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How to Handle Your Child’s Perfectionism

Perfectionism is a complex personality trait that involves an unhealthy drive to be flawless. As a parent, you may notice perfectionistic tendencies in your child through behaviours like extreme self-criticism, excessive doubt over tasks and actions, deep worries over making even minor mistakes, and avoidance of activities where they may not excel.

Understanding Perfectionism:

It helps to recognize that perfectionism stems from deeper emotional needs. For many perfectionists, self-worth gets tied to achievement and tasks. Feeling valuable may depend on getting things “just right” or being the absolute best.

Perfectionism may be a coping strategy for anxiety. The need for control and order helps temporarily avoid worry and fears over mistakes.  Some perfectionists try to avoid shame. They struggle feeling “enough” unless they meet extremely high standards.

Perfectionism also connects to negative thought patterns like black-and-white thinking (success or failure with no middle ground) and catastrophizing small struggles. Your child may develop self-critical inner dialogue calling themselves a “failure” if minor errors occur.

Once you understand these thought processes behind perfectionistic tendencies, you can help your child shift to more positive thinking patterns.

How to Help Your Perfectionist Child:

  1. Express Unconditional Love:
  2. Make sure your child knows you value them for simply being themselves, not their accomplishments. Offer frequent warmth and affection without tying it to achievements.

    Say things like “I love spending time with you no matter what. You’ll always be special to me.” Share positive feedback for effort, not just perfect final products. If they struggle, respond with understanding and say “This is tough, but we’ll figure it out together.”

    This unconditional support is vital in helping perfectionists feel secure enough to open up about the fears driving them.

  3. Model Self-Acceptance:
  4. Kids notice how parents handle mistakes and aim for high standards. Model self-compassion over self-criticism. Verbalize positive self-talk when you make everyday slip ups.

    Say things like “That mistake just shows I’m human. I can still do a good job and try my best without being perfect.” or “I don’t like how this turned out but I learned something to improve.”

    Similarly, praise your child when they accept situations gone wrong. For example, if a school project doesn’t go as planned you might observe “I really liked how you looked at what went wrong and thought about how to go differently next time.”

    Kids need to know adults don’t expect perfection either. You can both love each other fully amid flaws and mistakes.

  5. Praise Efforts Over Perfect Results:
  6. The types of praise kids hear affects their mindsets. Overpraising flawless outcomes can feed perfectionism’s pressure. It teaches that love and acceptance get withdrawn without perfect performances.

    Shift to consistently praising hard work, persistence through challenges, seeking help when needed, using positive coping strategies, and not giving up after setbacks.

    For example, “I really admire how you stayed focused trying different solutions.” Or “I’m proud you practiced that chapter over and over until you grasped the concepts. All that effort shows me how dedicated you are.” This mindset helps kids connect their value to giving their best shot each day.

  7. Set Flexible Standards:
  8. Hold high but realistic expectations suited to your child’s needs and skills. Perfectionists often impose excessively rigid demands unlikely to be met. Gently guide them to reframe rigid thoughts like “I must get 100% or I’m worthless” to “I’ll try my very best but getting 100% every time is impossible. My worth doesn’t change if I get some answers wrong.”

    When expectations stay reasonable, kids can better tolerate minor frustrations without extreme self-judgment. Building distress tolerance helps perfectionists cope with everyday imperfections.

    Have consistent rituals where your child sets daily goals then reviews them before bedtime. Help them focus less on perfect final outcomes and more on consistent progress made through managing tasks step-by-step. Using small wins and pacing builds competence and trust in their abilities over time.

  9. Teach Emotion Regulation Skills:
  10. Perfectionists often struggle regulating their emotions. When assignments don’t go perfectly, it’s easy for them to spiral downward into intense shame, anxiety, anger at themselves, and hopelessness.

