Parenting tips when your child is a perfectionist
You’re the parent of a perfectionist. And while other moms or dads might wonder what could possibly be bad about a child who tries so hard to be good, you know better.
If you’ve ever watched your child fall apart at a report card with a few B’s instead of all A’s—or blow small blunders out of proportion—you know there are pitfalls to perfectionism that can leave your child stressed out and unhappy.
So how can you help kids understand that mistakes are normal and give them the tools to bounce back when they happen?
7 parenting skills to help high achievers
Here are seven ways to help your son or daughter find the good in good enough:
- Help your child see setbacks as opportunities. When your child stumbles, take the time to ask questions like:
- Don’t set the bar too high. Perfectionistic kids may fear disappointing their parents. So set realistic expectations. A case in point: If your child isn’t very athletic, don’t insist on home runs—or even hits—at baseball games. Stress being a good sport and having fun.
- Praise attitude, not accomplishments. Of course you feel proud when your child aces a test or lands a prized part in a school play. But rather than overemphasizing results, look for chances to compliment effort or a positive outlook. Praise how your child asked for extra help before the test, for instance, or admire how brave it was just to try out for the play.
- Accept your child as-is. That means loving your child no matter what and never comparing him or her to siblings or peers. Kids who feel confident about their parents’ love feel valued and more confident about their strengths.
- “What can you learn from this?”
- “Is there something you can do differently next time?”
- “How can you handle this situation in a way that will make you feel proud?”
- Give your child perspective. Remind your child that nobody succeeds all the time. Share your own struggles and what you’ve learned from them. And if there’s humor to be found in your mistakes, by all means laugh at yourself. Be a role model for resilience and staying upbeat.
- Be ready with encouragement. Without downplaying your child’s feelings, emphasize that a poor grade or a less than perfect piano recital isn’t the end of the world. Tomorrow really is another day.
- Offer coping strategies. Perfectionists put a lot of pressure on themselves. So help your child learn healthy ways to destress. You might show him or her how to take slow, deep breaths or visualize something calming—like the beach at sunset—when tension builds. A brisk walk or other activity is also a great tension buster. And insist on healthy habits, like a balanced diet and plenty of sleep.
If steps like this don’t help—and your child seems overwhelmed by the drive to succeed—reach out to your child’s doctor.
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