Even Children Can Fall Into The Perfectionism Trap: Child Perfectionist

Sometimes our children can get so focused on being perfect it can affect their school, extracurriculars, and even home life.  Having perfectionist qualities is different than your child truly suffering from perfectionism.

Things to watch out for is if they expect everything they do to be perfect.  They may never be satisfied with their work.  Being a perfectionist can also cause your child to establish unrealistic goals and put extreme pressure on themselves.  Perfectionism can benefit your child, but in some cases it can be harmful. 

What causes perfectionism can be brought on by a number of things.  It can be genetic or taught behavior.  If someone in the family is a perfectionist your child may see their tendencies and follow suit.  Family pressure can also be a cause, as well as the desire to please others.

A high pressure school environment or if your child is surrounded by competitive children can also be a risk factor.

Types Of Perfectionists

There are different types of perfectionism.

Other-oriented perfectionists who set unrealistic standards for others.  This will lead your child to judge others harshly if they make mistakes.  They may expect their friends to be available to them at all times of the day.  They expect all the people around them to never make mistakes and to be perfect.

Self-oriented perfectionists set unrealistic goals for themselves.  They set high goals to be ahead of others.  If they don’t meet their goals, they feel as though they have failed.

Socially prescribed perfectionists believe that teachers or coaches have unrealistic goals set on them.  These can lead them to feel extreme pressure that they aren’t living up to what those around them are expecting of them. This pressure can lead them to be overly critical of their performance.

Growth mindset perfectionism is also known as excellence seekers.  These children are highly motivated.  This can be a healthy type of perfectionism when handled appropriately.  Children with this type of perfectionism are usually very successful, happy and inspired.

Fixed mindset perfectionism is a negative form of perfectionism.  Children with this type of perfectionism want to avoid judgement from others, so they want to be perfect at everything.  They have a tendency to be extremely self-critical, they are quick to give up on new things, have an overwhelming fear of failure, tend to procrastinate and avoid challenges.  Children may also hold themselves back from success, won’t try new things, and don’t know how to celebrate when they do have success.

Prevention & Helpful Tips

Finding out what is causing your child’s perfectionism can be difficult.  But there are a few things you can try to help them.

A good place to start is to open up about your own mistakes.  Give them specific examples of times in your life you tried really hard for something and didn’t get it quite right.  Showing them that you aren’t perfect may help them know they don’t have to be either.  Another thing is don’t set too high of expectations for your children.  Make sure they know what you expect of them and stick to it.  Let them know you aren’t putting unwanted pressure on them.

Help your child develop healthy self-esteem.  Also help your child with positive self talk.  You can model this positive self talk by having conversations with yourself out loud.  This will show them how to say positive things.

Help your child set realistic goals and help them work towards them.  You can show your child how to identify differences between what they can control and what they can’t.  They may not be able to control how hard the teacher makes a test or how others do on their test.  They can control how much they study for the test and how much effort they put into the test.  When you notice your child is having negative talk saying things like “I can’t” add YET to the end of their sentence.  Yet allows your child to believe they can improve and reach their goals and dreams.

Let your child know no matter how they do you will love them unconditionally.  They don’t have to be perfect to have your love, and if they fail or make a mistake you still love them.

Take Away

Having a child who is a perfectionist can be trying at times.  If you don’t feel like you are having success helping your child cope with their perfectionism, reach out to get some help.  If left untreated your child may suffer from anxiety, depression, inability to overcome setbacks, or suffer from irrational thoughts of failure.  It is important to help your child found the right balance of striving for excellence instead of expecting perfection.

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