When you witness perfectionism in children, you may have one of two reactions:
1.) To encourage people to persevere in their efforts, or…
2.) To alleviate their dissatisfaction.
As a parent, you may believe that if he simply tries a few more times, he’ll develop the abilities he needs to do any given chore perfectly.
Alternatively, you may believe that your child’s distress is insignificant in comparison to the world’s larger issues.
You begin to say things like… to help your perfectionist child.
“Please don’t weep. Take a deep breath in and out. Let’s figure this out together.”
“It isn’t a huge thing. Here. Look. I’ll take care of it.”
“Relax! You’d be able to ponder and figure it out if you stopped fretting and sobbing so much.”
“There’s no need to be concerned. You’ll figure it out in the end.”
“Just keep trying,” she says. You’ll figure it out.”
Of course, all of this backfires.
These experiences of doing it right “perfectly” can feel like life or death to a perfectionist child. Either it’s wonderful or it’s a disaster. For a child struggling with perfectionism, this is a watershed moment.
To a perfectionist, being able to do the monkey bars, write each letter properly, or win the board game is everything.
When you tell a child, “This is no big issue,” “don’t worry,” or “just try again,” you’re breaking their trust. It is at this point that the child believes you do not understand.
Things are just going to get worse.
If the child believes you don’t understand how important (or terrible) this is to them, they’ll feel compelled to intensify their communication and demonstrate to you how important “perfect” is to them.
This is when you’ll notice perfectionism becoming more prevalent.
It started with train tracks and wailing over a train that had wrecked. It’s now breaking down in tears over anything that isn’t “exactly right.”
And you, as a parent, are perplexed.
Everything in your instinct tells you to help the child relax and stop weeping, to assist them in repairing the problem, or to just encourage them to try again.
So, what exactly are you going to say?
Helping Your Perfectionist Child
The first and most crucial thing you can do to aid a perfectionist child is to take the child at his or her word. This quickly establishes a bond of trust, allowing the child to open up to your leadership.
This is what it might sound like…
- “This is quite difficult for you!”
- “You want it to be precise!” says the narrator.
- “You didn’t want it that way!”
- “You want to get it right the first time!” says the narrator.
- “Winning is something you enjoy doing. It’s terrible to lose!”
- “Winning is crucial for you!”
- “You want everything in a specific order, I see that:”
The child may return and remark something along the lines of, “Yeah, everything is ruined!” You’ll know you’re on your way to creating trust and connection with a child if you get a head nod or agreement from them.
This is extremely crucial!
You’ve got something to work with now, and you can say things like, “To you, it’s wrecked!” “I’m sure there’s something you can do!”
These are some incredibly useful sentences to include here:
- “Show me the difficult part.”
- “Show me the portion that you’re having trouble with.”
- “I can assist you. “Show me what you’re capable of.”
- “You can try again when you’re ready. If you need a hug, I’m here.”
- “If you wish, you can take a break.”
This keeps the child in charge and helps them solve problems as they face the difficulties they set for themselves. Children create a variety of problems for themselves.
Isn’t that something you can see?
The challenges are created by the children in order to help them develop life skills.
When we intervene too soon as parents, our children never get the opportunity to work through issues on their own, and they recur.
It’s one of the main reasons why assisting the child in problem-solving while dealing with their own perfectionism is so important. Problem-solving teaches children how to deal with their own perfectionism now and in maturity, even when no one else is around to help.
This is typically a good moment to delve into STRENGTHs after you’ve connected with your perfectionist child and suggested some choices the child CAN DO instead.
This is where you may assist your child in recognizing their own inner brilliance. And here’s the greatest part: when you name a STRENGTH for a child, it determines their future activities.
The child can recognize it in himself.
When your compliment is accompanied by a comment, such as, “Look, this was a tremendous challenge for you.” And you took a breather, tried again, and completed it precisely way you wanted – that demonstrates problem-solving and perseverance.”
Other suggestions for naming a STRENGTH for a perfectionist child include:
“You pulled it off! You wanted it to be flawless as soon as possible. It wasn’t the case. So you took a breather and let me know how I might assist you. Then you returned and completed it just as you desired. That is tenacity.”
“You took care of it!” You yearned for a good cry. Then you cooled down and went back to fix it on your own. That’s how you thought things through!”
Perfectionist Kids Can Start To See The Path Forward
As a parent, you may have incredibly effective guidance if you go through this process of taking kids at their word and helping them overcome problems.
Starting with encouragement or attempting to fix things will be met with silence. It’s a flop.
To an adult, building the LEGO set properly the first time isn’t a big problem, but it feels unattainable to a perfectionist child.
I promise that if you take the time to listen and walk into your child’s world, assist them to solve problems, and then help them realize their inner greatness through STRENGTHs, your child will see that…anything is possible.