Perfectionist Children

Perfectionists are obsessed with the perfect end product and can miss out on the fun of learning. There are many ways for parents of perfectionist children to offer support to their child.

Perfectionist Children

Perfectionists are obsessed with the perfect end product and can miss out on the fun of learning. They may become overachievers who push themselves hard but are never satisfied, or they may become underachievers who give up because they cannot be perfect. Parents of perfectionist children can help their children in the following ways: 

  • Express love based on who the child is, not their achievements.
  • Have reasonable expectations for the child, and celebrate achieving those expectations.
  • Emphasize the strengths that the child has, rather than the weaknesses.
  • Do not criticize performance, but recognize interesting aspects of the performance.
  • Instead of looking for right answers or wrong answers, talk about the merit of different answers.
  • Look at mistakes as an opportunity to explore what went wrong, not a “mess-up.” Explore ways to avoid the mistake in the future.
  • Encourage creative activities where there is no right or wrong result.
  • Focus on learning, not grades.
  • Give permission to make mistakes. Examine your own behaviors for perfectionist traits.
  • Do not point them out and laugh at them. 

Understanding Perfectionistic Children

Why does my child need to be perfect all the time?

  • For some, it is self-imposed.
  • They set high standards for themselves but accept nothing less than perfection on any task.
  • For others, it may be a result of conditional acceptance from parents, teachers, peers.

How to Spot a Perfectionist

  • They have very high and often unrealistic expectations for themselves
  • They are often very critical of themselves but are sensitive to criticism from others
  • They are often procrastinators
  • They can have feelings of inadequacy; they lack confidence
  • They are not satisfied with a job well done; it has to be perfect
  • Young children may be very emotional about not being able to do something “just so”
  • They do not delegate work to others
  • They may have difficulty with making decisions
  • They may not enjoy the process, only the product.
  • Perfectionists are often first–born children
  • Perfectionists are often gifted

To learn more about the Tulsa Health Department Child Guidance program, click here

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