How To Teach A Perfectionist
Worried about how to teach a perfectionist? Are you homeschooling a perfectionist this school year? Do you have to help a perfectionist with homework? Teaching a perfectionist can be one of the most frustrating things you will ever take on. In fact, I used to wonder if I would ever learn how to help my kid overcome being a perfectionist! I have shared some tips with you below to help you not only endure this adventure but thrive at it.
Helping a perfectionist learn
I have always known R was a bit of a perfectionist. She has a way she likes things and she doesn’t like to settle for less than perfect. The picture above is what school has felt like as of late for us. She has just been so frustrated! We have been working thru the fact that she is not perfect and that’s ok.
I started noticing this last year. In her math, she had a sheet of problems she had to do every day to practice. She would get VERY upset. The very appearance of the page would put her in tears. She would tell me she couldn’t do it. She was convinced she would get it wrong. The funny thing is, every time she did it she would answer every single problem right.
This year the same page surfaced again except now there is a timer attached. She has 1 minute to do as much as she can and then she finishes the rest later. This has made it very clear to me how obsessed with perfect she really is. Because I now know what the problem is, and no it’s not that sheet, I can work with her on it.
We have worked hard on this and I am not going to lie, we are still working. However, I know how stressful it can be to teach a perfectionist so I figured I would share some tips to help you teach a perfectionist.
Being a perfectionist is hard. Your child is setting themselves up to fail every time because they set the bar too high. Encourage them. Tell your child he or she is smart. R does not believe this. While we are working on it she genuinely believes she is not smart because she is not perfect. Helping a child to know that even they aren’t perfect, they are valuable will help a lot! Let your child know MANY times during school that they are smart and they are loved.
**Important thing to ask, “You won’t always be perfect. What was one success instead?”
Don’t try 20 approaches in a week. Pick one thing and stick with it. Every day for the last week we have started our Math Drill by saying, “R, are you perfect?” “No mom.” “Do you have to be perfect?” “No Mom.” “What do I want from you?” “My best work”
I will go on to tell her that as long as she is giving me her best work she will do well.
Find what will work with your child and be consistent with that conversation.
It can help to point out the realities of what will happen versus what they might fear will happen if they aren’t perfect.
Put less weight on grades
Grades are the thief of joy for perfectionists. Focusing heavily on grades can feed the need to be perfect. Grades are tools for the measurement of understanding. They are not tools to measure the intelligence or value of a person. Taking the time to reframe the importance of grades with the reality of what they are worth can be so important! It will help your perfectionist to learn to celebrate successes instead of grieving the lack of perfection.
Expect Hard Days
Your child will get frustrated. Plan on it. Talk with your child about ways to handle their frustration. This is an area we are working on. Whether it is clenching their fist or taking deep breaths help your child to learn how to process that frustration. It can help them a great deal if you can take some time to work on coping skills for the big feelings that are connected to the desire to be perfect.
Ask for their why
The need for perfection may come from a situation you aren’t aware of in their little life. It could be that there was an issue where they believed they failed, fell short, or weren’t enough. Take the time to ask questions about why they feel the need to be perfect. For some, it’s an inner need. For others, it may be that there was a traumatic experience that changes how they see themselves.
Could their perfectionism be anxiety?
Anxiety can often mask as perfectionism. If your child has anxiety they may be looking at a situation with an anxiety reaction to it instead of an academic one. Taking the time to look at the underlying mental health reasons behind perfectionism may help you to better understand. For my daughter, I had to accept that it has a lot to do with her anxiety. She needs to be in the right headspace to learn effectively.
Could it be a learning disability?
Things like dyslexia, dysgraphia, processing issues, and other learning disabilities can work against kids. They may use perfectionism as a crutch to get them through without messing up. This is a key struggle with learning disabilities and can work against a child’s ability to thrive. Taking the time to diagnose and work with learning tips for a learning disability could help to overcome perfectionism.
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Thank you so much. I have this problem with my seven year old. You are describing her 100%.