• Parenting a Perfectionist

    Information from “Parenting a Perfectionist” session:

    If you find your child is “stuck” or procrastinating in starting a task…
                         Barbara Clark - Integrative Education Model

    • What’s the problem?
    • What are you doing to solve the problem?
    • Is it working?
    • What are you willing to try differently?
    • Would you like to hear what others have tried?
    • Would you be willing to…?

    If your child is perseverating – writing and writing over again – spending too long on one thing, ask these questions to help him/her “keep moving forward”:

    • Is it good enough?
    • In the long run, will it really matter?
    • What’s the worst thing that could happen?

    The Pursuit of Excellence vs. Perfectionism

    • The pursuit of excellence = doing the research necessary for a term paper, working hard on it, turning it in on time, and feeling good about it.
    • Perfectionism = doing three drafts, staying up two nights in a row, and handing your paper in late because you had to get it right –and still feeling bad about it.
    • The pursuit of excellence = studying for a test ahead of time, taking it with confidence, and feeling good about your score of 96.
    • Perfectionism = studying at the last minute (after three days of chronic procrastination), taking the test with sweaty palms, and feeling depressed about your 96% because your friend got a 98%.
    • The pursuit of excellence = choosing to work on group projects because you enjoy learning from the varied experiences and approaches of different people.
    • Perfectionism = always working alone because no one can do as good a job as you and you're not about to let anyone else slide by on your "A".
    • The pursuit of excellence = accepting an award with pride even though the engraver misspelled your name. (You know that it can be fixed later at the jewelry store.)
    • Perfectionism = accepting the reward resentfully because that dumb engraver didn't get your name right.
    • The pursuit of excellence = reading the story you wrote for the school paper and noticing that the editor made some changes to the copy that really improved it.
    • Perfectionism = throwing a near tantrum because the editor dared to tamper with your work.
    • The pursuit of excellence = going out with people who are interesting, likeable, and fun to be with.
    • Perfectionism = refusing to go out with people who aren't straight "A" students.
    • The pursuit of excellence = being willing to try new things, take risks, and learn from your experiences and your mistakes.
    • Perfectionism = avoiding new experiences because you're terrified of making mistakes.

    “It is when we stop trying to do everything right that we start to do things well. These two things are not the same – but neither are they mutually exclusive.”

    From Perfectionism: What’s Bad About Being Too Good? By Miriam Adderholdt and Jan Goldberg

    Tips for Parents: Perfectionism Resources

    ?Organization Davidson Institute for Talent Development

    ?Year 2002

    The following information was gathered during a facilitated discussion on perfectionism that included parents of profoundly gifted children.

    While preparing for the discussion, one key point consistently surfaced in regards to perfectionism: the fact that it is a characteristic trait that will never go away, but instead can only become fine tuned. Once one is able to accept this, it is just a matter of finding a way to approach perfectionism in a more healthy and productive manner. The parents who attended my facilitated discussion shared many wonderful ideas and successful experiences that have helped them gradually help their children combat against the "disabling perfectionism" and move more toward fostering the "enabling perfectionism" instead.

    ?Practice losing. Start with small games that emphasize chance and are not dependant on skill (rock, paper, scissors & war), then gradually move to more ability based games. This can also help teach children how to be gracious losers.?

    ?Practice practicing. Find something that your child will have to work at. This may even be something that you know your child will be the worst at (an art class, an organized sports team, swimming, etc.). Music can work well for those who are not musically inclined since any mistakes that are played do not stick around like a drawing or a sculpture. ?

    ?Emphasize process, not outcome. How did they get to that conclusion or that next step? What made you decide to use that color? What did you learn from the entire experience??

    ?Be specific with expectations. PG children are very literal, so make sure to define and be specific. Explain to them exactly what you mean by 'finishing' the project. Be very clear with your expectations. What do you expect your child to get out of writing the English paper? Have your child work in small increments of study time and try and get the most out of it. One great idea, although it does not work well for every child, is to use a stopwatch and have a time restraint.?

    ?Have a sense of humor. PG children are already so hard on themselves, it is great if you can all laugh together when mistakes are made. Watching America's Funniest Home Videos could be a great homework assignment!?

    ?Discuss how mistakes can be good. Penicillin, chocolate chip cookies, banana bread, etc. Read books together on accidental discoveries.?

    ?Model. Show your children the ways you are a perfectionist and how you cope with it. Point out any mistakes that you make and tell stories of mistakes you made when you were younger.?

    ?Priorities and perspective. Stop and discuss how important the outcome is/isn't of a particular project or activity. What will happen if you don't draw it just right the first time??

    ?Goal setting. Start by practicing with small goals and gradually up the ante. Make sure all goals are realistic and attainable.?

    ?"Full tank" & "down-time". Make sure that all family members are well rested and have a full tummy. Set aside quiet time to allow everyone to re-group and unwind. This can cut down on the number of meltdowns and the heightened sense of irritability.?

    ?Pursuit of Excellence vs. Perfectionism. Perfect is not possible. Explain to them the difference between excellence and perfectionism. A great resource that can help you do this is Perfectionism and the Highly Gifted Child by Shaun Hately.

    Perfectionism Resources