Frustratingly, there isn’t a lot of info out there about perfectionist children. In fact, if you don’t have a child like this, you might be surprised that this is an issue at all. It might even seem a bit bizarre – why would you need help parenting a child who wants to do everything right? I hope that these three tips for your little perfectionist help out, because these kids do have certain needs that could lead to rebellion if they aren’t met.
How Perfectionists Behave
Children who are perfectionists like order, rules, certainty, and security. They thrive on these things, which we, as parents, need to do our best to give to them. However, life isn’t always orderly, straight and narrow. These little ones need to learn how to deal with the curve balls that unavoidably are a part of all of our lives.
Here are a few of their other characteristics:
- active towards their goal
- great memory
- hate being late
- often initially shy in a new area
- upset at not getting things right the first time
- love rules and tries to make everyone else in the house follow them
- love collecting things
- sorting toys by size, number, color or type
- love symmetry, rows, and patterns
- has a hard time with criticism
- easily embarrassed
- early ability to math
- try to be “little adults” – play gardening, cooking, shopping, etc.
Does this sound like your child at all? You may be dealing with a perfectionist if it does.
Three Tips for Your Little Perfectionist
Support Her Need for Structure
When she asks for the day’s schedule, be as detailed as possible while making allowances for changes. Let her know as much as you can while leaving wiggle room for cancellations, changes of weather, the car breaking down, anything unexpected. These kids have a hard time with sudden changes, so while you’re telling her the schedule, add details such as “at 2:00, you’re going to the park with Sarah, but if it ends up raining, we’ll stay home and read books together, ok?” These “outs” will give her the opportunity to become more flexible over time. If you don’t give her the structure she needs, she may keep pushing boundaries just to be sure that they are there.
Let Her Go at Her Own Pace
Perfectionists often observe an activity or read instructions over and over so they can complete their activity perfectly. This can make any impatient parent a little bit crazy, but let her be slow and steady. There’s not much you can do to change her nature, anyway, so you may as well just go with it.
Don’t Feed her Perfectionism
For cryin’ out loud, she’s hard enough on herself already! If her perfectionist behavior is encouraged, it will grow, not doing anybody any favors. So go easy when she’s overly hard on herself for not an A- instead of an A+ or if she only made two goals at the game instead of four. Also, don’t bend to her every demand about her food not being arranged properly or her clothes not being just so. Constantly changing all of her surroundings to be exactly, precisely, absolutely how she wants them to be will be taxing on you and on the rest of the family.
A Few More Thoughts:
- Firstborn children have more of a tendency to be perfectionists. Parents usually tend to treat their firstborn children differently than the rest by being stricter with them, expecting more of them and giving them more responsibilities.
- Find activities for your child that she will not excel in to help her learn how to handle the situation.
- Set a time limit for schoolwork if she’s spending too much time with it every day.
Do you have a child who is a perfectionist? Is he or she really hard on herself? I’d love to hear any tips that you have in the comment section below!