Helping your child overcome perfectionism

 In Anxiety, Behaviour, Communication, Confidence, Development, Mindfulness

Anett Villanyi
Happy Kids Life Studio® – Helping children succeed at home, school and in life.
England, UK

Have you ever wondered whether your child is a perfectionist and what might be the dangerous downsides to perfectionism?

As a recovering perfectionist, I understand it can be very exhausting when we are constantly trying to live a perfect life, look perfect and act perfect. The problem is that perfection is an impossible goal, and we are therefore setting ourselves up for failure, and damaging our self-esteem. It is also often linked to anxiety, depression, and social phobia.

Undoubtedly, there is a rise in perfectionism in today`s world, as many young children hold irrational ideas for themselves.

So what are the sings of perfectionism in children?

  • Perfectionists believe they must be perfect, otherwise their self-worth will be at risk.
  • Constantly worry about what others think of them, seeking acceptance and approval. They also have a high sensitivity to criticism.
  • Have a deep fear of failure, making mistakes or disappointing others. Mistakes are seen as evidence they are not good enough.
  • Experience considerable anxiety, shame and guilt about their unworthiness.
  • Experience excessively high expectations of self in order to minimize or avoid blame, judgement and shame.
  • Have excessively high expectations of others.
  • They think perfectionism will protect them, while in fact it is what is actually preventing them from taking action and holding them back from reaching their full potential.
  • Tend to procrastinate because they cannot fail on a task they haven`t started, therefore they will miss out on opportunities that arise in their life while they are waiting for that `perfect` moment to do something.
  • Have a higher stress level, due to the high expectations of self.
  • Set too ambitious and sometimes unrealistic goals.
  • Hold irrational ideas for themselves, with unrealistic expectations ie how they should look, what they should own.

Here are 10 suggestions for you to help your child deal with perfectionism:

  • The best way to help your child is to acknowledge the problem in a supportive, non-judgmental way. Talk openly about your child’s symptoms and really try to understand how they are affecting their everyday life. Educate your child about the downsides – once they are aware of their own perfectionism, they will be more open to make changes in behavior.
  • Teach them to use positive self-talk. It is a good idea to practice positive statements regularly. Even if your child does not believe them straight away, enough repetition will turn positive realistic thoughts into a habit, and also help crowd out the negative self-talk. Some examples of positive realistic statements:

“Nobody is perfect!”

“All I can do is my best!”

“Making a mistake does not mean I’m stupid or a failure. It only means that I am like everyone else – human. Everyone makes mistakes!”

“It’s okay not to be pleasant all the time. Everyone has a bad day sometimes.”

“It’s okay if some people don’t like me. No one is liked by everyone!”

  • Set healthier goals – when talking about goals, make sure your child is positively motivated and excited as you work through them.
  • Take small, manageable tasks – help your child to create mini-goals to get closer to the bigger goal and celebrate every victory – no matter how small or big, take the time to feel the momentum. By using a sticker chart you can both recognize and celebrate their success.
  • When overthinking happens, try to avoid procrastinating, instead focus on action taking and encourage your child to improve as he goes along
  • Remind your child of previous successes- making them feel those happy moments over and over again as doing this will help overcome fear and elevate self-esteem.
  • Be patient – when failure happens, teach your child to focus on learning from the failures and understand that failure is part of the process, and use it as a positive learning point to be better. Use phrases like: `Failure is simply the opportunity to experience and learn. `
  • Gain perspective – ask your child how beating himself/herself up over it is going to matter in five years? Or what’s the worst thing that can happen?
  • Give examples when you have messed up and laugh at your own imperfections. If we show that we are complete with ourselves, children will learn to do the same.
  • Encourage your child to take on challenging situations and help him deal with anxiety as it arises.

If you feel perfectionism is really interfering with their happiness and development, then it is a good idea to seek help from a professional.



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