Character - Perfectionists

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Character - Perfectionists

Unread post by kellybell »

Blessed Beth wrote:My 2nd grader ds is a perfectionist. He wants all of his letters to be perfect. If his "a" goes a little below the line, he wants to stop and erase the whole thing and do it again. I've tried to not allow him to do so and let him see that the finished work still looks good but he gets very unhappy about that.

Does anybody else have this issue? Any ideas? I do break up the writing lessons over several days and do many things orally instead, otherwise we would never get our lessons done.

My now-10 year old dd is a bit like this. There are blessing to it (she does a great job in a lot of things, is the first to practice her violin, make her bed, etc.) but it's a real problem too, as you know. It helps to understand what makes a kid a perfectionist (a desire to be best or to be recognized, a thought that perfect work is the only work worthy of praise and of mom's love, the idea that mistakes are simply TERRIBLE, pride, competition, etc.).

When we first started hs'ing our kids, my 10 yo was 7 and in second grade and would fall to tears when she disappointed herself. I picked an otherwise happy and peaceful time (ie. not right after an incident), sat her down, and told her that she was a perfectionist and why it wasn't a good thing to be (it slows her down, it can hurt others' feelings, it sets up a "comparison" mindset -- going both ways -- that is just not good). I explained that God created us in different ways and we all excel in some areas and struggle in other ways. It's fine to not be terrific at everything.

Also, keep an eye for perfectionism in YOUR life. If you demonstrate perfectionism, he'll think it's a good thing and he'll do it too. If you tend to be perfectionist, tell him that you struggle too and ask him to kindly point it out to you when you try to be perfect.

I told my dd to "aim for excellent." That meant to do her work the best she could. I told her "perfect" was reserved for GOD and we can't be perfect because we can't be God.

Tell your ds that you'll help him get over this through prayer and creative ways to limit his tendencies. Doing oral work will help avoid those situations, but you really WANT to face a few each day so you can remind him that "perfect is for God; so aim for excellent."

Just be glad you homeschool him, where you can tenderly take this bull by the horns!

Kelly, wife to Jim since 1988, mom to Jamie (a girl, 1994), Mary (1996), Brian (1998) and Stephanie (2001).
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Unread post by Blessed Beth »

Thank for your help Kelly. I like the idea of telling him that Perfectionism needs to be left for God.
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What's a teacher/mom to do?

Unread post by dhudson »

jtcarter14 wrote:My daughter gets so frustrated with things sometimes, or sometimes just at the thought of things. It happened twice today. First during math, our textbook section was the introduction to division. She just saw the word "division" at the top of the page, and started crying and saying "it's too hard" and "I can't do it!" When she finally calmed down, I read through the pages with her, and I think she finally grudgingly agreed that it was easy and she did understand it. Then she did her workbook just fine.

Then we went on a field trip to the local pottery place where she made a bowl, decorated it, and painted it. After beginning to decorate it, she burst into tears saying that it was no good and she wanted to start over.

I am guessing that maybe she didn't sleep well last night or something contributed to her "bad day," but at least to a lesser degree, this is somewhat common for her. I asked her when we started homeschooling if she used to get that upset at school, and she said that she didn't because it didn't matter as much what her teacher thought of her as what I think of her. I have been really positive and encouraging about all her work.

What can I do when this happens though? It reminds me of a toddler throwing a tantrum, so I don't really think comfort and "giving in" would do any good (at least past the moment). But I don't want to be too harsh if she's really struggling in general with self esteem/perfectionism/whatever it is. Any suggestions?
Have you ever looked at personalities and or temperaments in children? Your dd sounds (not sure as I only have your one post) like both of my boys who are really detail oriented and perfectionistic. My boys feel like they have to get something right the very first time even before I teach it to them so we've had to really work on not jumping to conclusions and then to gain self- control (we've had to really work on gaining self-control - all things stop until we do). I've had to stress that fact that I don't expect everything perfect the first time and that I just want them to open the mind to what I am teaching them. It also helps to get away from the textbook and teach with manipulatives for both math ( we live m&m 's) and LA and make it into a game.

I understand not being okay with tantrums but sometimes we have to look behind the surface. A great book for teaching temperaments is Tim Lahayes, "The Spirit-Controlled Temperaments."

