Children hear it all the time “practice makes perfect.” In our minds, we are encouraging our children to keep trying. We are telling them they will get better at a task the more they give it a shot. We are teaching them to not give up. But, some children are hearing they need to be perfect, they should be perfect, there is no room for failure.
Most parents who have perfectionistic children report they don’t teach their children to perform at high standards, but that the child is putting those standards on themselves. It seems for some children perfectionism is something they are born with, almost like a personality trait, rather than something that is learned.
The life of a perfectionist is not an easy one. It is a hard road full of feelings of loneliness, sadness, and anxiety. The reality is that nothing is perfect so to task ourselves with such lofty expectations is exhausting.
You may have started to see signs of perfectionism in your own children. They are trying to do everything perfectly and are highly frustrated when things fail. They don’t just see their action as failing, but they see themselves as a failure. Their self-esteem may be deeply affected. As a parent that is hard to witness. We know they are just learning and through practice, they will get better, but as with all things in life, there is bound to be some failure along the way.
The good news is there are things you can do to help curb their perfectionistic tendencies and to help them to understand failure is ok, in fact, it can turn into a very positive learning experience.
How You Can Help Your Perfectionistic Child
- Provide your child with unconditional care and respect.
- Don’t be hard on them when they do fail, they are already being hard enough on themselves.
- Try to keep their environment calm and structured.
- Give lots of praise.
- Point out the things they are good at.
- Avoid comparing your child to others.
- Stay away from words like genius, brilliant, or perfect.
- Help them to understand everything cannot be perfect.
- Listen to them, talk to them.
- Help them set realistic standards.
- Let them know they are loved.
- Provide them with opportunities to succeed and improve self-confidence.
- Explain to them that failure is an opportunity for growth.
- Encourage them to try again, a different way.
The best thing you can do for your child is to let them know you are proud of them for trying their best, that is really the only thing we have control over, right?
Author: Alison Pidgeon, LPC
Alison is the Founder and CEO of Move Forward Counseling, a boutique private practice for women with three locations in Lancaster County, PA. She is passionate about reducing the stigma related to accessing mental health services. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.