Most people assume that perfectionism is a good personality trait, but in reality, it can be very harmful. For children, perfectionism can lead to a lot of anxiety and stress, which can interfere with their ability to learn and function normally. However, if your child seems to be struggling with perfectionism, there are some strategies you can use to help them overcome it. Keep reading to learn seven strategies to help your child overcome perfectionism.
Perfectionism is often seen as a positive trait that increases your chances of success, but it can lead to self-defeating thoughts or behaviours that make it harder to achieve goals. It may also cause stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.
On the one hand, having attention to detail and striving always to do your best are positive attributes and can lead to healthy achievements. But on the other hand, perfectionism is often used as a coping mechanism to protect against failure, judgement, blame or shame.
Think about how often you or your child avoided completing a project or trying something new because it wasn’t perfect. When we take the time to explore the reasons for this avoidance honestly, we often uncover negative beliefs about ourselves, our worth, how others would accept us or how our performance would be evaluated. In this case, perfectionism is serving us as protection from failure, giving us the false sense of security that “we didn’t fail” when we couldn’t fail on something we didn’t try.
What causes perfectionism?
Internal pressures primarily drive perfectionism. However, there is a social component as well, such as:
- Family environment: If you grew up in a family where perfection was expected, or mistakes were not tolerated, you may be more likely to develop perfectionistic tendencies.
- Traumatic experiences: perfectionism can be a way of coping with trauma or difficult life experiences.
Help your child set realistic goals for themselves
Perfectionists set unrealistically high expectations for themselves and others. They are quick to find fault and overly critical of mistakes and tend to procrastinate on a project out of their fear of failure. They shrug off compliments and forget to celebrate their success. Instead, they look to specific people in their life for approval and validation.
When your child undertakes a new endeavour, help your child identify the floor (what’s acceptable) and ceiling (what’s best). There should be a healthy space between them.
Encourage your child to take risks and learn from their mistakes
Learn to embrace mistakes as learning experiences. More can be learned from failing than by any other method. Help your child reframe their relationship with mistakes. Accepting that mistakes will be made and that it is OK can transform your child’s mindset.
Praise your child’s efforts, not just their accomplishments
Stop being attached to results. Instead, focus on actions and processes (the steps). Concentrating on results diminishes attention on the requisite steps required to progress. Helping your child focus on the steps, chunks-down the process, reduces overwhelm, and provides a scaffold to the result.
Let your child know that it’s OK to be imperfect
Perfection is unattainable. We can’t strive to achieve something unachievable. Help your child know that nobody is perfect or does things perfectly.
Help your child align expectations and experiences. Stress happens when our experience is in contrast to our expectations. When your child takes on a new task, help your child identify what is a reasonable outcome.
Model healthy attitudes towards perfectionism yourself
Your child learns to set benchmarks for achievement by observing others. If you constantly blame yourself or your performance for not being perfect, your child will learn that only perfection is acceptable.
When you make a mistake, manage your feelings about it, and let your child know you made a mistake and what you will do about it. This will teach them that mistakes are OK, everyone (even mum and dad) make them, and that there are things we can do to improve or fix our mistakes.
Teach your child about Negative Thoughts
Negative thoughts are perfectionism’s worst enemy. When we catch ourselves having perfectionistic thoughts (I’m not good enough, this isn’t perfect, etc.) we need to learn how to reframe these thoughts into more realistic and positive ones.
Here are some negative perfectionistic thought patterns and their more positive counterparts:
– “I can’t do this” vs. “I will learn to do this.”
– “This is taking too long” vs. “I’m making progress.”
– “I’m not good enough” vs. “I’m doing my best.”
– “Nobody will like this” vs. “Some people might not like this, but that is OK.”
Like most parents, you want your child to succeed in everything they do. And while it’s important to encourage your child to do their best, pushing them too hard can have the opposite effect and lead to perfectionism. This article shared seven strategies to help your child overcome perfectionism. We also provided a free printable activity to help your child identify triggers for their perfectionistic thoughts. So, what are you waiting for? Download our printable and start helping your child find success without the stress of perfectionism holding them back!