Thursday, January 20, 2011
The problem with perfectionism comes when we expect that from children. You might say to yourself "what parent or teacher for that matter, expects perfectionism?". Trust me, there are plenty of them out there. When we do this is places unnecessary pressure and poor self esteem issues on our children. They're children - they're going to mistakes, just like adults. But remember - they are NOT adults. They don't have life experiences to guide them. They are just gaining theirs.
More than likely the need for perfectionism isn't resonating from parents and teachers. You probably see these cases stemming from the children themselves. Maybe it is in your home or your classroom. I know I have seen it. There are always one or two students in a classroom who tend to be extremely hard on themselves. We've seen anything from crying fits, temper tantrums, banging heads on desks, silent tears, to making ones self sick and more.
Maybe you have a little perfectionist at home. Maybe they exhibit those same behaviors. All in all, it's really not healthy.
Certainly children should strive to be their best but without feeling so down and out when they don't accomplish what they wanted. Doing your best doesn't equal perfection. That is inhumanly possible, I don't even know a perfect machine.
You're probably not just seeing this in academic areas but also in other areas of life such as sports and looks. Girls often suffer from a need for perfection in appearance but let's not forget that boys are often even more silent sufferers from poor self esteem issues concerning their appearance.
It's important to help children to understand that trying their best doesn't mean that they can't fail or have flaws.
Start by offering praise and encouragement - but not only when they are feeling their lowest, but also during times of great achievement. What you're doing by doing this is, is telling them that they're worthy and successful even when they hit those "potholes".
Set some realistic goals. When we set unrealistic goals (even as adults - you know that diet you went on to lose 60 pounds in 6 days), we often miss the goal and miss out on the satisfaction of achievement. Instead we dwell on what we didn't do. Have them set goals that are appropriate for their age and personal development.
You don't have to do something quickly to be successful.
Teach children to say "it's okay". It really is okay if that didn't go the way they wanted or expected. Teach them to say "I'm good and I'm okay" and to believe it. Sometimes it's not enough when we tell them that. They need to be able to communicate that to themselves.
....and finally.....stop comparing them to the next child. As educators, hopefully we have learned that the students in our class are not the same. We have been educated to know better.
As parents, this happens to be one of our biggest challenges. Your best friend's son started walking before yours - did it mean that your child never learned to walk? Of course not. Your brother's kid learn to go potty before yours - now your child is 15 years old - did that mean your child was never potty trained? Of course not. That same theory applies to most things in a child's life.
If you have more than one child that doesn't mean they are the same and no it doesn't matter that they are twins.
There is no such thing as perfection.