Perfectionism – what is it?
* Tendency to become highly anxious, angry or upset about making mistakes
* Chronic procrastination and difficulty completing tasks
* Easily frustrated and gives up easily
* Chronic fear of embarrassment or humiliation
* Overly cautious and thorough in tasks (for example, spending 3 hours on homework that should take 20 minutes)
* Tries to improve things by rewriting
* Frequent catastrophic reactions or meltdowns when things don’t go perfectly or as expected
* Refusal to try new things and risk making mistakes
Talk your child about perfectionism
* Label it as a small voice that fills you with dread about something going wrong
* Explain that sometimes adults get this voice too
* Talk about the emotions that this voice can bring on and the feelings within the body
* When a child can start to recognise that it is a perfection thought, they can start to manage it better
Teach positive talking (affirmations)
These are very powerful statements that you and your child repeat every day. Doing this embeds them into the subconscious mind that can then influence the fight/flight response, supporting it to calm.
Support logical thinking
Anxious children often believe that there is only one possible acceptable outcome and anything less than this will have dire consequences. Use comic strip drawings to explore these thoughts. For example, if your child feels they must get 100% on a spelling test or it will be the end of the world, draw it out. Show what will happen, what will the consequences be? Comic strips are very useful as you can play out an event and refer back any time.
Praise the efforts of your child, not the end result
Children who struggle with perfectionism need to see that there is just as much value in trying hard as there is with the outcome. Use phrases like “ wow, I can see how hard you tried with your spellings”, “I am so pleased you tried to make breakfast all by yourself”
Show that you are not perfect
When you have made a mistake own it and share it with your child. Only through example will they learn that it’s ok to make mistakes. If there is something you don’t understand or know the answer to let your child know this.
See value in wellbeing
Encourage your child to see that being happy with how you are as a person is far more important than being the best at everything. If you have a teen who is about to take their GCSE’s, be honest with them – they need to achieve grade 4’s to move onto the next step, and anything else is a bonus. Don’t let your child become so stressed striving for a 9 that they become too overloaded and are mentally not strong enough to get out of bed to take the exams. I am not saying have low expectations for your child, I am saying for a child with perfectionism they put enough pressure on themselves without adults adding to it.
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