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What to Do If You or Your Child Is a Perfectionist

Make a Schedule and Time Limit for Homework Completion

Learning strategies

Many perfectionists are also procrastinators. Why? They fear failure and put off starting until they are “in the right frame of mind”. Help your child by setting a beginning time as well as an ending time in sufficient advance of deadlines so that they are able to chunk their work into small pieces. This reduces the fear of failure and gives ample time for those perfect ideas to percolate. Teaching routines is important but help them to understand that their habits should not be so rigid that they can’t be changed.

Allow for Down Time – Do Not Over Schedule

Having no down time can overwhelm children. Feeling overwhelmed can spiral perfectionism out of control. Many kids with perfectionist tendencies can cope on their own while others only need a few events to trigger great anxiety. Having too much on their plate can instigate these feelings.

Respond to Worst Case Thinking

Perfectionists are color blind: they see the outcomes in black and white. Their attitude is all or nothing. Help them to consider alternative outcomes such as: “What would happen if the teacher didn’t agree with the points in your essay?” Discuss the possible outcomes from varying perspectives. They will see that imminent disaster will not occur.

De-emphasize all A’s

Instead of only focusing on the mark, comment on the amount of effort that went into achieving the grade. Help kids to understand that they can feel satisfied when they feel they’ve done their best, not necessarily the best! We all know good marks are necessary for the competitive admission policies to university and college but study habits, perseverance and work ethic are more important life skills than the number of A’s.

Mistakes are Learning Opportunities

If work is perfect all the time, kids are not challenged. Explain that there is usually more than one way to do most things. Give specific praise.

Model Healthy Excellence as well as Coping Skills when Dealing with Disappointment

Take pride in the quality of your work but don’t hide your mistakes or be constantly self-critical. Model the lessons you learn from mistakes. Humour always helps. Congratulate yourself when you’ve done a good job by letting your children know that your own accomplishments give you satisfaction.

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