Perfectionism. It is the single biggest hurdle for many gifted people to get over in order to even begin something. By the time my daughter started showing signs of perfectionism-related hesitation, I had been reading and writing about giftedness for a few years. Armed with knowledge, I decided that I would not insist she plow ahead nor would I put the screws to her to "get over it." Instead, I used these two strategies: Noticing the Perfect Try and Celebrating the Perfect Product.
So I didn't shy away from her sense of perfectionism; I fed it. Since she really likes to hear how things are "perfect" I find ways to feed her sense of being perfect. I say the word as much as I can and in as authentic a way as I can afford.
A perfect try looks like an honest try, however small or full of hesitation it may be, to do something that yields an imperfect result. Lately, this has come up a lot while my kids are learning to tie their shoes. They hold a loop carefully in one hand and wrap the other string around the loop. Then everything falls apart while they try to push a portion of string through a hole, yielding a nest of laces, sometimes tangled, sometimes not.
"You gave it a perfect try," I say. "You tried something new and hard! It will come."
And I keep my ear to the ground for other opportunities for "perfect tries" like:
- Trying a new food. (A sniff and a lick.)
- Trying a new class. (Maybe just watching from the corner.)
- Trying something again.
By Noticing the Perfect Try I open a way for my daughter to begin something. And if a perfect try counts as being perfect then she will be more inclined to venture into unknown activities, projects, friendships, etc.
What every perfectionist loves to hear is how perfect they are or something they did is. So I say, "Wow! That's perfect!" at every opportunity. My daughter is elementary age and these are some places and ways where I catch her being perfect:
- Clothes in the hamper.
- Shoes on the shelf.
- Backpack zipped closed.
- Shoes on the correct feet.
- Singing along with a song on key.
- Clapping together in unison.
Imagine all the ways your child does something to perfection. I bet there is at least one...and he or she would love your recognition. Go ahead and give it!
I realize that praising the child has been criticized. Advocates say that we should be specific and neutral in our observations, saying things like, "I like how colorful your drawing is." or "You did it!" And I tend to agree. "Perfect" statements are the salt of my parenting recipe...sprinkled in just enough to make it palatable.
What is more, being flawed is a human trait. So every once in a while I draw on this wisdom:
We are perfectly imperfect and imperfectly perfect. ~ Yogi Bhajan
I say, "Being imperfect is perfect. You are perfect just the way you are." and my kids smile and rest knowing that I love them.
This was originally published here:
No one should slave over worksheets so I wrote the guide for learning math from everyday life...because when the world is your classroom you are free to learn math that matters.
Get started for free today.
I love my partnerships!
As an Amazon Affiliate I earn from qualifying purchases.