If you have a child with perfectionist tendencies, you know how hard it can be to find ways to provide support or know what to say in the moment. Has your child ever come to you stuck on their homework because they just couldn’t find the right words for the book report? How about when they tried to erase a pencil mark and couldn’t get it completely gone? Or when the drawing or painting didn’t turn out “just so?”
When children see things through the lens of “not being good enough” it can be hard to remain calm and not brush off their feelings by saying, “Oh honey, it looks great!” or “What’s wrong with that? It looks fine to me.” As parents, we often want to shield our children from negative thoughts or emotions by downplaying their reactions or trying to spin things so to redirect. However, for children who are overachievers, those nagging feelings will often linger or can be an obstacle to trying new things for fear of failing. Children who express perfectionist tendencies may feel more anxiety and stress.
RELATED: What Creates Perfectionism (Healthychildren.org)
We should help ALL children find the right balance of wanting to try new things and persisting in face of obstacles to reach their dreams. However, we also need to send the message that at any point in time who they are and their strengths should be celebrated.
For readers of my blog, you know how much I love using children’s books to start the conversation with kids. Beautiful Oops is a wonderfully creative and fun book to read and share with children who may need reminders of seeing past the imperfections and instead looking for ways to turn what was originally a rip, a hole or smudge in to something else entirely. This book is guaranteed to bring giggles as kids will want to flip the pages and see what new surprise awaits.
This clever and fun hardcover book has 11 pages with lots of flaps, colors and rhyme. The author and illustrator is Barney Saltzberg. Kids of all ages will love exploring the pages! If you cannot wait to get your hands on the book and want to check out a great video of the book, click here.
In addition to this great book, as parents we have the opportunity to model flexibility ourselves by saying aloud, “I really wanted to get to the store right now but with the traffic, it really would be best to go another time. Oh well. Let’s be flexible and go later.” Remember to talk out loud and point out when kids are being”flexible”, “rolling with it” or “being loose-y goose-y”.
It’s great whenever children can express their emotions freely and that they want to share those feelings (good or bad) with us. When children are able to express their feelings of discouragement, frustration or worry, be a good listener. Instead of trying to fix the problem, sit with the emotion. If you are at a loss as to how to respond, try a simple “hmm” or “You don’t like it when that happens” and then take a pause and seeing what happens next. Your child will likely continue to explain their feelings. Try to stay in the moment with them, allowing them to feel the emotion by staying close and offering a hug.
Help your child stay tuned in on the process rather than the end goal and learn to enjoy the journey along the way. When playing games or family game night, lay out the expectations that the night is about having fun with each other and model teamwork, great strategy and graceful losing. For more tips, check out other links below.
Help Your Child Overcome Perfectionism (Anxiety BC)
Perfectionism (National Association for Gifted Children)
5 Effective Ways to Help Your Perfectionist Child (Big Life Journal)-includes FREE printable