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How can I help my child avoid perfectionism?

Does your child struggle with perfectionism? Do you?

Perfectionism is common but can be poisonous for mental health both in childhood and through into adulthood.

Being terrified of making mistakes can lead to anxiety, anger, and shame, as well as practical problems such as procrastination and avoidance, or using excessive effort and time.

Perfectionism can mean we develop (or have developed) core beliefs about ourselves such as we are failures, worthless, or unlovable unless we are “perfect”. Our inner critic can become rampant.

Nowadays, many aspects of education and society sadly make perfectionism more likely. Some children are more susceptible than others to perfectionism, depending on their personality and temperament.

We also know that parents who struggle with perfectionism are more likely to have children who become perfectionists.

Many parents worry about their children being too perfectionistic, but the good news is there are lots of things you can do to reduce perfectionism.

Have a look at this selection of tips for creating an environment where perfectionism can shrink, and self-compassionate effort can grow.

You'll notice that many of these ideas relate to how we as parents can work on our own perfectionism, and model this to our child. Starting with ourselves is almost always the most powerful place to start!

Sometimes people worry that without perfectionism, they or their child will fail, or won’t put in enough effort. On the contrary, it is easier to concentrate on a task and learn to persevere when our threat system is not overly activated by internal or external pressures.

Imagine the best kind of teacher you can think of... perhaps someone who firmly encourages you to reach your potential, but in a realistic and compassionate way. That's what we're aiming for.

Overall, we want our children to learn that:

  • Making mistakes or not doing things perfectly is ok; in fact, it’s human

  • Sometimes good enough is good enough

  • Their inner worth is not tied to their achievements or actions

  • It is possible to reach the expectations of others (e.g. boundaries or ideals are not set too high), but that in the end it's own own expectations of ourselves that matter most

  • All emotions are safe to feel and they will pass

  • Being gentle and understanding to ourselves is the best way to reach our potential in all areas of our life.

Have you tried any of these ideas, or others? Let me know in the comments!


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