Encouraging your perfectionist kids to try new things can be a difficult task. It can be so frustrating to hear your perfectly capable kid make excuses like “why bother” or “I wouldn’t be good at that” when you know they have the potential to succeed.
But as a parent, it’s important to remember that these negative thought patterns are usually just a defense mechanism for kids who are afraid of failing.
Here are some tips for how you can encourage perfectionist kids to take risks and try new things:
What is a perfectionist and the challenges of raising perfectionist children
A perfectionist is someone who has extremely high standards and expects perfection in everything they do. For parents, raising a perfectionist child can be challenging.
On the one hand, it’s great to see our children set their sights high and strive for excellence. However, it’s also important to teach our children that mistakes are part of life and that it’s okay to not be perfect all the time.
We can encourage them to do their best, but also to be kind to themselves and to understand that everyone makes mistakes. By teaching our children these things, we can help them grow into happy and well-adjusted adults.
How do children become perfectionists in the first place?
Some people are just born this way, but there are circumstances that create perfectionists out of children who would otherwise not place such impossibly high standards upon themselves.
To put it frankly, parents often want their children to be perfect. They instill the importance of good grades, being athletic, and having lots of friends.
While these aspirations are not bad, the pressure that parents put on their children can often lead to perfectionism. And once children become perfectionists, it can be very difficult to break out of that mindset.
It often starts with parental expectations. Some children may be born with a predisposition toward perfectionism, which can be exacerbated by environmental factors, like parenting. If parents are constantly pushing their children to be the best, then it’s not surprising that children will start to internalize those standards.
But perfectionism can also be sparked by a traumatic event, such as a bad grade on an important test. Once children experience the pain of not being perfect, they often become obsessed with avoiding that feeling in the future.
As a result, they become trapped in a cycle of seeking perfection and never feeling good enough. If you suspect that your child is a perfectionist, it’s important to talk to them about your concerns. Help them to understand that mistakes are normal and that it’s okay to make them.
Encourage them to take risks and to view failure as an opportunity for growth. By taking these steps, you can help your child to break free from the prison of perfection and begin to tackle their perfectionism head-on as an adult in the future.
Negative consequences of unchecked perfectionism
We all have our quirks and things that we’re not proud of. Maybe we’re a little bit messy or we’re always running late. For most of us, these imperfections are simply a part of who we are and they don’t cause any major problems in our lives.
However, for some people, the need to be perfect can be all-consuming. They might spend hours cleaning their house or compulsively check and re-check their work for any mistakes. While it’s good to be ambitious and strive for excellence, when perfectionism goes unchecked, it can lead to some serious consequences.
For one thing, perfectionists tend to be very hard on themselves. If they make a mistake or don’t meet their high standards, they beat themselves up emotionally. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem.
Additionally, perfectionists often have difficulty completing tasks because they’re never satisfied with the results. They’re constantly making changes and trying to improve upon what they’ve already done, which can make finishing a project nearly impossible.
Introducing a “done is better than perfect” attitude to your children will help them think differently about common daily tasks, school assignments, and jobs at work. Not everything is a competition! It’s great to put in extra effort for the things you care deeply about or for things that may affect other people, but everything they do does not have to be perfect in order to be perfectly acceptable.
And finally, unchecked perfectionism can lead to social isolation. Perfectionists often compare themselves to others and find them lacking, which can ultimately cause them to withdraw from social situations.
How to encourage your perfectionist child
As parents, we want our children to excel. We push them to be the best they can be, and sometimes that means nurturing their perfectionist tendencies. However, there is such a thing as overly intense expectations, and it can lead to unhealthy levels of stress and anxiety.
If you’re concerned that your child may be a perfectionist, here are a few tips for encouraging healthy thinking around accomplishing tasks:
Encourage effort over outcome.
Help your child see that it’s the effort they put in that counts, not the final result. This will help them to persevere in the face of setbacks and failure. Adult perfectionists who never learned how to overcome their perfectionism really struggle in this area, so hone in on it.
You probably want your perfectionist child to become okay with attempting new things without putting tremendous pressure on themselves for a perfect result.
Teach them to set realistic goals.
Perfectionists often set impossibly high standards for themselves, which can lead to frustration and disappointment when things don’t always pan out. Help your child learn to set achievable goals so they can experience the satisfaction of meeting them.
Be an example.
Simple but very effective. Teach your child to overcome their perfectionist tendencies by showing them what it looks like to be persistent, try new things, and to learn from mistakes, and be encouraged by them. I cannot overstate the importance of this tip!
Many parenting outcomes depend on what example you set, so do your best to be intentional about your words and actions.
Read more on this topic: What is Mindful Parenting and How Does it Work? Ultimate Guide for Beginners
Encourage balance in their life.
Perfectionists tend to focus all their energy on one area of their life to the exclusion of everything else. Help your child find balance by encouraging them to pursue interests outside of their main area of focus. This will help them feel more well-rounded and less stressed.
Encourage them to have hobbies and hone their other skills by making time for a hobby or two yourself. This is so important for teaching kids that it’s ok to make time to enjoy yourself and immerse yourself in learning or doing as a form of relaxation and/or self-care.
As a parent, you can help your perfectionist child by teaching them how to cope with setbacks and failure. Explain that everyone makes mistakes and that it’s okay to not be perfect all the time. Help them to develop a growth mindset by praising their effort rather than their results.
Encourage them to take risks and try new things, even if they’re worried about making mistakes. And finally, model healthy coping mechanisms yourself so that your child knows it’s okay to feel disappointed or sad sometimes.
Tips for helping your perfectionist child try new things
As any parent of a perfectionist child knows, getting them to try new things can be a challenge. Perfectionists tend to be very cautious and risk-averse, which can make it difficult to get them to step out of their comfort zone.
There are some things that you can do to help your child overcome their perfectionism and embrace new experiences. One way to do this is to set a good example yourself. (This is one of the main pillars of mindful parenting – get that “do as I say and not as I do” BS out of here because that doesn’t work.)
Show your child that it’s okay to make mistakes and that trying new things can be fun. You can also help them to identify their own areas of perfectionism and work on developing a more accepting attitude towards themselves. Mistakes need the be viewed as learning opportunities, not as failures.
Finally, encourage your child to take baby steps when exploring new territory. Rather than forcing them into a situation that feels overwhelming, help them to gradually build up their confidence by taking small risks. With a little patience and understanding, you can help your perfectionist child to overcome their fears and embrace new experiences.
Affirmations for perfectionist children
Affirmations are positive statements that can help to reframe the way we think about ourselves. By repeating positive statements about themselves, perfectionist children can learn to counter the negative thoughts that fuel their anxiety and insecurity.
For example, parents might encourage their child to say, “I am good enough,” “Mistakes are not failures,” or “I am worthy of love and respect.” “I am doing my best,” “I am not perfect and that’s okay,” and “I can learn from my mistakes.”
By repeating these affirmations, perfectionist children can begin to challenge their perfectionistic thinking, learn to let go of their need for perfection, and embrace their own unique gifts and talents.
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