Martha Stewart-type moms might not like it when things aren’t to their liking, but what happens when your preschooler is a perfectionist?
Circle of Moms member Karla says her preschool-age son will miss play time in order to cut something out perfectly. And she worries when he panics about being wrong or doesn’t try to do something he’s not 100 percent sure about because of his fear of making a mistake. “How do you balance it so they still try their hardest and not be perfectionists?” she asks the Circle of Moms RoundUp Community.
For moms whose preschoolers have perfectionist tendencies like Karla’s son, Circle of Moms members offer five smart tips.
1. Teach Them to Enjoy the Process of Trying
While adults know that everyone has flaws, that thought might not dawn on preschoolers. Consequently, mom Laura Ann B. has taught her son the difference between perfection and precision, a skill certain professionals like architects require. “I worked hard to help him understand the subjective nature of ‘perfect,’ and that there really is no such thing,” she shares. Her reminders to him are great ones: "No one is perfect, and why would you want to be anyway? That would make life very boring.”
Circle of Moms members Maura and Candi are among several moms who believe that their preschoolers are not necessarily trying to be perfect, but rather they are frustrated because their brains are developing faster than their fine motor skills. When that’s the case, Maura advises that it’s best not to worry. Instead, she says moms should continue to stimulate a preschooler’s mind, and “eventually her body will catch up.” Candi agrees, encouraging her daughter not to worry if her writing is messy or if the letters are crooked, but to just enjoy the process. “I just want her to write her name without making her feel like I am pressuring her,” she says.
2. Avoid Comparisons
Comparisons with another child are never recommended, but it’s especially important not to make comparisons when your child seems to be sensitive or have perfectionist tendencies. Circle of Moms member Chantel explains that she doesn’t compare her daughter to anyone, and is against “labeling her at all (i.e. ‘she's the artistic one’) or locking her into particular expectations, because she is extremely perceptive to expectations and will go to extremes not to disappoint (i.e. dishonesty, hiding, etc.).”
Moms also should teach their children not to compare themselves with their peers, Anna-Marie adds. Her perfectionist son finds it difficult to be beaten by others or not win ribbons, but she stresses how important it is that he tried his best and he did very well.
To further promote a non-competitive attitude, Anna-Marie enrolled her son in soccer, because in that team sport her son is forced to rely on others. Passing the ball can help a child learn to relinquish control of a situation, she explains. Additionally, Anna-Marie recommends board and card games to teach young children that they’re not always going to win or get the answer right. “It’s hard at first, but making it fun and by them seeing you not care if you lose can help.”
3. Show How You Make and Learn from Mistakes
As moms show their preschoolers how to be good losers — or to not care whether they win or lose — it can be helpful to illustrate that parents make mistakes, too. Anna-Marie admits she is similar to her son in trying to be “perfect,” so she’s had to force herself “to try and just have fun with things and not get stressed so that my son can see it's ok too. [Children] learn the most by copying their parents, so it's up to us to change the cycle,” she says.
In fact, several Circle of Moms members believe that an attitude adjustment can be instigated by parents. Chantel, for example, admits she tries not to cover for her own mistakes so that her daughter can witness them. “She needs to see it's OK to be imperfect and it's OK, in fact, desirable, to laugh at oneself.” A perfectionist herself, Chantel says she knows learning to laugh at oneself is not easy. “But I recognize it as a good way to reduce the stress of perfectionism and participate with all the other folks who make mistakes!” she says.
Sheila says because she can see her two-year-old daughter is on the path to being a perfectionist, whenever she herself makes a mistake, she says, “Silly mummy,” and shows that mistakes are no big deal.
“You are your child's greatest role model!” Michele reminds, challenging other moms of perfectionists to model: a) doing something not perfectly; and b) showing how an adult behaves/reacts when something they do does not come out perfectly. Moms also can illustrate better word choices to replace "perfect," says Michele, such as, "Hmmm ... that didn't turn out like I expected," or "Wow, that is exactly how I pictured this project would look."
4. Help Them Process Emotions
Amy’s dialogue with her four-year-old is slightly longer, because she tries to help her daughter process her emotions. The smallest of things can send her daughter screaming and crying, Amy says, so she tries to recognize the signs of an impending meltdown and nip it in the bud.
For instance, when her daughter lost a beloved book, Amy could see the frustration building, so stopped and asked in a light and positive voice, “What’s going on?” As the tears started to flow and her daughter’s voice got louder, Amy asked her daughter to think about where she saw it last. “I asked her where she was when she was reading it and she said her chair in her room,” Amy says. “I then just smiled at her and let her process what we just worked out. She was still sniffling but she went to her room and was proud to find her book in her chair. She came and exclaimed to the house that she found her book,” Amy says.
With a little of bit of practice with that technique, Amy says preschoolers will soon learn to “stop and assess a situation before losing it.”
5. Reassure Them
In general, moms should assure their preschoolers they shouldn't to be so hard on themselves. As mom Lourisia advises, the next time your perfectionist preschooler gets upset over a mistake, "reassure her … that you still love her.”
And don't think of perfectionism as a flaw, Lourisia adds, noting that perfectionism is not all bad: “It can help us to challenge ourselves to do better."
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.