Like I said, it's hard to judge on just one post but it's a thought.
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Re: What's a teacher/mom to do?

Unread post by TriciaMR »

Just to throw something completely different out... Have you considered a food sensitivity? When my dd gets milk (in any form), she acts like you describe. She is more a perfectionist, but mostly can enjoy doing things. But, when she gets milk, she falls apart really easy, and cries and cries, and it can take forever to calm down.

That said, I have the same issue with writing/spelling with my dd. She doesn't want her brothers (who are 4 and don't even know what spelling is) to watch and see her make mistakes. But, she doesn't cry, just covers her paper and fusses at her brothers...

Anyway, just a different thought.

Another thing I've done with my dd is the "chips" method: a cup of 20 buttons/chips/paper clips/m&m's/whatever. Every time she had a behavior issue (complaining, crying, disobedience, etc.) I took away a chip. If, at the end of school, she had 15 or more left, she got 15 minutes on the computer. Between 10 and 15, no reward; less than 10, there were consequences (extra chores). We never had less than 10, and I only had to do it for about 6 weeks. She had just got in the habit of crying, complaining, fussing, disobedience and needed a way to learn to break the habit. Seeing the chips disappear out of the cup really helped her make a connection to her behavior. I've not had to reinstate chips since.

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Re: What's a teacher/mom to do?

Unread post by doubleportion »

TriciaMR wrote: Another thing I've done with my dd is the "chips" method:
!? Trish, what a great idea!

We have the same problem with my dd who is 7 1/2. She is very sensitive, but we find that when she IS tired everything becomes big drama. I also try to encourage her when she says she "can't" that she can do all things through Christ who strengthens her. Also, reinforcing that it is OKAY to not get something right the first time or for something to NOT be perfect. I also find that our dd is a morning person and as the day progresses she will have more of those type reactions. Therefor, I try and give her most challenging subjects and allot of her work in the morning when she is fresh and less likely to melt down about every little thing. I also believe more self control will come with maturity. (I remember being a pretty sensitive little girl too). ;)

Hope it improves. But most of all, we can always seek the One who gave these girls to us. If any man lack wisdom all he has to do is ask. I will pray that the Lord will show you the heart of the matter.

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Re: What's a teacher/mom to do? -- perfectionism & tears

Unread post by jtcarter14 »

She's definitely a perfectionist and feels like she has to get things right the first time. When she was preschool aged, she used to cry about something she couldn't do perfectly, then go in her room for an hour or two and teach it to herself (undisturbed), and then come out all proud of herself, showing us how great she could do whatever it was.

Teaching her self control sounds like a good idea. She usually has lots of it (being a perfectionist), but at these times I was describing, she really falls apart. The "chips" method sounds good. I just need to think of a good reward. She's pretty flexible with what she is and isn't allowed to do and is very easily entertained. When she was a toddler, time outs never worked b/c she would be totally fascinated playing with her fingers or toes...

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" is a great verse, and I will get her to memorize it!

I do try to reinforce that it is ok to not get something right the first time or for something to not be perfect. I will try to do that even more.

Thanks, for all the input so far.

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Re: What's a teacher/mom to do? -- perfectionism & tears

Unread post by Cyndi (AZ) »

Just chiming in with another perfectionist little girl. Throwing fits like a toddler? Yep, I've seen it. Going totally ballistic because she mistakenly had something with milk in it? Yep, been there. Hiding her paper so no one can see if she makes an error? Absolutely. Being completely and totally self-entertained during a time-out? Always happens. Getting crushed to the very core because of a light correction? AAAHHHH!!!!!

So, yes - I, too, understand. I really like Trish's chips idea. Something like that would really help during school time. Another thing we do is a "reward chart" with stickers at bedtime. Categories like "have a thankful attitude" can have an impact during the day if I remind dd that "are you going to get a thankful attitude sticker today?" Bribing? Yep. But I had to figure out a way to get through two hours with a patch on her eye without tears that would make the patch come off!!!!! Some people would never understand that, but I had to get my dd to do two hours of seat work/book work with no tears, and it was a challenge!!! Having charts with stickers that she gets paid money for at the end of the week was the only thing that worked.

