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How to support the perfectionist learner

Our children are all very different in the ways that they learn. Some may need constant encouragement to do their best, while others are consumed with perfectionism and getting it right. As parents, we all hope to see our children achieving and fulfilling their potential, but it can be difficult to see your child constantly beating themselves up if they feel they’re not getting it right. Perfectionism in a child can be down to a personality trait or it can be common in firstborn children or those with high achieving parents. Our UK education system, with its focus on assessment and testing, can also have a profound effect on a child’s perfectionist tendencies.

Signs of a perfectionist child;

They may:

  • End up feeling that nothing less than exceptional is acceptable.
  • Set themselves extremely high and sometimes unrealistic standards.
  • Be afraid to put their hand up in lessons or give their opinion in fear they may get it wrong.
  • Find it hard to receive structured criticism.
  • React disproportionately if they get something wrong for example go into a fit of rage.
  • Be very sensitive to advise on how to improve.
  • Spend unnecessary and unhealthy amounts of time on very small details in their work, for example the presentation of a title of a piece of work.
  • Feel very anxious about tests or assessments.
  • Have low self confidence.

The most important way that a parent can support their perfectionist child is to discuss that everyone has a different understanding of what perfect is and that it is a concept that is up for interpretation. 

Therefore perfectionism may be something that can never be achieved as everyone has their own idea of what is it. From here, parents can open up the discussion that perhaps perfectionism does not exist after all? 

Ways to support a perfectionist child;

  • Encourage high standards, not perfectionism. Try to avoid using the word ‘perfect’ and help your child to set goals and standards that are reachable.
  • Be an example of someone that makes mistakes. Deliberately model imperfection to your child.
  • Encourage a Growth mindset. This is the ability to believe that intelligence is not fixed but rather it is something that can be improved upon and nurtured. Our children’s ‘Growth Journal’ prompts your child to build their resilience and is an accessible and effective way to develop a growth mindset.

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