The Perfectionist Child
Your child is a perfectionist. For example, in learning to print the alphabet, she erases and re-writes every letter that is not perfectly written. She proceeds to feel bad about herself for her failure to write her alphabet perfectly. She experiences this as a personal failure.
You are pleased to see your child’s desire to succeed, but you are troubled by her negative self-talk over even her smallest imperfection. What can you do?
- 1. Talk to your child about her perfectionism. Try to determine what is causing your child to be a perfectionist. Is she seeing perfectionist tendencies modeled by your or your spouse? Is she responding to perceived pressure to excel? Does she feel insecure and vulnerable to criticism (i.e., imperfections)?
- 2. If perfectionist behaviors are being modeled for her, try to minimize her exposure to those behaviors. Minimize any pressure she may feel to be perfect. Praise her for “good enough” accomplishments. Let her know that she is loved for who she is . . . which is independent of what she accomplishes. This message should be communicated as soon as you identify that you have a perfectionist child, and it should be reinforced with frequency for as long as perfectionist tendencies are apparent. (Note: perfectionist tendencies will, in all likelihood, never disappear completely, but the negative self-talk can diminish significantly over time.)
- 3. Explain to her the difference between focusing on successful accomplishment of a goal and self-destructive perfectionism. Help her set reasonable, achievable goals. The perfectionist child is prone to setting unreasonably high goals and then condemning herself for not meeting those goals.
- 4. Increase the amount of time your child spends on tasks that cannot be designated as “perfect” or “imperfect”. For example, playing at a playground may be such a task.
- 5. If you have tried these steps and your child continues to struggle with perfectionism unabated, you should consult a mental health practitioner. A variety of treatable conditions, such as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, may be involved.
By following these five steps, you can help your perfectionist child pursue success without exhibiting self-destructive perfection. For more helpful hints, continue to visit Care4hire.com.