As parents, we want our children to excel. We teach our kids to aim high and master new things from an early age. But, when reaching for perfection turns compulsive, it becomes an unhealthy struggle. And this type of pervasive perfectionism can become debilitating to a gifted child. Gifted perfectionists can be unsatisfied with their performance on anything – even when they’ve done beautifully.
To help your perfectionist loosen up:
1. Provide unconditional love and respect.
Let them know you love and care for them no matter what they do (or don’t do). Even if they “fail” at something, you still love them.
2. Give specific praise and help them focus on the process rather than the outcome.
Some examples include: “I love how hard you worked on that.” “You are so determined. I can see you spent a lot of time on that.” “Look at all those ideas! You really put a lot of effort into writing this.” Try to avoid using words such as brilliant, genius, and perfect.
3. Acknowledge and connect with your child’s negative feelings.
Try to acknowledge the feelings without judging them, without trying to “fix” them, or insisting they should feel a different way. You may try saying, “It sounds like that was disappointing for you. That’s happened to me too and it can be upsetting for a while.”
4. Model and encourage self-compassion.
Teach them to talk with kindness to themselves. You might try saying, “When I mess up, I think to myself: I made a mistake, but it’s okay. I can try again, or I’ll do better next time.”
5. Provide opportunities for failure.
Children need to learn that it takes time and lots of practice to master new skills. Whatever you can do to give your child the opportunity to learn that mistakes and setbacks are a part of growth will make these experiences less likely to result in feelings of inadequacy.
6. Help them set realistic standards for themselves and their time.
Perfectionistic kids are likely to get overwhelmed by their expectations and procrastinate or avoid something if the stakes are too high. Discuss realistic goals with them and help them break assignments into smaller, manageable tasks.
Coach Benjamin Mizrahi. Educator. Learning Specialist. Family Coach. Father. Husband.
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