How Do You Support Your Perfectionistic Child?
- Does your child spend two hours on homework that should only take 15 minutes, although he is quite smart?
- Does he procrastinate a lot?
- Does he get frustrated and give up easily?
- Does he refuse to try new things because they’re afraid of making mistakes?
Then your child may be a perfectionist.
As a parent, it’s not easy to witness their meltdowns when things don’t go as expected. (Especially when your child is not a toddler anymore.) Nor is seeing them anxious or angry about making a small mistake.
You may not even be aware that they live in chronic fear of embarrassment or humiliation.
How can you help?
1. Ask them to share their doubts with you
Children don’t know how to put things in perspective. When the little voice in their heads tells them “You’re not good enough!” or “If you don’t get it right, you’re a loser” – they tend to believe it.
And when they do, it’s hard for them to try new things and have fun.
Teach your children not to trust these ideas without evidence. Nobody knows what the future has in store. What they can do is learn, pay attention and do their best.
2. Make them aware of the black-and-white thinking
Perfectionistic children tend to see things as either good or bad, either right or wrong. But real life has areas in-between. Something can have a flaw, and still be beautiful.
Encourage them to discover the silver lining in everything.
Help them see what they did right, not just what they did wrong.
The more they learn to see this, the more they will be able to accept themselves.
3. Praise the efforts more than the results
It’s very important to acknowledge their effort, whether your child was successful or not.
Praise them not only for their achievement but for the qualities they proved. Saying things like “You showed a lot of courage out there!” or “I’m proud of you because you showed kindness!” helps them understand success isn’t the most important thing.
4. Discourage catastrophic thinking
Perfectionists spend a lot of time creating worst case scenarios. (That in most cases never come true.) As a result, they see mistakes ten times bigger than they really are.
Show your child how to bring things back to normal by how you handle failure. Children pay attention and learn a lot by observing our behaviour. When you make a mistake say out loud things like: “Nobody’s perfect!” or “I’ll do better next time”.
Try to laugh at your own mistakes in front of your child. Share what you’ve learned, but in a light-hearted tone. This way they understand that making mistakes doesn’t make them worthless.
5. Help them overcome procrastination
Teach them to set priorities. Show your children that some activities deserve all your energy, and some need less. Let them know it’s okay not to give 100% to everything.
Show them how to create realistic schedules by applying the “less is more” formula. Instead of having a long list of things they never start, better have 2-3 they will easily get done. Teach them to break down big tasks into small steps and to celebrate the small wins, not just the result.
One last suggestion. If you are a perfectionist, there are 80% chances that your child is one too. You may recognise these traits – and others! – because you have them as well.
That’s why changing these things in yourself may be the best way to help your child.
Contact me and let’s get you the support you need!
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