Kids Wanting Perfectionism (Why It’s Unhealthy)

By Sabina Sheraz

There are those little ones out there who feel they need to get things done in a certain manner. That means they have to adapt ways in which they are giving their complete 100% to whatever they do. And this is something that is extremely dangerous and unhealthy for them.Although the word may suggest otherwise, perfectionism doesn’t mean being excellent at everything; it’s believing that you need to be—and trying extremely hard to make that happen. The trait typically becomes recognizable in early elementary school-aged children, when they are able to understand they’re being compared to others, whether in school, sports, or other settings. And according to certain research, it is far more common in girls. And this is probably why having to compare our children and their achievements to others is not something we should dabble in often.In moderation, striving for perfection is socially acceptable, even admirable; any parent would be proud if their kid brought home a glowing report card or set a new record on their swim team. But when carried to an extreme, perfectionism is a risk factor for anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)/ With experts reporting that the pandemic has ushered in a national mental health crisis for kids, knowing whether a child’s behavior has crossed the line from helpful to harmful feels all the more crucial.

Extreme perfectionists often struggle with low self-esteem, are easily embarrassed, and may obsess about every mistake, real or perceived. They’re the kids who become so agitated about coloring outside the lines that they’ll repeatedly crumple up their paper and start over. Believe me it really does happen. If they answer nine out of 10 questions correctly on a quiz, they’ll focus on the one wrong answer rather than take pride in the right ones. And it doesn’t help when the parents join the nagging too. They’ll quit a sports team if they think they’re not as good as everyone else. Even though they want to do well in school, they may procrastinate because if they don’t start an assignment, they won’t risk failing. They can take hours to write a three-line letter because they’re so anxious about getting the wording right.Perfectionism has been linked to both OCD and depression, although the three can and do exist independently of each other. Unlike OCD and depression, which are diagnosable mental health disorders, perfectionism is a mindset that persists over time. People with OCD are more likely to have perfectionist thinking, although many people have perfectionist thinking without accompanying obsessions, compulsions, and disruptive anxiety.
Part of the challenge for parents is that kids who are perfectionists try to create the illusion that they have everything under control. Instead of saying they don’t want to go to school because there’s a test they want to avoid, they may feign a stomachache. It’s difficult to know if your kid is struggling if they’re hiding it from everybody. And even the most well-intentioned parents can inadvertently contribute to perfectionism by encouraging their children to do their best .Doctors often suggest seeking help if a child is in such distress that they aren’t able to function in their daily life, but with perfectionists, you don’t need to wait to get to that point. Your parental instincts can tell that something is off about your kid. If you’re concerned, talk to your pediatrician, family doctor, or school counselor, who can refer you to a psychologist or mental health professional.
Telling a child who is clearly not succeeding that they’re doing great isn’t helpful, and neither is scolding them for having a meltdown. The first is a false reassurance; the second is punitive and likely to make things worse. Acknowledge they’re in some pain. You can say, ‘Let me give you a hug. It’s OK to lose sometimes, and you will be OK.'” Part of your job as a parent is helping your child learn to tolerate bad feelings and understand that the bad feelings pass. There are days which will be tormenting and dark. It all depends on how you handle it completely. This assures how you will be handling things in the long run.
Teaching your child to repeat encouraging aphorisms can help counteract their negative self-talk. You should be writing down phrases such as “Nobody’s perfect,” “All I can do is try my best and that’s enough,” and “Practicing helps me get better at things,” and tucking them into your child’s lunchbox or pencil case. Then, before they’re going to do something difficult—like play a sport or enter a competition—have them practice saying it to themselves so it’s fresh in their mind. If they failed at something or made a mistake, remind them to use these sayings afterwards. It can also be helpful to say these positive statements out loud to yourself in front of your child when you make mistakes, as this can serve as a model for them on how to cope (and show that everyone makes mistakes).


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