We have heard it our whole lives and now we are saying it to our children: “practice makes perfect.” In our minds we are encouraging our children to keep trying. We are telling them they will get better at a task the more they give it a shot. We are teaching them to not give up. But our children are hearing they need to be perfect, they should be perfect, there is no room for failure.
I started thinking about this when my own daughter, at the young age of five, starting showing signs of being a perfectionist. She wanted to do everything perfectly and was highly frustrated when things failed. She saw herself as a failure. As a parent that was hard to witness. I knew she was just learning and through practice she would get better, but as with all things in life there was bound to be some failure along the way.
A Hard Road
The life of a perfectionist is not an easy one. It is a hard road full of feelings of loneliness, sadness, and anxiety. The reality is that nothing is perfect so to task ourselves with such lofty expectations is exhausting.
So rather than continuing to tell our children that “practice makes perfect,” perhaps we may want to change it to “practice makes easy.” I mean that is really what we are trying to say anyway, right?
If you have a child who is showing signs of being a perfectionist there are some things you can do to help:
- Provide your child with unconditional care and respect.
- Try to keep their environment calm and structured.
- Give lots of praise.
- Avoid comparing your child to others.
- Stay away from words like genius, brilliant, or perfect.
- Help them to understand everything cannot be perfect.
- Listen to them, talk to them.
- Help them set realistic standards.
- Let them know they are loved.
- Provide them with opportunities to succeed and improve self-confidence.
- Explain to them that failure is an opportunity for growth.
The best thing you can do for your child is to let them know you are proud of them for trying their best, that is really the only thing we have control over, right?