My dh has a Sanguine personality and is just baffled by our dd sometimes. It's actually entertaining to watch. Having a Melancholy personality myself, I better understand her sensitivity. I think I'm going to check out the Tim LaHaye book that Dawn mentioned, because being more spirit-controlled is always a good thing!

Isn't it good to know that we're not alone raising these perfectionist kids? :-) Not only do we always have a Heavenly Father that helps us, we have peers going through the same struggles. {{HUGS}}
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Re: What's a teacher/mom to do? -- perfectionism & tears

Unread post by TriciaMR »


I really like your attitude chart... "thankfulness," "cheerfulness," etc. I totally get it.

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Re: What's a teacher/mom to do? -- perfectionism & tears

Unread post by Ariasarias »

I have a perfectionist too.
Besides stressing her that we love her even when she is not perfect, we have also been stressing this year how much God has created us to need others to help us -- that none of us perfect and we all need help. My dd6 gets really upset if she doesn't know something or can't do it as well as her big sister. I have actually been approaching this as a discipline issue at times if she refuses to let others help her or if she refuses to keep trying even though she can't do it as well as she would like. I am right there with her and willing to help her. I feel it is good for her to learn at this young age that there is nothing she can do perfectly, although it is great to do the best she can, and there will always be others that can do it better than her if she hasn't even learned how to do it yet. I also don't want her to be under the thought that she is self sustaining. I always need help. It's humbling, but it is reality. I can't do it all on my own. We have also stressed how she can take time to pray when she finds herself frustrated or disappointed with herself. It's more like reality is that life is going to happen. We are going to mess up. We are trying to train her what she can do when life happens. Tantrums and running away are not options. Prayer, asking for help, keeping on trying, seeing the progress in her work instead of expecting perfection, etc.
I hope this is helpful.
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How do you deal w/ a perfectionist??

Unread post by schoolmom2 »

rawbanana wrote:you may have read my other post here
I am starting to see that this daughter has a bit of perfectionistic personality and I dont know how to handle it!!
We went to the park today so they could draw the pond for their nature journal. She got frustrated and teary that she couldnt get it JUST right. The trees she drew were leaning to far, the pond wasnt the right size etc etc etc...

How do you deal with this???
I have a son who is reluctant to draw because of (what he sees as) his lack of talent. It got to the point that now I just ask him to describe things instead of drawing them. He loves to write, and will write good descriptions for pages!

Does you daughter have a talent that might be a good substitute for drawing? Poetry, writing, etc.? Or maybe she would enjoy photography - take a picture of the place, then write about it?

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Re: How do you deal w/ a perfectionist??

Unread post by rawbanana »

Thanks for that link! [above]

We did have a bit of a talk with her last night about perfectionism.

Also, today, when I read school, for some things, I didnt let her follow along and just read it to a level I knew she could 'get'. She read Window on the World over my shoulder and before we started she asked me to read slow. I did, and that seemed to help.

Hubby said last night, that maybe I should let her read the 'readings' on her own, to herself. That maybe that would help her 'digest' it, so we may try that as well.
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Re: How do you deal w/ a perfectionist??

Unread post by Cyndi (AZ) »

rawbanana wrote:As far as the drawing, I still dont know...we are doing the memory verse today on a white sheet of paper and they are decorating it (each does their own) and she has gone thru 4 sheets of paper already. Thankfully no tears or frustration though, just not pleased with her first 4 attempts.
Its a step in the right direction though!
I think both Trish and I could tell you to stock up on paper. Lots of paper. More paper than you can imagine. Office depot by the case paper. (I can laugh about this now, that's progress.)

One thing now, I have learned to tell my dd that she may redo or keep perfecting or coloring something after school is over. Let's get the thing done in the 20 minute time block, and then if she really wants to work on it later, she's free to do so in the afternoon. About half the time, she'll go back to it, the other half, it wasn't really that important. ;)

I just had a flashback. Me, in school, 5th grade I think -- Mrs. Grant telling me that I needed to put my paper away now, but that I could take it out at recess to work on it some more if I wanted to stay in. Crazy me, I stayed in. *sigh*

[editor's note: More from Cyndi on this topic here: ... 236#p63234 ]
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