Isn’t it interesting that for every parent who has a slow or sluggish child, there is another with a child who is a perfectionist. While one would think a perfectionist would be breeze to raise, there are great challenges in directing children who put extreme pressure and high demands on themselves.
Since balance is the goal of parenting, here are a few ideas to help your little perfectionist.
1. Don’t shy away from the hard stuff.
In the 11 years that Bubs was in speech therapy I learned that therapy forces kids to do what is hard. Therapists push their clients in a way that I could never do as a mom – because I am mom. They come alongside the child to work through fears, struggles, and anxiety. As much as possible, we need to do the same at home.
2. Focus on the effort, not the end result.
When talking to our children, we need to use statements like, “I can tell you are working really hard.” Or, “This is very frustrating but I am so proud of you for not giving up.” Statements like these point the focus to the effort along the way and not solely the outcome.
3. Call out the lies.
Colossians 3:23 is my favorite parenting Bible verse right now.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.
Nowhere in the Bible does it say or imply that God expects perfection. He simply tells us to work at it with all our hearts. Are you modeling giving your best?
4. Finish what you start.
Stick-to-iveness is huge challenge for perfectionist. Instead of facing the unacceptable outcome, a perfectionist will not complete the project. Insist that your child sees something to completion. The more you do this, the more they will begin to work through the desire to give up in the middle. Also, it will force the child to work through challenges and use mistakes for good. Celebrate with ice cream or a trip to the park when the child finishes a project, especially when the project was hard.
5. Model learning from mistakes.
Wherever you see a little perfectionist, there is probably a big perfectionist nearby. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. If you are the perfectionist in the family, be sure to exhibit honesty in your struggles as a perfectionist. Be upfront with your mini-me on what you are learning and how God is helping you deal with perfectionist tendencies.
6. Take breaks.
Some perfectionists perseverate on activities making it impossible to stop whatever they are working on. Set a timer and allow the child to only spend “x” amount of time. When the timer goes off, the child has to stop for a period of time. For sensory input and exercise, have the child stand and do 5 jumping jacks or run around the room. Have a dance party for 2 minutes. Activity will take the child’s mind off the frustration and need for it to be just right.
7. Exchange negative self-talk with truths.
The truth of the Scriptures can change a child’s perspective. It helps the child see himself as God sees him. Bible verses remind children that it is about grace and not works.
When my niece was struggling with softball, we talked about Joshua and I gave her the saying of truth, “Be Strong and Courageous,” every time she practiced batting. Give your child a biblical phrase or verse to repeat over and over when he faces a wall of self-doubt.
We train our children to do their best, but when the pendulum swings too far perfectionism can cripple our children.
Parenting is a balancing act. Our goal is to help our children stay centered and between the ditches.
Desire to be the best parent or teacher you can be? Join us in Texas on Friday or Arkansas on September 21-22nd for an ABCJLM Parent/Teacher Conference. No matter the age of your children, you will find these conferences to be empower, encouraging, and filled with practical tips.