Every parent wants their child to succeed. Some kids have their own internal drive to win or achieve. Yet, “that drive” can result in tears, frustration or meltdowns. So, how do you support the perfectionist child?

Have you ever wondered how some kids just seemed to always put undue pressure upon themselves? Do you have a child that seems so excited about a project, yet cannot seem to ever get started? Or maybe you have the child who has a vision, but is so angered by the fact he cannot reproduce it?

Some parents may think: “How can I help my child succeed without pushing them too hard?” Some kids are naturally motivated or competitive. They want to succeed. They have an urge to keep going. However, even though these leadership traits or drive to persist is great, kids sometimes get in their own way.

And that is when parents feel at a loss as to what to do.

What’s inside the book: Letting Go of Perfect, Overcoming Perfectionism in Kids

I found the book, Letting Go of Perfect: Overcoming Perfectionism in Kids, a wonderful primer into the minds of perfectionist kids. This book is written by Jill Adelson and Hope Wilson, both are educators of gifted and talented children and bring their observations and experience in the classroom to the book. The book has 12 chapters, with chapters 11 and 12 being resources for children and for adults.

The book covered practical definitions and things to consider, including:

  • Healthy vs Unhealthy perfectionism
  • Common myths about perfectionists
  • Types of perfectionism based on whether self-oriented, other-oriented or whether children believe others hold them to a high standard
  • What the research says about perfectionists

The overall tone of the book is upbeat and practical, providing the reader with strategies for home and school. The authors discuss when a healthy drive can enhance a child’s personal achievement and positive self-concept and other times it can be problematic. Whether healthy or unhealthy, they provide easy to digest recommendations to implement at home and share with your child’s teacher.

A bulk of the book is dedicated to the 5 profiles of perfectionists that the authors describe based on their observations. I found these “profiles” to be a helpful way for parents to identify how to help their child. There is not a one size fit all. Your child may exhibit behaviors of an Aggravated Accuracy Assessor in one part of her life and be a Procrastinating Perfectionist in others. Kids can be perfectionists when it comes to subject or a sport. However, they may not be perfectionists with all subjects or not all the time. Each chapter starts with short stories of children exhibiting these profiles to bring it to life.

Find practical strategies for home and school to work with your child to meet their goals

Quick overview of the Five Perfectionist Profiles

  • Academic Achiever: hold unrealistic high expectations for themselves, disappointment if less than a perfect score, see mistakes a sign of failure or flaw in their identity
  • Aggravated Accuracy Assessor: Precision and perfection is the goal, focus completely on the end product, send inordinate time redoing or refining at the expense of other things
  • Risk Evader: do not like to take chances that might expose they are not perfect, do not want others to see their weaknesses, fear failure or not meet ideals that they do not even try
  • Controlling Image Manager: similar to risk evaders they do not want others to see their flaws but they often will say, “I could have done it if I really wanted to but I didn’t think it was that important.” They make excuses to save face.
  • Procrastinating Perfectionist: These kids want to finish a task but do not start or wait until last minute. They often have thoughts that paralyze them from beginning even though they may be excited about the project at hand.

Other thoughts about the book

The book itself was laid out in an easy to read manner, with plenty of tables, summaries and call outs. That being said, I felt part of the book was redundant. However, redundancy is helpful when learning to apply a set of skills across different types of scenarios.

Pay attention to chapter 10 because I felt the section about dealing with crisis moments was particularly valuable. These are strategies not unlike other parenting programs, but reading it in the context of a perfectionist child is key. They talk about not solving the problem for them, but rather how to guide and model, prioritize and push on gently and when to pull back.

I also liked the chapter for strategies in the school. This chapter is valuable for parents as it is full of helpful suggestions and examples to take to your child’s teacher or helps you understand what strategies teachers often try.

Homework Help for Perfectionists

You cannot read a book about perfectionists and not have a section about homework help. The authors spend some time on:

  • How to set up the space
  • How to make it part of the daily routine
  • Guidance for families on planning and prioritizing assignments
  • How to navigate teacher-family communication

In addition, they spend time reviewing ways you can:

  • How to help your child set short, medium and long-term goals
  • How to model these strategies yourself

The book is definitely a quick read. It is great for folks who want to identify traits or issues and then get ‘hands on’ strategies to start working on right away. I loved that it spanned home and school so that parents and educators alike will find the book useful.

Let's Talk Kids Health Parenting Book Club
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Just get a copy from your library or favorite retailer and click here to sign up! You will get 10 emails to help pace you through the book. Read as fast or as slow as you want. The emails are designed to coincide with the posts in the Facebook group to keep the discussion moving. And even though we officially read the book in November 2020, you can join in anytime. Posts are organized as Unit 4 in the Facebook forum.

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Written by

Nerissa Bauer

I am a behavioral pediatrician, consultant, child advocate and blogger. I am a wife, mommy to 2 amazing children and 2 golden retrievers. Love cooking, travel, reading, tap and creating.