    Work on recognising these overwhelmed emotions as they happen. Guide your child to take small coping breaks when they start feeling extremely frustrated over a non-perfect performance. Short breaks prevent reacting in unhelpful ways; they’ll just criticize themselves more later.

    Teach calming skills like taking 5 deep breaths, using positive self-talk, or doing activities that help them reset their moods in positive directions. Coping ahead of time with expected anxieties also helps. If a big exam is scheduled, practice relaxation techniques together the night before so these tools stay fresh when tension rises.

  11. Foster Healthy Perfectionism Habits:
  12. While no one achieves perfection, some qualities of moderate perfectionism can benefit kids if balanced well. Help your child channel intense attention to detail, goal setting abilities, high motivation, and determination in healthy ways.

    Guide them to maintain organized routines for big tasks that break bigger goals into smaller, daily objectives. Making steady progress bit-by-bit better aligns effort with ability so frustrations stay manageable. Using planning tools like calendars and to-do lists also enables modifying plans when the original ones prove imperfect.

    Teach time management skills. Perfectionists often waste excessive hours perfecting early steps of projects. Set collaborative time limits for tasks to help your child grasp when good enough is acceptable to move forward.

    You can also nurture positive perfectionism by framing mistakes as learning opportunities, rather than intolerable failures. Use errors to explore together where processes might improve. Handle problems with an analytical, solutions-focused lens instead of pessimism. This makes efforts satisfying despite inevitable hiccups in plans.

  13. Change Negative Self-Talk:
  14. Perfectionists constantly barrage themselves with destructive internal messages creating intense self-doubt, fear, and hesitation. Work on recognizing negative self-talk when it arises. Help your child write down these irrational thoughts then replace them with alternative positive perspectives.

    For example, shift thoughts like “I’m an idiot for misunderstanding this assignment” to “I’m still learning how I best understand directions. I’ll ask my teacher for guidance so I can do better next time.” Make this a daily ritual to boost self-confidence, resilience, and willingness to take chances vital for growth.

  15. Encourage Creative Exploration & Play:
  16. Perfectionists’ rigidity hampers imagination and spontaneity. Nurture open-ended creativity without pressure to perform “the right way”. Provide unstructured playtime focused more on personal expression than perfect products.

    Art, music, dance, and theater that emphasize fun self-expression over technical ability helps kids embrace imperfection as part of discovery. They also learn coping with the uncertainty creativity inevitably brings.commenting positively on their unique creative choices rather than critiquing also helps kids take risks essential for out-of-the-box thinking.

  17. Focus on Self-Care:
  18. Perfectionism often centers wholly on external validation through status and accomplishments. Broaden your child’s focus to appreciate their needs beyond achievement. Teach healthy self-care strategies that help them recognize emotions and enjoy nurturing their whole self.

    Build relaxing self-care rituals into busy routines like taking soothing baths after a long school day or getting adequate sleep to let the brain fully recharge. Help them grasp how better taking care of their body and mind supports efforts they dedicate toward beloved hobbies and interests too.

  19. Seek Professional Help If Needed:
  20. In severe cases of perfectionism where destructive thoughts or behaviors persist despite your interventions, seek counseling. Perfectionism often connects to or masks conditions like obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. Psychologists help assess if perfectionistic tendencies stem from developmental, medical, emotional, or psychological causes needing treatment.

    Cognitive behavioral therapy helps kids identify and shift irrational thought patterns driving perfectionism. Finding healthy coping outlets for emotions, building realistic self-appraisals, and handling fears are common therapy goals. Support groups also help kids relate to peers facing similar pressures. Getting help prevents worsening mental health effects.

The Right Balance for Raising Happy, Healthy Kids:

As a parent, aiming high for your kids balances properly with accepting perfect results aren’t realistic or necessarily helpful. Support your child managing frustration while admirably persevering. Foster self-compassion, adaptability, and effort over perfect outcomes. Keep unconditional love and nurturing emotional needs as your consistent foundation.

For more such interesting blogs, Visit EuroKids

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