Many kids come across as being “perfectionist”, they don’t want to try new things and get really upset when the result they get does not live up to what they had expected and hoped for or their own standards.
The underlying issue is often a “fixed mindset”. Kids don’t believe in their ability to grow. The solution is to teach your child about the “Growth Mindset”. We need to help them understand that they are capable of anything they want to achieve. Often kids who are perfectionists avoid judgement and focus on their mistakes reinforcing that they shouldn’t try new things because it leads to failure. But we know this is not true and I know how frustrating it can be watching your kid limit themselves. So what do we do? We work on them worrying less and doing more. How?
- Challenge their beliefs by asking …
a. “What do you think will happen if you aren’t perfect?” The answer to this question will be at the heart of their perfectionism.
b. “What is the worst thing that could happen?” This helps outline their fears.
c. “What is a more positive way to think about this?” This helps guide to a better mindset.
It is crucial that you let your child answer these questions. DON’T jump in with answers yourself. You have to be patient, open and really curious what your child is going to share with you.
2. We all pooped in diapers. When I come across this issue, I like to use humor to show that when we were born we couldn’t walk, or talk, or use a toilet, but now we have all learned to do so many things! And we will continue to do so.
3. Focus on the fun not the outcome. Play games or practice skills without keeping score or promoting competition.
4. Lead by example: Actively try something new and share your stories (including the times you failed, were scared, embarrassed etc.) and tell them of your past experiences so they see that you too have undergone a learning process. Also share with them the times you failed, didn’t meet your expectations and goals etc. but had fun anyways.
5. Redefine what success and failure looks like. Success is not perfect. There is no such thing as perfect. Success is making improvements towards their goal. Learning and practicing is success, and that is the focus. Failure is not the absence of their desired outcome, failure is quitting or never trying. I like to say: “Failure is not falling down, it’s staying down.”
6. Give specific feedback.
a. Praise their courage for attempting to try.
b. Celebrate their mistakes because it’s an opportunity to grow.
c. Award them for their patience in practice.
d. Acknowledge their worry about failing, but let them know that you believe in them.
e. Reassure them (often!) that no matter the outcome, you love them.
One of my favorite stories is about Sara Blakely, a self-made billionaire. At the dinner table, her dad would ask her what she failed at today and then celebrated the fact that she was trying and being persistent. For her, failure became not trying, versus the outcome.