authentically and genuinely becoming who they were created to be. In this article, I’ll help parents avoid pushing their teens to chase after unattainable standards and warn parents against the dangers of pressuring teens to be perfect.

Where Does the Pressure to be Perfect Come From?

The pressure to perform well is aimed at teens from all directions––at home, at school and at church! But there’s no doubt that parents have an unmatched influence in their teens’ lives. Even parents who don’t think they’re being tough, can unknowingly communicate their desire for perfection. When parents only affirm their kid’s value when that kid is doing what the parents want or expect, kids grow up to believe that they must be perfect in order to be loved. By the time they reach the teenaged years, the pressure causes some kids to fear that if they make a mistake or do badly, they will lose the love of Mom and Dad.

Your teen spends a large portion of their life being trained and graded for their performance. There is intense pressure to perform well academically coming from school, the culture, and their peers. Many well-meaning parents want to see their teens get into a good college. They’re afraid that if they don’t put pressure on their teens, their student will miss out on opportunities as an adult. As a result, some teens become overly anxious about schoolwork and grades. Teens often think they need to have perfect grades to get into the best college or else their life is ruined.

Your church can be a wonderful source of wisdom, guidance, and connection for your teen. But there are spoken and unspoken pressures that teens face at church. Christian circles can be brutal to the one who makes a mistake. While teens need to hear about God’s standards, they often miss the pathway to forgives and transformation.

Does YOUR Teen Feel the Pressure of Perfection?

How do parents find out if their teens are struggling with perfection? Teens may respond differently to the pressure. Some teens will strive and struggle to live up to the world’s expectations and then implode, or live with bitterness into adulthood. Others may respond to the pressure by doing the opposite––giving up and escaping the stress. Watch your teen closely and stay connected by making regular time to talk.

What To Do to Ease the Pressure at Home

Help your teen get a big-picture view of life beyond academics, sports, and performance. Make it okay to mess up. You may remember that you made some of your own mistakes as a teen. It’s not only okay, but it’s also helpful to admit your own faults. Sharing your stories and how you overcame your failures is a golden opportunity to communicate the wisdom you gained and help your teen face his own problems.

Your teen is going to make mistakes whether or not you press on them to be perfect. What they need to know is that your love for them won’t change. Resist the temptation to tie your love to your teen’s behavior. Don’t withdraw your affection when your teen is not living up to your expectations. Give him grace. Most importantly, continually communicate God’s love for your teen. God doesn’t attach his love to any accolades or achievements. He loved your teen, even more than you do, before your teen achieved anything. The Bible says, “God showed his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” That means you and your teen!


Hey moms, dads, and grandparents … you’re not perfect. You never have been and you never will be this side of heaven. So quit trying to appear to be something you’re not. Release your teen from the pressures of having to get it all together and thinking that they can never make a mistake. This perfect world and perfect family doesn’t exist, and your attempts to appear that way won’t allow your teen to see that being authentically and genuinely who you were created to be is a far greater an accomplishment than appearing perfect by what you do. Bottom line is this—your teen needs an atmosphere where the demand for perfection is low and the encouragement to be honest is high. That authenticity creates a connection and a deeper relationship that helps your teen become who he was designed to be.

Author: Mark Gregston

Mark Gregston began working with teens more than 40 years ago as a youth minister and Young Life director. He has authored nearly two dozen books, has written hundreds of articles, and is host of the nationally-acclaimed Parenting Today’s Teens podcast and radio broadcast.